November 1, 2021

Dear Members of Our Campus Community,

I am deeply saddened to share with you the news that Professor Emeritus David Chapman passed away on August 19, 2021.

Dr. Chapman was a highly accomplished and esteemed faculty member in our Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology. He provided visionary leadership as our Dean of Mathematical, Life, and Physical Sciences from 1994 to 2000, and later as Vice Chair of the department.

As a scientist, researcher, administrator, professor, and mentor, he contributed to our academic community in countless ways, and we are forever grateful. Our hearts go out to his wife, Claudia, and his family, friends, colleagues, and former students around the world. In his honor, our campus flag was lowered on August 31.

I am honored to share the following remembrance from our Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology.

David J. Chapman (1939-2021)
We are sad to announce that David Chapman, Dean of Mathematical, Life and Physical Sciences from 1994-2000 and Emeritus Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology passed away of natural causes on Aug. 19, 2021. David was born in 1939 in Kingston, Jamaica, and grew up in New Zealand where his father was a professor and Chair of the Botany Department at the University of Auckland. He graduated from the University of Auckland in Botany in 1960 and received his Ph. D. in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1965. He was a postdoctoral scholar in marine biology for two years at Brookhaven National Laboratory, then a member of the biology faculties at the University of Chicago (1968-1973) and UCLA (1973-1994) before accepting a position as Dean at UCSB in 1994 following a national search.

David was a world authority on all aspect of marine seaweeds including taxonomy, evolution and phylogeny, ecology, physiology, biochemistry, and applied economic uses, with over 100 papers in refereed journal, numerous book chapters and three books.  He was a pioneer in the discovery and illumination of algal pigments, their biosynthesis and their role in photosynthesis. Over his long career David served on the editorial boards of several phycological journals, was a distinguished visiting scientist in Canada and New Zealand, an invited keynote speaker and organizer of innumerable international conferences, and the recipient of a distinguished teaching award at UCLA. He was also active in providing expert advice to universities, governments and the private sector including the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water and the State of California. His research was well supported by grants from NSF, ONR and NOAA Sea Grant. His extensive campus-wide service at UCLA, including Chair of the Academic Senate and Chair of the Department of Biology there provided him with much valuable experience in the working of the University of California system.

As Dean during a challenging time of budget cuts, David was seen as deeply committed to all the departments under his care. He was fair, very even tempered, kind, resourceful, and approachable. He worked successfully and collaboratively with the administration to maintain the high caliber of faculty and students at UCSB despite challenging shortfalls in funding. He was beloved by his many students and colleagues for his open mindedness, enthusiasm, sense of humor, equanimity, love of his field, and his rigorous, supportive approach to teaching and mentoring. David will always be remembered for his kindness to the staff. For example, he would often pay for lunch for the staff, provide wine for Happy Hours, and visit staff on a daily basis to check on their well-being.

After stepping down as Dean in 2000, David served a year as Vice-Chair of the Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology Department and donated his 10,000-specimen seaweed collection to the Vernon and Mary Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration. While the ripples of David’s contributions as Dean are still being felt, the Cheadle Center recently received a substantial grant to digitize his seaweed collection and make it available to researchers around the globe, preserving his international legacy far into the future.  

David was a brilliant scientist and colleague. He was also a devoted husband, a loving father, and a steadfast friend to many. He will be sorely missed. David is survived by his wife, Claudia Chapman, his daughter, Amanda Shelton, his granddaughter, Carissa Shelton, his stepson, Keith Bussel, and his brother, Michael Chapman.


Henry T. Yang