Ray Bacchetti, Stanford emeritus staff member, mentor and community volunteer, dies at 81
A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 20, at 3 p.m. at the Stanford Faculty Club for Raymond Bacchetti, who oversaw the university’s budget and planning operations during the administrations of Stanford Presidents Richard Lyman and Donald Kennedy.
Raymond F. Bacchetti, an emeritus staff member who is remembered as a compassionate Stanford administrator and a dedicated community volunteer with an unwavering commitment to education and diversity on campus and beyond, died earlier this month.
A former vice president for planning and management who held a number of positions during a career that spanned more than three decades on campus, Bacchetti died at the Channing House skilled nursing facility in Palo Alto on May 10. He was 81.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 20, at 3 p.m. at the Stanford Faculty Club.
“Ray was someone who understood the essence of the university and helped to propel Stanford forward,” said Timothy Warner, vice provost for budget and auxiliaries management, who was hired by Bacchetti in the late 1970s. “He just worked incredibly hard. He did it because he loved the place; he loved the people.”
Bacchetti was born Jan. 9, 1934, in Westwood, N.J. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1956 and a master’s degree in education in 1959, both from Rutgers University. During those years, Bacchetti met Carol Davis, to whom he would be married for 58 years.
He came to Stanford as a doctoral candidate in the School of Education in 1959, and while pursuing his PhD, worked as an administrative associate in Stanford’s Applied Math Stat lab. He also spent a year teaching fourth grade in the Palo Alto Unified School District, which he once described as the “most challenging job I ever had.” Schooling is a “daily miracle”‘ and the “most exciting thing in the world,” he said.
He did a stint at the City University of New York as assistant to the chancellor from 1965 to 1966, but returned to Stanford, where he began a long career as a university administrator serving in a variety of roles at the department, school and central university levels. His primary roles were in budget management and institutional planning in the administrations of Presidents Richard Lyman and Donald Kennedy.
Interviewed in 2010 by Susan Schofield, academic secretary emerita for the Stanford Historical Society’s Oral History Program, Bacchetti recalled, “I got involved in all kinds of financial questions, and policy and practice questions, because part of my job was to go around and talk to deans, and to directors, and to all the people who had budgets, and ask them questions about what they needed, and what they could give up … So, I had a license to be nosy. And I had a license to be influential.”
Committed to diversity
Bacchetti said that forging relationships across the campus gave him opportunities to have a voice in the development of several university initiatives, most notably making Stanford a more inclusive place.
He told Schofield that he was particularly interested in Stanford becoming a more integrated institution. “I don’t know where that came from in me,” he said.
During an event at Memorial Auditorium in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a group of black students took the microphone from Lyman and listed 10 demands, which included an increase in the numbers of black faculty and students and the establishment of a black studies program. The university stepped up its efforts to admit more African American, Latino, Native American and Asian American students and eventually created ethnic theme dorms and community centers, and hired more student affairs staff and faculty of color.
In his oral history interview, Bacchetti talked about how important it was to keep moving in the right direction; to “have an institution that is genuinely ‘small d’ democratic in terms of being welcoming to differences, and learning from differences.”
“He advocated for increased diversity on the faculty and the staff and everybody that made up the institution,” Warner recalled.
An institutional conscience
Among Bacchetti’s many contributions to Stanford are the early development of what is now the Science and Engineering Quad (SEQ). According to a 2000 Stanford Report story on the SEQ, Bacchetti played a major role in initiating and guiding what was then known as the plan for the Near West Campus.
“He made it happen,” Judy Chan, associate director of space management and planning, told the News Service at the time.
And while Bacchetti was admired for getting things done, it was his style, the way in which he got others to think about the process by which those accomplishments were made, that is one of his most lasting legacies. Warner, who called Bacchetti “a terrific mentor,” said even now when faced with challenging situations, he finds himself thinking about “how would Ray approach this?”
The citation honoring him with the Kenneth M. Cuthbertson Award in 1982 lauded Bacchetti, then vice provost for management and director of university budgets, “for the philosophical and determined way in which he makes us understand even amidst the confusion of a half-completed budget, the important distinctions between means and ends and for the graceful way in which acting as an institutional conscience, he helps us distinguish good ends from bad.”
In presenting the award, then-President Donald Kennedy recognized Bacchetti for his “relentless energy and unstinting integrity” and for “the time he manages to find to be teacher, friend and quiet healer – a role in which he has, over nearly two decades, created a legion of secret beneficiaries.”
In 1990, Bacchetti was named acting vice president for planning and management and was appointed permanently to the position in 1991. He retired from the university in 1993.
After leaving Stanford, Bacchetti served as a program officer at the Hewlett Foundation and later was a scholar-in-residence with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Even before his retirement from Stanford, Bacchetti gave generously of his time outside of work. He was a member of the Board of Education for Palo Alto Unified School District from 1978 to 1983 and served on the Board of Trustees for Foothill-DeAnza Community College District from 1983 to 1991.
After retirement, he served on the Palo Alto Human Rights Commission and on the board of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Bacchetti participated as a Track Watch volunteer, an effort to prevent suicides on the Caltrain tracks. For his community service, Bacchetti received the Avenidas Lifetime of Achievement Award in 2009 and a Tall Tree Award from the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Weekly in 2013 in the category of “outstanding citizen.”
“Ray’s achievements were profound. He was often surprised and always grateful when the accolades poured upon him,” said Lowell Price, executive director of Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders. “Sometimes he would say: ‘Lowell, who do you suppose they are talking about?'”
Price, who met Bacchetti in the spring of 1970 when Bacchetti hired him, said they were best friends for 45 years. “Even in the beginning, I knew that Ray was devoted to his family and to a life of service to the larger community. He worked with fierce enthusiasm for the young, the poor, the vulnerable, and all those not properly represented at the table.”
In addition to his wife, Carol, Bacchetti is survived by his brother, J. Thomas Bacchetti of Oakland; sons Peter of Santa Rosa and Paul of Mountain View and daughter Joanne Taylor of Menlo Park; three grandchildren, Emily, Ben and Jesse Taylor; and numerous extended family members and friends.
Memorial donations can be made to Youth Community Service, TheatreWorks or InnVision Shelter Network.