Beloved art instructor dies after brief struggle with cancer

Rosalinde and Charles Wilcox are all smiles while rafting during a 2007 trip to Wyoming. (Courtesy of the Wilcox family)

Micah Brown

Rosalinde Gregor Wilcox
March 30, 1936 – April 15, 2009

The 1950s and ’60s marked a time of transition in the United States; the baby-boomer generation came of age, the tranquility of peace came and went as quickly as a child growing up and leaving home, and Americans saw their fathers return home from World War II and Korea, only to send their sons off to Vietnam.

The glamour of Hollywood and the promise of year-round sunshine brought many Americans from the East Coast out to California, in order to pursue their dreams, start fresh, and raise a family.

Rosalinde Gregor Wilcox, born in Queens in 1936, came to California in the early ’60s with a mission. After attending Hunter College of City University in New York, she had to put education on hold to raise her first child.

In the ’50s, married or pregnant women simply did not go to college, she had told her children. A decade later, Wilcox brought her family to California, with hopes of continuing her education and starting a career as a fashion designer.

“She got her Bachelor of Arts at Woodbury University, and the required art classes piqued her interest,” said Wilcox’s daughter, Barbara Wilcox. “She had always loved looking at art museums in New York and California.”

Rosalinde Wilcox’s aspirations to be a fashion designer turned into a love of fine arts, and eventually a career in teaching. She devoted her life to imparting that passion to her students.

She received a master’s degree at California State University, Northridge, and a doctorate from University of California, Los Angeles, and joined the faculty at Saddleback College 15 years ago.

On Wednesday, April 15, she died suddenly, ending a three-month battle with cancer. She is survived by her husband, Charles, a retired aerospace executive; her son, Lawrence; her daughter-in-law, Kathy Harrison, all of Los Angeles, and her daughter, Barbara, of San Francisco.

“Rosalinde loved teaching and she loved her students,” said Saddleback President Tod Burnett. “Our condolences go out to her family, friends and co-workers.”

Teaching was the driving force in Rosalinde Wilcox’s life. She was known as a tough teacher, but one who genuinely cared for her students.

“Dr. Wilcox was an asset to Saddleback,” said Thalia Isen, 28, art. “I have spoken with many of her other students and her colleagues, and we all miss her.”

Isen’s sentiments help to demonstrate Rosalinde Wilcox’s approach to teaching.

“Her manner was always exceedingly professional, and her standards were exacting,” said Isens. “Her lectures were remarkably articulate, comprehensive, and interesting. Nevertheless, she had a great sense of humor.”

“She bought works from students who were artists, and proudly displayed them in her home,” said Barbara Wilcox. “She spoke often of her best students and took great pleasure in their work and in their personal stories.”

Rosalinde Wilcox also made an impression on her fellow faculty members.

“The loss of Dr. Wilcox has had a profound effect on many of us who knew her,” said Rocky Cifone, dean of the Division of Fine Arts.

“We clicked from the first day she began teaching at Saddleback,” said Yvonne Price, senior administrative assistant of the Division of Fine Arts. “She had spent time in Africa and I had lived in Africa for many years. We both had a love and appreciation of the African bush and wildlife.”

Price and Barbara Wilcox both mentioned Rosalinde’s love for travel, specifically to Africa, where as a UCLA student she completed her dissertation and earned a fellowship.

“I remember one time she went to Egypt and brought back amulets of a scarab beetle, worshipped by ancient Egyptians, and gave one to each of her students for good luck before they sat for a final examination,” said Price. “This was just one example of the caring, generous person she was. We have lost a dedicated instructor who will be very hard to replace.”

When not teaching, Rosalinde Wilcox found happiness in other ways. She was a caretaker of stray neighborhood cats, and was an excellent cook, despite her love for junk food. She was also an avid fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and it is rumored that she once cancelled a class for Teacher Day at Dodger Stadium.

Perhaps her biggest passion, aside from teaching, was shopping.

“Ten days before she died, she insisted I ferry her to Costco, Nordstrom and Best Buy,” said Barbara Wilcox. “She bought a Juicy Couture bag and a new washer and dryer.”

Unfortunately, the cancer made it difficult for Rosalinde Wilcox to keep a positive attitude in her last few months.

“In her last days, I could only get her to smile by telling her about the lion cubs I had worked with as a volunteer in Johannesburg, South Africa,” Barbara Wilcox said.

Rosalinde Wilcox came to California with a mission, and she exceeded all expectations. She made the best of her 73 years, and lived with a smile.

“People from Astoria, Queens, did not become college professors in her day,” her daughter, Barbara said. “Mom always felt conscious of being from a humble background and of being lucky enough to have mentors who recognized her talent. This colored her attitude towards teaching.”

A memorial for Rosalinde Wilcox is scheduled Wednesday, May 20, at 3 p.m. in the McKinney Theatre. Those who worked with and learned from Wilcox know how deserving she is of the honor.

“She was unique, and I am lucky to have known her,” Isens said.

“Saddleback College has lost a great treasure and truly an outstanding professor,” Cifone said. “But more importantly, our community has lost a remarkable woman who was inspirational in every way imaginable.”

Rosalinde and Charles Wilcox, again from their trip to Wyoming in 2007. (courtesy of Wilcox family)

Rosalinde Wilcox receives her doctorate from UCLA in 1994. (courtesy of Wilcox family)

Rosalinde Wilcox poses for this photo taken in Queens in the early 50s. (courtesy of Wilcox family)

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