Gaines R. Partridge (1923-2009)

Gaines Roland Partridge––the youngest of three children––was born on January 22, 1923, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Gaines and Anna Partridge. After completing his elementary and high school education in the public school system of Omaha, he persuaded his parents to allow him to attend Oakwood Junior College in Huntsville, Alabama. He transferred from Oakwood to Union College, where he earned the Bachelor of Science degree in 1947. He completed the Master of Arts degree in 1952 and the Doctor of Education degree in 1961 at the University of Nebraska.

Dr. Partridge married the lovely Velma Ruth Hayes of Los Angeles on December 21, 1954. Two daughters, Jennifer (Ginger) Venéa and Audrey Lynn, were born to their joyous union.

Throughout a rewarding career in education that spanned more than half a century, Dr. Partridge experienced the reality of one of his favorite texts: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings and not mean men” (Proverbs 22:29). The scope of his accomplishments and contributions includes service in a wide range of positions at every level of academia: teacher, principal, dean of men, dean of students, professor, department chair, and dean of admissions; as well as his postretirement appointment as emeritus dean of student affairs. Dr. Partridge served on key academic committees and held membership in secondary education and university accrediting associations. Among the institutional beneficiaries of his professional expertise, articulate advocacy, wise counsel, and Christian example were: Loma Linda University and La Sierra University (California); University of California at Long Beach and at Los Angeles; Atlantic Union College (South Lancaster, Massachusetts); Oakwood College (now Oakwood University, Huntsville, Alabama); University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Los Angeles Union Adventist Academy (California); Valley Fellowship Church Resource Center (Rialto, California); and Shiloh Academy (Chicago, Illinois).

Dr. Partridge’s influence on students whose lives he touched throughout his career continues, and few individuals can measure the impact of their accomplishments in such significant numbers. His firm commitment to diversity and his passionate advocacy on behalf of minority applicants to Loma Linda University contributed to the matriculation and graduation of more than 800 African American students who became alumni of this institution during the nearly quarter century of his administrative tenure. He was the driving force behind not only the establishment of the African American alumni support base, Black Alumni of Loma Linda and La Sierra Universities (BALL); but also of the Black Health Professional Students’ Association (BHPSA), which encouraged minority students to more broadly support one another across the health-related disciplines of the university, as well as to engage corporately in community outreach activities. Both BALL and BHPSA continue to exert a strong influence and to provide a positive example for Christian future Black professionals. In addition, his proactive efforts to assure all students an active voice in university governance resulted in establishment of the organization Associated Students of Loma Linda University (ASLLU, currently Loma Linda University Student Association [LLUSA]).

The legacy Dr. Partridge leaves was as rich as it was varied. He was a gifted artist whose paintings were hung (and on occasion sold) in various Loma Linda locations, including Loma Linda Community Hospital, La Loma Credit Union, Linda Hall, and Bank of America. One of the University’s most popular events, the Fine Arts Festival, was established in 1973 by Dr. Partridge. He and others recognized the need for the university community to join in an event that would promote a spirit of togetherness and reflection.

During the inaugural Fine Arts Festival, Dr. Partridge proposed his concept for a sculpture that would graphically represent the philosophy of Loma Linda University and Medical Center “to make man whole.” The Good Samaritan, which he subsequently commissioned, became perhaps the most tangible physical legacy of his work at Loma Linda University. This was a prime example of his enthusiasm and patronage of the arts. The Good Samaritan sculpture inspires visitors from around the world and stands as a graphic representation of the essence of Loma Linda University’s mission.

His commitment to whole-person health and welfare and his concern for assisting students toward balance in their lives were evidenced by Dr. Partridge’s vision of a state-of-the-art wellness, fitness, and recreation center for students faculty, staff, and the community. Today, the Drayson Center stands as the realization of that vision.

“Doc,” as some affectionately referred to him, was a proponent of the idea of self-determination of “his people” in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Through Westerners United for a Regional Conference (WURC), he provided leadership in the fight to determine the pace, direction, and outcome of efforts to establish and implement African American ministry priorities.

Dr. Partridge found great pleasure in performing unheralded acts of compassion and service aimed at relieving the burdens of individuals and groups that society had marginalized or forgotten. He would counsel, listen, lend a hand, prepare a meal, or give a monetary donation––depending on the need. On many occasions he could be found in local parks serving meals or distributing clothing.  His firm and direct but always gracious and compassionate approach succeeded in preserving the dignity of those whose lives he touched. Service was a hallmark of his life.

Dr. Partridge will be remembered as an effective and visionary educator and administrator, an outstanding student advocate, and a staunch supporter of African American self-determination. He will also be remembered as a servant leader, a refined gentleman, and a dedicated and committed Christian who had heaven firmly in his view.

Dr. Partridge’s wife, Velma, preceded him in death September 12, 1989. He leaves to celebrate his life and mourn his passing his beautiful daughters, Jennifer Venéa Norwood and Audrey Lynn Partridge; son-in-law, Milton Norwood; grandsons, Shane Blue, Reuben and Ryan Chad Norwood; dear sister, Mrs. Lyndell Batth; lovely sisters-in-law, Dr. Mabel Hayes and Ms. Audrey Hayes; brothers-in-law, William Batth and Emmett Hayes; nephews Xavier Caldwell, Bayé Sebahibe, and Wellington Batth; a host of cousins, nieces, and nephews; numerous treasured friends; and valued colleagues.

Gaines R. Partridge Obituary (PDF)