Laurel L. Wilkening was born in Richland, Wash., in 1944 and reared in Socorro, where her father was a physicist at New Mexico Tech.
She had a passion for science, earning a bachelor’s degree at Reed College in Oregon and a PhD from the University of California at San Diego in 1970. Laurel’s academic career began at the University of Arizona as a professor of geological chemistry. Laurel always said, “Being a woman in the right place at the right time for her career”, she changed to administration where she was the first woman provost at the University of Washington in Seattle. Then in 1993 she moved to the University of California at Irvine and became its first woman Chancellor, before retiring in 1998. As the space race was catapulted into the cosmos, Laurel was in the mix with NASA and all things space - highlighted with being vice-chairman of President Reagan’s National Commission on Space.
In retirement in Arizona, she loved the natural world of the Sonoran Desert. She was an accomplished birder. She also enjoyed flying with her husband and enjoying all the different seasons. She said there is so much that we “don’t know” and said only in God’s presence we will get the answers.
Laurel was preceded in death by her husband Godfrey Sill and parents Ruby and Marvin Wilkening of Socorro.
She is survived by her brother, Wes (Mary) Wilkening of Albuquerque and a niece, Whitney Wilkening of Tucson, Ariz.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made the Alzheimer’s Association https://www.alz.org. You will be missed by all the lives you have touched.