September 25, 2018

Don Hartsock: Founding Ombuds at UCLA

Donald Hartsock, who served as the first Ombudsman at UCLA passed away on September 1, 2018 at the age of 90. Hartsock was pointed in 1969 in response to student protests and served the campus until 1991. He was one of the original founders of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds and the University and College Ombuds Association. A memorial service will be held on October 6 at Westwood Presbyterian Church, where he once served as minister. (Legacy Obituary.)

Update 10/3/18: UCLA Obituary.

Related post: UCLA Ombuds Office Marks 40 Years of Service; Katy Kolodziejski: Former UCLA Ombuds.


  1. The Court Jester.
    You know how we Ombuds often use the metaphor of the court jester to describe what we do? About how the only true power we have is to 1) tell stories and 2) ask questions?
    This belief originated with Don. I first met Don in 2001 and he was quick to point out how the only manner to bring about change, and influence others, was to, as the Fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear, tell stories and ask questions. It was an image that stuck with me immediately not because we should take conflict lightly but because the role of the court jester is to tell the Kings & Queens (leaders) in our institutions the bitter truth (and not lose our heads for it!). To Don, the academic institution was like a medieval fiefdom with everyone playing a specific (and important) role. And we Ombuds, we are the Court Jesters. There not to make fun of our leaders but to provide the stories and questions that could bring Insight to others.

    You are your stories will be missed Don.

    But I know somewhere, someplace, there’s a slow burning and warm campfire with driftwood crackling on a sandy beach. The gentle waves crash upon the shore, and others begin gathering under a darkening, but peaceful, purple sky as the stars began to glisten and beckon souls to gather around the campfire. With rapt attention even the ocean gets a littler quieter as everyone listens for what's about to start. For there are many stories to be told of days gone by. And also of endless stories, and dreams, to be told of things to come in the hereafter.

    Reese Ramos
    UCLA Ombuds 2001-2007
    Sandia National Labs Ombuds 2007-2018
    Earthjustice Ombuds 2016-2018

    1. Carly Chavez10/04/2018 7:06 PM

      A few days ago marked a month that my Grandfather Donald Hartsock passed away. Tonight after coming across an article about him, I began googling him and came across this blog. I am so very grateful to be able to read these tributes and stories about him! I only know how he was as a grandfather which was nothing short of incredible. To read stories of his career that he loved and talked with me about into my adult life as he got older is such a cool thing coming from strangers to me. Thank you for your words that I needed to hear tonight. Now only if I could be on that beach with he warm campfire with him tonight listening to those stories....thanks again!

      - Carly Chavez

    2. Thanks, Carly. Your grandfather will be remembered as one of the founders of this profession. My thoughts are with your family.

  2. I availed of Don Hartsock's wise and effective leadership as he was the Ombudsman at UCLA during the 80s when I was an undergrad and grad student. He helped resolve my problem at hand in a rational and wise way, but even more importantly he was inspiring to me as a teacher about how to achieve peaceful co-existence and the possibility of fairness. I am graetful to have known him and I learned a lot from him and I am sorry that he is gone. E. Anthony Collins

  3. As a former UCLA student of Don’s, in addition he performed my marriage ceremony, he has shaped my trajectory into going into CONRES some 20+ years later. Great man.