Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Mark Zaborney

Newton C. Rochte, 1920-2011: Educator's vision led UT to form college, site

Newton C. Rochte, whose persistence led the University of Toledo to develop a community and technical college and establish its own campus, died Saturday in Kingston Residence of Sylvania, where he lived the last two and a half years. He was 90.

He had congestive heart failure, his wife, Beau, said.

He retired in 1984 and was named a professor emeritus of higher education. He taught at UT until 1990.

Mr. Rochte, formerly of West Toledo and Sylvania, dedicated most of his career to adult and nontraditional students at UT. He arrived in 1952 and was an assistant director and, later, director of evening sessions, which served adult and working students. He became director of UT's junior college in 1956. That division received full-fledged college status in 1963 as the community and technical college, with Mr. Rochte as its dean.

"He had the vision for that college," said Mary Ann Heinrichs, a retired dean of UT's university college who was a professor for a decade in what became known casually as "com-tech."

"He was the innovator, the initiator, the person who hired the faculty, who had a camaraderie [and were] without a question staunch in their support of the concept," she said. "Dr. Rochte built the community and technical college into a respected institution."

By the late 1960s, he persuaded his university higher-ups to build a campus for the college on UT's land at Scott Park on Nebraska Avenue.

"That was his professional dream," his wife said. "It became very successful. We had many experiences of people saying when he was introduced, 'Oh, my son or daughter went there and it was the best thing that happened to him or her. He made a difference.' "

He faced down or wore down academic opponents who believed UT ought not confer two-year degrees.

"He was very unassuming, a gentle person," Ms. Heinrichs recalled. "One had to be very strong to defend one's college. He did it in such a quiet but forceful way."

His wife said, "It stretched Newt's good humor quite a lot, but he didn't give up."

He resigned as dean in 1974 and spent the rest of his UT career leading graduate-level courses, his wife said.

"He said, 'I reached my goals' and it was time for someone else to have new ideas," his wife said.

UT dissolved the community and technical college in 1999.

He was was born June 29, 1920, to Hazel and William Rochte. He was a graduate of Bowling Green High School and Bowling Green State University, after which he hitchhiked to New Mexico and back.

"I think the small-town boy from Bowling Green grew up rather fast on that trip," his wife said.

He worked in an airplane factory before he was drafted into the Army during World War II. He served aboard the cargo vessels called "Liberty ships." An attack by kamikazes on his ship caused permanent injury to his hearing and to his right leg. He refused to be restricted. With the help of the GI Bill, he received a master's degree and doctorate from Ohio State University.

Surviving are his wife, Beau, whom he married Aug. 26, 1945; daughter, Joyce Rochte Stephan; sister, Janice Pfouts, and brother Ronald Rochte.

Memorial services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania.

The family suggests tributes to the Newton C. Rochte scholarship fund at the University of Toledo Foundation or to a charity of the donor's choice.

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