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John Paul De Cecco, pioneer of sexuality studies, dies

by Cynthia Laird

John Paul De Cecco, a professor emeritus at San Francisco State University and a longtime scholar in the field of human sexuality, died at his home November 2. He was 92.

Mr. De Cecco served as the editor in chief of the Journal of Homosexuality, a landmark international peer-reviewed scholarly journal, from 1975 until 2009. He published scores of books, articles, and edited volumes throughout his 50-year career as a professor.

A gay man, Mr. De Cecco was the primary founder of SF State's sexuality studies program in the late 1970s and remained its director until 1997. According to school officials, Mr. De Cecco led an effort to add a human sexuality studies minor to the curriculum in the early 1980s and an LGBT studies major in the early 1990s. He also founded the popular "Variations in Human Sexuality" course, which enrolled 700 to 800 students per semester, and taught the class until his retirement in 2003.

At SF State, Mr. De Cecco founded the Center for Homosexual Education, Evaluation, and Research to serve as a center for his U.S. government-funded research projects on discrimination of sexual minorities, in addition to providing an editorial home for the Journal of Homosexuality. The center was later transformed into the Center for Research and Education in Sexuality, which remained active until Mr. De Cecco's retirement.

"John was a first-rate academic and he had a huge impact on the field," John Elia, a friend who is the associate dean of SF State's College of Health and Social Sciences, said in a news release from the university. "He cared deeply about helping to promote the work of researchers doing work in LGBTQ studies."

Elia is the current editor of the Journal of Homosexuality.

Mr. De Cecco was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, in an Italian immigrant family. The first in his family to attend college, he earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Allegheny College, and master's and doctoral degrees in European history from the University of Pennsylvania. He pursued advanced study in psychology at Wayne State University.

Before moving to San Francisco, Mr. De Cecco taught at the University of Detroit and Michigan State University. He accepted an assistant professor position at SF State in 1960, and was later promoted to the rank of professor.

Mr. De Cecco received various awards throughout his career from the American Psychological Association, Gay Academic Union, the GLBT Historical Society, and other academic associations and organizations.

Friends said that Mr. De Cecco was widely known as a staunch advocate for sexual and social justice and spent the majority of his career righting the wrongs done to sexual minorities.

Mr. De Cecco is survived by his brother Robert (Rob), and sister-in-law, Mary Grace, and his nephew, Larry, all of Erie Pennsylvania.


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