Former SF State prof Michael Ritter dies

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Tuesday October 4, 2022
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Michael Ritter. Photo: Courtesy Peter Toscani
Michael Ritter. Photo: Courtesy Peter Toscani

Michael Ritter, a retired San Francisco State University professor and longtime Castro resident, died September 16 while swimming in San Francisco Bay. He was 67.

Peter Toscani, Mr. Ritter's husband, told the Bay Area Reporter that the apparent cause was hypothermia, though he said the medical examiner's office is still in the process of completing an autopsy.

An experienced swimmer, Toscani said that Mr. Ritter often took part in the Alcatraz swim.

Mr. Ritter taught graduate counseling and psychology courses at SF State to students who were pursuing master's degrees, Toscani said.

The couple were married in 2018, Toscani said, and were together for 35 years.

"He was totally non-judgmental," Toscani said in a phone interview. "He was the beauty in everybody. He was an incredible, caring, and kindhearted man."

Toscani said that Mr. Ritter liked recognition from people and that he was approachable. "He was a human being — with the frailties we all have," Toscani said. "But he cared about people and often did things without recognition."

Local publicist Lawrence Helman, a gay man who knew Mr. Ritter for many years, noted in an email that Mr. Ritter "was a teacher, an activist, committed to social justice, a person of the highest moral values who was trying to make a difference in the world."

"He was truly 'walking the walk,'" Helman added.

Born on October 26, 1954, in Walterboro, South Carolina, Mr. Ritter was raised in Florence, South Carolina. Toscani said that Mr. Ritter ran away from home at 14 and told his parents he was headed to Atlanta to help young runaways.

"He told me later that he ran away for himself," Toscani said.

Mr. Ritter earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from the College of Charleston and his master's in counseling from San Francisco State.

"He had a range of friends across the socioeconomic spectrum," Toscani said. "He was a caregiver and he took real good care of me — he made my life so much better."

The couple enjoyed traveling, and Mr. Ritter loved to cook and garden.

He was also a writer and had finished a novel that Toscani said he hoped to have published posthumously.

In addition to Toscani, Mr. Ritter is survived by his sister, Karen Michael; his brother, Rudolph Ritter; three nieces, one nephew, and many grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

A memorial is planned for November 13. For more information, people can contact Toscani at [email protected]

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