August 17, 2023
Ralph RJ Moriconi

Ralph “R.J.” Moriconi, who was named Outstanding Professor in 1992, just before his retirement from Stanislaus State’s Department of Education, passed away on May 13. He was 90.

Moriconi taught at Stanislaus State from 1968-92 after teaching and working for 12 years in Modesto City Schools.

The professor emeritus taught in the Department of Education, was Department of Education chair from 1984-87 and chair of Department of Advanced Studies in Education from 1987-88. He also was coordinator of the school administrator credential program in 1991-92 and taught Advanced Studies in Education and post-baccalaureate credential and master’s degree courses.

To be named Outstanding Professor of the Year, awarded by colleagues with student input, was an honor, Moriconi told his hometown newspaper in Yerington, Nevada. He was especially proud because his students were teachers.

“They know what it means to prepare to teach well,” he said.

Part of his talent as a teacher, he said, stemmed from the theatrics in him. He once jumped on a table to get his students’ attention, The Signal reported, then used music or meditation to start class so his students could clear their minds.

“He exemplifies what he advocates as traits of the effective teacher: he cares about his students and has high expectations of them,” one student said.

“Dr. Moriconi always represents the University in the most professional demeanor. He is warm and friendly, eagerly reaching out to students according to their needs,” another said.

Moriconi may have been a bit ahead of his time.

“The whole push toward a pluralistic society and multiculturalism rests on the appreciation of valuing of differences,” he told the newspaper in Yerington in 1992. “I teach my students that it isn’t enough to tolerate differences. They must learn to appreciate and value these differences.”

His students understood what he was trying to impress upon them.

“He demands that the student examine himself/herself in relation to his/her role in the profession, the democracy and the world,” one student said. “It is his ability to extract the individual, intellectual and social essence of each student that ranks Dr. Moriconi as an exceptional teacher.”

Moriconi devoted himself to education, first as an English teacher at Downey High School, where he started the honors English program. From there he went to Grace M. Davis High School as director of instruction and arrived at Stan State in 1968, where he began preparing future teachers.

His impact extended beyond the classroom.

The grandson of immigrants from Italy, Moriconi was a faithful Catholic and worked with the original director of admissions, Ed Aubert, among others, to establish the Newman Center for Catholic Stan State students.

His involvement ended when Campus Chaplain Richard Forti died from AIDS and the Stockton Diocese built All Saints University Parish with a new pastor.

“R.J. was interested in the welfare of all of the students. He was a good humanitarian.”

- Ed Aubert, Former Director of Admissions

As a gay man, Moriconi understood what students endured hiding their true identity.

His own sexual orientation did not hinder his work as a professor or commitment to Modesto, where he lived.

He was active in several organizations both those devoted to the gay community and to the broader population.

According to “The LGBTQ History of Stanislaus County,” recently researched and written by David Seymour and Keith Highiet for the McHenry Museum and Historical Society, Moriconi helped organize dinners for gay men and women at local homes in the late 1960s and then created Birds of a Feather, which met once a year at Oasis until Moriconi moved it to a ferry docked at the Port of Stockton. The group of working professionals raised money for scholarships and cultivated community involvement and acceptance.

He was an advisor on the board when the Stanislaus Pride Center opened in 2005 and Birds of a Feather was ending.

Moriconi loved to cook, and he loved the arts and worked on behalf of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, Central West Ballet, Bravo Rep Dance Company, Townsend Opera Company, the Prospect and State Theaters, Mistlin Gallery and the downtown Art Walk.

He also volunteered with Big Brothers/Sisters of Stanislaus County, Modesto City Culture Commission, Muir Trail Girl Scout Council, Industry Education Council of Stanislaus County, All May Be One, Inc. and Modesto Sister Cities.

“I like to be involved in helping make a better community,” Moriconi told The Signal in 1992.

He never stopped working toward that goal. While in hospice care, Moriconi was told an article about him and the work he’d done on behalf of the gay community was being written for the McHenry Museum and Historical Society.

“I think that the gay culture has changed for the positive, in that we can be recognized, appreciated and valued,” Moriconi said.

He passed away six days later, leaving behind his husband, Anthony “Tony” Alonza, sister Lora Rapina, two stepsons, three grandchildren and many nieces, nephews and friends.

Moriconi was born Feb. 16, 1933, to Ralph and Teresa Moriconi in Yerington, Nevada, where he lived until he went to Stanford, where he earned a B.A. in English, Speech and Drama and an M.A. in Education and a secondary credential. He earned a Doctorate in Curriculum Instruction and Supervision from the University of Florida and spent his career as an educator in Stanislaus County.

Family suggested donations in Moriconi’s name may be made to any organization of the donor’s choice