May 2007

In Memoriam
R. Davis Bitton, a retired University of Utah professor of History of nearly 30 years, died April 13. He was 77.

Ronald Davis Bitton was born to Ronald Wayne and Lola Davis Bitton on Feb. 22, 1930, in Blackfoot, Idaho, and grew up there and on a farm in nearby Groveland. Bitton learned to work at home and in local retail stores, and learned to write as a reporter for the Daily Bulletin. He was elected to several student offices, and competed on the high school debating team, as well as in softball and basketball.

Bitton studied as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University and as a graduate student at Princeton University, and served in the U.S. Army. He went on to be a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and for 29 years the University of Utah, where he specialized in French history and also did considerable work in the area of Mormon history, presenting papers at scholarly conventions and publishing articles and books. Bitton retired from the U in 1995; he was a visiting professor at BYU-Hawaii in 2005 and 2006.

A lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bitton served in roles including as a missionary in France, elders quorum president, counselor in a bishopric, member of the stake high council, and gospel doctrine teacher for many years. From 1972 to 1982 he also served as assistant church historian.

Davis Bitton is survived by his widow, JoAn; children Ronald Bitton, Kelly Bitton Burdge, Timothy Bitton, Jill Cochran, Stephanie Ross, Debbie Callahan, Larry Morris, Judy Nauta, Earl Morris, Delbert Morris, and their spouses; brother John Boyd Bitton; sisters Marilyn Bitton Lambson and Elaine Bitton Benson; uncles and aunts on both sides; nephews and nieces; and 56 grandchildren and great-grandchildren,

Interment is at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Online condolences may be left at

Edited from the notice published 4/14 - 4/16/2007 and from an article published on 4/16, both in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Roma Lucille Iasella Ganz BS’37, an elementary school teacher of more than three decades, died April 18, 2007. She was 93.

Roma Iasella was born March 27, 1914 in Copperton, Utah, to Guiselle Nicolo and Lucia Disano Iasella. After graduating from Bingham High School, she received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from the University of Utah, and later a master’s degree in Education from BYU. She also completed work on a doctorate.

Roma’s lifelong quest for knowledge was reflected in her well-worn thesaurus, dictionary, and encyclopedia set. Ganz taught elementary school in the Jordan School District for more than 30 years, instilling in her students this same love of learning.

On July 29, 1938, Roma married Floyd Ganz, and they remained together for sixty-seven years. Creative and caring, Roma was famous among friends and family for her mouth-watering Italian gnocchi, spaghetti, and meatballs, homemade bread and scones, and her delicious Greek cookies, toffee, peanut brittle, and fudge, which she shared readily. She also crocheted beautiful bookmarks and afghans. An avid sports fan, especially of the Utah Jazz, she also loved flowers, music, travel, and crossword puzzles.

Roma I. Ganz is survived by her two brothers, Henry and Joe Iasella; her son, William (LaRae) Ganz; daughter-in-law Brenda (Joe) Biesinger; “adopted son” Gary (Jean) Robbins and family; six grandchildren, Julie, Brad, Bryan, Matt Ganz, Brittany (Scott) Anderson, Aaron (Niki) Ganz; and two great-grandchildren, McKay and Taylor Anderson. She was preceded in death by her husband, Floyd; a son, Michael; and a daughter-in-law, Betty.

Interment is at the Sandy City Cemetery. Ganz requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Bingham High School Alumni Foundation (

Edited from the notice published in The Salt Lake Tribune on 4/22/2007.

D. Gordon Paxman, a University of Utah emeritus professor of Ballet, former chairman of its Ballet and Modern Dance departments and former associate dean of Fine Arts, died at home on April 9 with his family by his side. He was 81.

Delos Gordon Paxman was born in Provo, Utah, on June 11, 1925, to Albert Delos and Veneta Latimer Paxman. While Paxman was still a child, the family later resettled in Idaho Falls, Idaho. His mother was an avid dancer, and because of this Gordon began taking dance lessons at an early age and fell in love with dance. A gifted and talented athlete, he also played basketball, football, and track, and while in high school, was named all-around athlete of the year. He served as a medic for the Navy during World War II before enrolling for one year at Idaho State University, where he played football. He also served a mission for the LDS Church in Toronto, Canada, in 1948 and 1949.

In 1946, Gordon met Dorothy Pieper; they married August 3, 1950, in the Logan, Utah, LDS Temple and moved to San Francisco that year. He began dancing for the San Francisco Ballet Company and became its principal dancer, ballet master, and production manager. In 1959, the couple moved to Salt Lake City, where Gordon helped form what is now known as Ballet West. He also began teaching at the University of Utah, where he went on to become chairman of the Ballet and Modern Dance Department and later the associate dean of Fine Arts. He was also a consultant for numerous universities throughout the United States. Gordon retired from the university in 1990; in 1995, he and Dorothy moved to St. George, Utah, where they settled for retirement.

Gordon Paxman is survived by his wife of 56 years, Dorothy; children David Paxman and Dina (Neil) Jensen; grandchildren, Rebecka (Craig) Hereau, Jeremy Paxman, and Sarah, Todd, Jenny, Katie and Matt Jensen; and great-grandchildren Kylin, Keagen Audrey, and Kelsee. G

The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to any of the following organizations: The Nutcracker Foundation, in care of West Side Studios in St. George, Utah; Ballet West in Salt Lake City; or the University of Utah Department of Ballet, also in Salt Lake City.

Edited from the notice published in the Deseret Morning News from 4/12 - 4/13/2007.

Pierre S. Pincetl, M.D., chief information officer for University Health Care and associate vice president for the University of Utah’s Health Sciences Information Technology Services, died March 29 after a struggle with colon cancer. He was 50.

Pincetl was an early leader in the field of information technology services for the medical profession, anticipating the importance of this approach. After receiving his medical degree at George Washington University, Pincetl was awarded a prestigious Clinical and Research Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Harvard School of Medicine, Laboratory of Computer Science. He then joined George Washington University as an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Computer Medicine, and Director of Medical Informatics for the Medical Center. In 1996, he became the Chief Information Officer at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, bringing his cutting-edge expertise to the University.Pincetl shepherded the building of an advanced and secure Data Processing Center for the University medical school and hospital and was instrumental in ensuring that the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics were consistently rated as one of the nation’s 100 Most Wired Health-Care Systems by Hospitals and Health Networks, a publication of the American Hospital Association. Over the years, he helped the University earn several awards for innovative use of technology in patient care. Pierre was also a loving father and husband who enjoyed life and sharing his home and heart with his friends and family.Pierre Pincetl is survived by his wife, Kim; children Peter, 20, and Adrienne, 18; his mother, Giselle Pincetl; and his sister, Stephanie Pincetl (Jonathan Katz, husband).

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Pierre Pincetl Memorial Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank.

Edited from news reports and the notice published in The Salt Lake Tribune from 4/4 - 4/8/2007.

Michael Smuin ex’53, an award-winning choreographer for ballet, Broadway, film and television, died April 23 in San Francisco of an apparent heart attack while rehearsing the new season for his company, the Smuin Ballet. He was 68.

Smuin won Emmy Awards for the television productions of his ballets “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Tempest” and “A Song for Dead Warriors”—all created while he was co-director of San Francisco Ballet from 1973 to 1985—as well as a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his choreography in the 1987 New York revival of the musical comedy “Anything Goes.”

Smuin was born in Missoula, Mont., on Oct. 13, 1938, to parents who were active in a university theater group. Classes in ballet, tap and gymnastics — along with experience in boxing—fueled his lifelong interest in diverse forms of movement and led him at age 16 to audition for a scholarship to the University of Utah dance department. There, he took ballet classes from Willam Christensen and appeared in summer musicals as well as performances of Christensen’s Utah Ballet.

After seeing Smuin dance in 1957, Christensen’s brother Lew invited Smuin to join the San Francisco Ballet. Smuin accepted and was soon not only a principal dancer in that company but also a fledgling choreographer for the Bay Area Ballet (1959) and the workshop chamber ensemble Ballet 1960. The next year, he was named ballet master at San Francisco Ballet and special assistant to Lew Christensen, the artistic director. Smuin also married Paula Tracy, a dancer he met while on tour with the company and who joined him in the Bay Area and San Francisco Ballet.

In 1962, Smuin took a leave of absence to work in New York, on Broadway and in a nightclub dance act with Tracy. He joined the corps of American Ballet Theatre in 1966 and two years later was promoted to principal dancer. His choreography helped earn him an invitation to return to San Francisco Ballet in 1973, this time as associate artistic director.

Mid-’80s criticism of his work with the ballet led to his dismissal, but he found plenty of freelance work, with feature films becoming an important showcase of his versatility. Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Return of the Jedi—Special Edition, Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, The Joy Luck Club, and A Walk in the Clouds all contain Smuin’s choreography. In 1994 he formed the successful Bay Area chamber ensemble now called the Smuin Ballet.

Smuin is survived by his ex-wife, Tracy (the couple divorced in 2000); his son, Shane; and brothers Stephen and Douglas. Plans for a memorial service are pending.

Edited from an article in The Los Angeles Times 4/25/2007 and other news reports.

U-News & Views © 2007 An online publication
by the University of Utah Alumni Association
Questions? Concerns? Contact Linda Marion, editor (801-587-7837)
or Marcia Dibble, assistant editor (801-581-6996)