Peter Cortese, associate dean emeritus for the College of Health and Human Services, died on May 25, 2008, in Irvine. A memorial service will be held on campus in the Chartroom on Saturday, June 21, at 2 p.m.
He was born in Minnesota on June 29, 1928, and earned a B.A. in speech pathology from the University of Minnesota. He returned to his hometown of Keewatin to teach at the high school where he graduated. Following a stint in the U.S. Air Force and another year of teaching, Cortese entered UCLA in 1955 to begin graduate work in speech pathology, which he practiced in the Los Angeles city schools for about eight years.
After owning a Chicken Delight franchise on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles for five years, he returned to UCLA, earning Master of Public Health and Doctor of Public Health degrees. One of his career highlights was serving as associate director of the School Health Education Study in Washington, D.C., from 1969 to ’71. Hired by Cal State Long Beach in 1973, he went from a full-time lecturer in one year to department chair of the Health Science Department the next year.
In 1979 he took a two-year leave of absence from CSULB to return to the nation’s capital when President Jimmy Carter appointed him to establish and direct the Office of Comprehensive School Health in the U.S. Department of Education.
After his retirement in 1991, the nationally known health educator answered a call the next year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., to serve in the Division of Adolescent and School Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control. In 1993 he was named chief of the Program Development and Services Branch and remained in that position until April 30, 1996. Then Cortese returned to Irvine, Calif., to enjoy the remainder of his retirement years.
During his professional career Cortese wrote many articles in his field and co-edited a book titled The Comprehensive School Health Challenge. Also, he was very involved in professional organizations and was recognized for his contributions through many awards including the American Association of Health Education’s Professional Service to Health Education Award and a Presidential Citation in 2005 from the American School Health Association. As vice chair for nine years and chair for two years of the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Cortese led in the establishment of a national certification process for the health education discipline.