In Memoriam: Michael Ritter

Author: Strategic Marketing & Communications
October 4, 2022
Michael Ritter

Emeritus counselor faculty and alumnus Michael Ritter (M.S., ’84) passed away unexpectedly at the age of 67 on Sept. 16. He was training for his eighth Alcatraz swim scheduled for Oct. 1 to raise funds for the Continue the Dream for Academic Excellence Scholarship, created to benefit undocumented college students. He was passionate about working with marginalized communities, particularly those impacted by homophobia, racism and other forms of oppression.

Ritter was a dedicated educator, counselor and social justice activist. His many contributions include work with the LGBTQ+ community, the Palestinian community, the Academic Senate of the CSU and the California Faculty Association (CFA). Most noticeable were his accomplishments serving as program director of Prevention Education Programs (PEP) within Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). He ensured students had access to information, counseling and resources on HIV/AIDS alcohol and other drugs, and sexual violence. He was also a lecturer in the Department of Counseling and touched many lives through all the years of teaching. He retired in 2016 after 32 years of service.

Ritter embodied the spirit of SF State and the wider San Francisco community. He was warm, compassionate, generous and kind. His nonjudgmental approach helped people develop compassion for themselves. He lived life every day to the fullest and died doing what he loved, in the place he loved, with people that he loved, and for a cause that he loved.

“Michael is loved by so many colleagues and alumni in the Department of Counseling and the loss ripples deeply with us. We fondly remember his warmth, energy and tremendous clinical expertise,” said Department of Counseling Chair Rebecca Toporek. “We had the fortune of his collegiality and leadership in an undergraduate peer counseling program in a partnership between Counseling and Psychological Services and the Department of Counseling. Through that, he not only taught the courses but also supervised and mentored many of our graduate students who assisted with the class while interning as mental health counselors on campus at the Peggy Smith Clinic. Teaching the peer counseling classes, Michael also had a powerful influence on students in our Counseling minor who aspired to become peer counselors, and many eventually apply for graduate training in counseling. Michael greeted every one of us with a warm smile, good humor and compassion. His spirit will continue to be strong with us.”

Ritter is survived by his spouse, Peter Toscani, and sister, Karen Ritter. Memorial services are currently in the planning stages for November, and information will be widely shared when it is available.