Remembering Dez          

On Wednesday, November 24, 2010, Desmond Saunders-Newton, affectionately known as Dez, left this world. A tragic loss for all who knew him, a dear friend and mentor to so many, a husband, a father, a brother, a son, and so much more... Our hearts are heavy. Dez left his one-of-a-kind impression all over the world, with his brilliant mind, his warm heart and his contagious smile. Please share here how Dez left his impression on your heart, mind and soul with stories, pictures, memories, and thoughts, along with your prayers for his family, his wife Clarissa, his son Mounir, and his daughter Ayiana.

In support of Dez's most precious legacy, the Saunders-Newton Fund has been created for the current and future education of Mounir and Ayiana. Please visit to find out how you can help.
Thursday, February 20, 2020 09:01 PM
Sign the Guestbook
Total Entries: 115   Entries Viewed Per Page: 50 1 2 [3]
Name Comments
15) Kristi Raube 
San Rafael, CA
Monday, November 29, 2010 11:59 AM Write a comment

I met Dez in graduate school over 20 years ago while we were slogging through our doctoral studies. His intelligence, humor, and friendship made it better for all of us. He will be missed.
14) Aaron Frank 
Fairfax, VA
Monday, November 29, 2010 11:47 AM Write a comment

I first met Dez in October 2001, shortly after the horrors of 9/1l. He and Joe Eash interviewed me for a position at National Defense University where I would support them on new approaches to security policy – one that would require refocusing the Department of Defense on social science problems and challenges. That interview and our work together for the next three years changed my life. My entire intellectual focus shifted as Dez opened my eyes to emerging areas of research and encouraged me to chart a new direction for my career – always shining a bright light down the paths that I had yet to travel. The work that Joe, Dez and I did remains one of the most rewarding professional activities I have ever been involved in. It seems fitting that Dez and I met in the aftermath of 9/11 – as our curiosity and search for new ideas and approaches to thinking about the world sat at the core of our friendship.

In 2004, I left National Defense University. Dez had left the university to spend his time at DARPA a year earlier, but we remained in constant contact and continued to work together across organizations. In 2005 he joined BAE Systems and six months later I was his first hire into a new group focused on the use of computational methods in the social science and policy. For four years we developed unique approaches to some very difficult problems and our relationship went through one of many transformations. Dez was not a client I supported on a contract like at National Defense University; he was now my boss and increasingly treated me as a peer, having me represent him and our team whenever possible. The greatest part about this time was that he never second guessed my decisions, and enjoyed watching me grow into new roles and take on new responsibilities (although sometimes I think he just tormented me with the things he didn’t want to be bothered with). He prepared me for things that previous bosses told me I would never be able to handle, and with Dez’s encouragement I was able to shatter boundaries that others told me defined my limitations.

In the summer of 2009 Dez left BAE Systems to pursue new challenges. I knew the place would never be the same for me without him, and I left shortly afterwards in the late fall. We continued to speak almost daily, and worked together whenever possible, although he was now firmly rooted back on the west coast – or at least he was not commuting regularly between Washington, D.C. and LA. Despite the distance and the fact that he was no longer my boss, Dez continued to play an encouraging role in my life – helping me chart a new course for my post-BAE career, and giving me the strength to play a stronger role in whatever organization I’m in. He always provided a calming influence and the wisdom of his experiences, two things I remained in need of, even as I became less dependent on him intellectually.

Indeed, many remember Dez for his brilliant mind, and his intellect was truly magnificent – he was a genius and philosopher. However, I believe that through mentoring he revealed his greatest gifts. Dez was exceptionally adaptive, and always remade himself and his relationships to suit the needs of the situation. As a result, he encouraged those around him to learn, grow, explore, and pursue their own interests, changing his role to provide whatever support the situation needed. He enjoyed other’s accomplishments, and took great pride in watching those around him achieve their goals and dreams. He literally made those around him better – those fortunate enough to benefit from his mentoring became increasingly self-aware, confident, and prepared to pursue our own goals. I’ll forever believe that my accomplishments are a testimony to his investment.

I will miss him forever, and will always wonder about the conversations that we never had, and what advice he would have offered in situations I can’t yet imagine. Yet, I also realize that I’m so much better prepared to deal with the world, whatever challenges come to pass, because of everything that he was for me and others.
13) Kimberly Walker 
Baltimore, MD
Monday, November 29, 2010 11:34 AM Write a comment

(13) It's a sad day to hear of Dez's passing, but such a wonderful feeling to know that I was able to know him. I'll miss his wisdom and his brotherly concern and advice. And his laugh. Goodbye, Dez. Wherever you are, it's a better placw.
12) Crystal Keels 
Falls Church, VA
Monday, November 29, 2010 11:16 AM Write a comment

My heart hurts. Your brilliance, laughter and joy was a gift to the world that will endure in my memory.
11) Greg Frazier 
McLean, VA
Monday, November 29, 2010 10:46 AM Write a comment

Dez -- in the often dry world of research you moved with style and grace. You were a risk-taker with verve and an inspiration to all of us who hope to change the world. You will be sorely missed.
10) DJ Patil 
Mountain View, CA
Monday, November 29, 2010 10:22 AM Write a comment

Thanks for all the career advice Dez. Your advice and tips helped me navigate the policy world. Thanks for breaking boundaries and pushing me to do the same.
9) Joyce LeMelle 
Washington, DC
Monday, November 29, 2010 09:24 AM Write a comment

My dearest Dez, I am still at a loss! I remember the first time I met you in Aspen. I laughed until I had tears running down my face. You're look on life was so great and refreshing. What a huge loss for us but what a great place heaven is right now! I will always remember you and my prayers go out to your family. You will be missed
8) Tim Greathouse 
Maui, HI
Monday, November 29, 2010 03:14 AM Write a comment

You were a perfectionist in everything you did. As a section leader in band you were tough, but we were one of the sharpest in band because of your leadership. I'm in awe at what all you accomplished in your short lifetime, what an amazing life and what a legacy to leave behind for your beautiful children. You will live on through them and through all the students and friends you met along this journey we call life. Many prayers for your family and those who loved you.
7) Mary Anne Doyle 
Los Angeles
Sunday, November 28, 2010 11:28 PM Write a comment

Dez helped me to be my best. As a close friend, he lifted me up and showed me the way forward. Twenty years of his friendship was a very special gift. I had so hoped for twenty more.

My heart is breaking. My heartfelt condolences and constant prayers go to Clarissa, Mounir, Ayiana and all of the extended family. May you many happy memories help to see you through your grief.
6) Mae Holmes 
Kansas City, Mo
Sunday, November 28, 2010 10:46 PM Write a comment

Didn't know you well, but your MOM was my first cousin. What I do know about you is : You're gone too soon. Enjoyed our time together on FB.Got to know you a little as a Man, what I remember hearing about is some of your childhood. God Bless.
5) Sandra A Rivera ICAP 98 
Washington DC
Sunday, November 28, 2010 10:31 PM Write a comment

My dearest Dez, I remember well that August ICAP week at the Aspen Institute where we were first introduced in 1998. As a fellow in the academy, duly tortured in grad school, your guidance gave me hope and a path through a rough patch on the work front. You helped me navigate through some surreal situations and illuminated the best path forward. And all before lunch! Damn, you are good! Dez, I remember how you and I connected with Yumi and Robert to leverage that great idea of creating cells: in a good sense...for peer mentoring of all things! You of course were members of several while we focused on High Performance Leadership issues and training. (Anyone remember those sessions?!) You embodied the whole idea of "WE are the ones we are waiting for,..." and really motivated me to see beyond the present. Thanks to your encouragement, I submitted proposals and went on to present and publish in places I hadn't even considered. I remember just 2 months before that September attack, that we were discussing how to model economic war rather than a trade war with CGE modeling...Who knew 9/11 would be right around the corner? I really love your perspective on having and raising *little people* as opposed to kids. What a paradigm shift, which was for me the outcome of so many conversations we had. Thank you, my dear brother, for making time for ALL of us in just the way we needed it at the time.

Sending besos y abrazo to where you are now. xoxo
4) Deeneaus Polk 
Sunday, November 28, 2010 08:11 PM Write a comment

The world lost a brilliant man in Desmond Saunders-Newton recently. I can't say I knew him fully, but I can tell you that he enriched my life. His was a life that seemed engaged in constant good. A life that effected individuals in ways he'll never fully know. He effused confidence with a smile that could melt your heart and a mind that could run laps around the most intricate of thoughts. Brilliance is a powerful, dynamic word, made more robust when the human associated with it acts upon the distinction. That was Dez. Thank you for allowing me the perfect snapshot into a life well lived. A life I can aspire to...

Thank you so very much Dez. I'll be a better person because I knew you. The world loved you, but God loved you more.
3) Olyvia Howard-Bennett 
Texarkana, TX
Sunday, November 28, 2010 06:50 PM Write a comment

Hey Dez! I am so glad to have shared all 12 years of school with you. We were so,me, Joey and Jo Ed. I think of those days so often. Your funny jokes, your sense of humor are all a part my my precious memories. We called you 'The Professor".....not only did you walk in your 'calling', you exceeded it! I am so priviledged to have known you and shared so many good times. Rest in peace my good friend.
2) Cristina Domogma 
Monterey, California
Sunday, November 28, 2010 02:55 PM Write a comment

Dez, Dez... Crazy Dez... You really pulled one on us with your sudden departure, man! In a Dez-twisted-style text I received from you in reference to a recent loss I experienced, you stated "So sorry to hear about your friend. Such events do come as a shock. I often take them less as a chance to mourne, and more as an opportunity to celebrate the life and accomplishments of a fellow human. It is clear he made an impact in your life, and in many ways the best tribute to him will be for you to continue to aspire to become the wonderful human that he saw in you. Moreover, always remember that his willingness to advocate for you in light of an injustice should serve as an example to all of us when faced with a similar situation."
Thanks for enriching my life at so many levels, my dear Dez... Wherever you are, recibe un fuerte abrazo! Miss you tons...
1) Aaron Frank 
Fairfax, VA
Sunday, November 28, 2010 11:10 AM Write a comment


For the last nine years you have been an influential and inspirational part of my life. You were my client, boss, mentor and friend. I could not be who or where I am today without you. Amy and I will always remember and cherish the role you have played in our lives. You’ll always be a part of our family and we extend our deepest sympathies to yours.

Your friend forever,

View RSS Feed 1 2 [3]
Powered by Lazarus Guestbook from