LOS ANGELES — Roger Boesche, a popular professor and renowned scholar credited by Barack Obama with sparking the future president’s interest in politics when he was an undergraduate at California’s Occidental College, has died at age 69.

Boesche died in his sleep Tuesday at his home near the campus, university spokesman Jim Tranquada told The Associated Press. No cause of death was given, but the professor had been afflicted since childhood with rheumatoid arthritis and had undergone numerous surgeries throughout his lifetime.

He had attended the university’s commencement ceremonies just last Sunday, receiving a standing ovation from faculty, staff and students when it was announced that he was retiring after 40 years.

“Roger was a beloved figure on campus and a nationally known scholar and teacher who really demonstrated the ability of a great teacher to transform lives,” Tranquada said Thursday.

Perhaps never more so than in the case of Obama, someone he once chastised for not putting in enough effort when the future president asked why he received a B in political theory instead of an A.

“I said, ‘Well, frankly, I think you’re really brilliant, but you don’t work hard enough,’ ” Boesche recalled telling Obama.

Obama, who later called Boesche “just a wonderful, wonderful teacher,” invited him to the White House for a visit in 2009.

Boesche earned bachelor of arts and doctorate degrees from Stanford University, where he led protests against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 1970s. He was hired by Occidental in 1977.

Soon after arriving, he led efforts to have the university sever business ties with South Africa while it was ruled by its racial separatist apartheid government.

Popular with both faculty and students, he was twice voted Occidental’s best teacher by its senior class.

An expert on political theory and history, Boesche published several books, including “Theories of Tyranny: From Plato to Arendt” and “The Strange Liberalism of Alexis De Tocqueville.”

He is survived by his wife and their daughter, Kelsey.