Chabot College Leadership
Submitted by Helen Bridge
In its first twenty years, Chabot College was led by just one man.
Dr. Reed Buffington held the position of President/Superintendent
from the college's founding up until his retirement in 1981. His
strong leadership style was top down, placing great emphasis on
quality and excellence in all aspects of running the institution. He
had the loyalty and respect of both faculty members and
administrators, and everyone knew who the boss was. Dr. Buffington
laid the foundation for every element of the college. To quote from
the epilogue to Ted Staniford's book (with help from Dr. Don Mayo,
who finished and edited it after Dr. Staniford's sudden death) about
the first 20 years of Chabot College, From the very beginning, this
has been Reed Buffington's college, dedicated in its every thought
and deed and act to the fulfillment of the educational and cultural
needs, hopes, and desires of the people of South County. To this
day, he remains an iconic figure.
During the next twenty seven years, when interim appointments are
included, ten presidents have occupied the office.
Immediately after the Buffington era, Dr. William Moore, from
Redlands, California, was hired as Chabot's second president. In the
beginning, he was enthusiastically supported by the Board of
Trustees, as well as the faculty and staff. He was engaging,
knowledgeable, and ready to lead. He also, however, had some almost
impossibly big shoes to fill. As if that weren't enough, he arrived
about the time Proposition 13 was taking effect. Prop.13 took away
local control from the colleges, thereby destabilizing school
funding, straining relations between faculty and administration, and
sometimes affecting relations between administration and the Board
of Trustees. Also, contract negotiations were especially bitter in
the early 80's because of budgetary uncertainty. These difficult
financial times had some long-lasting consequences. The most serious
of these occurred when, soon after one round of difficult but
successful negotiations were finalized, Dr. Moore asked the faculty
union to reopen the contract for salary only, contingent on final
budget figures from Sacramento. The union refused, and the
administration felt forced to send out layoff notices to 15 faculty.
Although no layoffs actually occurred, faculty anger about the
tactic poisoned collegial relations for a long time afterward. Some
members of the Board of Trustees also became increasingly demanding
and difficult for the president to work with. After giving the board
a one year notice, Dr. Moore resigned after four years on the job.
Following Dr. Moore's resignation, the Board of Trustees, chose Dr.
Howard Larsen who came to Chabot from Victorville, California. Some
faculty joked that he was selected because he reminded the board, in
looks, at least, of Dr. Buffington. His tenure was uneventful at
first, but a few public displays of anger, and his sometimes
strained relations with faculty, combined with a serious illness,
led to his departure from the presidency after only two years. Dr.
Larsen was allowed to return to Chabot the following year, however,
joining the Social Science faculty. He quickly became a popular
teacher and a very effective faculty senator, well liked by students
and faculty alike.
After Dr. Larsen left the presidency, Executive Dean Dr. Richard Yeo,
a respected, longtime administrator and Executive Dean at the time,
was appointed, for the fourth time, to the position of Interim
President. Dr.Yeo handled college issues and the sometimes difficult
relationship with the Board of Trustees with great skill. He stayed
in that job until he retired in 1989.
Chabot's next president was Dr. Terry Dicianna, who came to the Bay
Area in 1989 from Texas. At first, he was President/Superintendent,
but when the official "district" was formed, he became our first
Chancellor after only one year as president. One of the most
significant events to occur during his time in office was the 1989
Loma Prieta earthquake, which happened only a few weeks after he
began his tenure. That earthquake is described in more detail
elsewhere in this book.
The next presidential search resulted in the selection of Dr. Raul
Cardoza in 1990. Word around the campus was that he was a compromise
candidate, or that the board's first choice changed his mind about
taking the job. Dr. Cardoza was friendly and unassuming, but some
staff members felt that he never completely mastered his job. He
soon ceased to have the full confidence of the faculty, and that
made his attempts at leadership quite problematic. For instance, his
regularly scheduled meetings in the president's office were widely
criticized, even mocked, as being repetitive and nonproductive,
using the same easel board with the same agenda every time. He also
spent a great deal of time off campus, in one organization or
another, but without any tangible benefit to the college. He did
improve campus communications by creating "The Hot Sheet," a weekly
publication announcing upcoming events and congratulating faculty
and students for special achievements. He also changed Chabot's
official logo, a controversial decision which didn't please many
people - a small item, perhaps, but indicative of his leadership
As Cardoza's relations with the faculty became increasingly
strained, the Faculty Senate , at the behest of the Math/Science
division, eventually approved a controversial "No Confidence"
letter, prompting a fair amount of campus dissension and
disagreement. The Board of Trustees, after much pressure from the
faculty, terminated Dr. Cardoza's contract, though not until he had
held the presidency for six years. He was characterized by many
faculty as "liking the title, but not the job."
For the next two years, the presidency was held as an interim job by
Dr. Sam Schauerman, a retired college president from Southern
California with an excellent reputation as an administrator. He was
affable, experienced, and competent, and he quickly won over the
faculty and administrative staff. His temperament seemed exactly
what Chabot needed at that time. It's likely that he would have been
hired permanently if he had been willing to take the job. He stayed
on for two years, including a demanding campus accreditation period.
Along with Dean of Instruction Dr. Vicki Morrow, he gave full
support to a candid and comprehensive accreditation process. The
success of that approach and the resulting accreditation report was
affirmed when Chabot's report was chosen as one of two which were
used as statewide models. Co-chairs of the report, Leland Kent from
the Office of Instruction and Helen Bridge, faculty member from
Language Arts, along with their counterparts from Napa College, as
well as the President of the Accrediting Commission, led two
workshops on the accreditation process, one in Northern California,
the other, in the south. All in all, Chabot College functioned well
during Schauerman's tenure.
In 1998, Chabot turned once again to Southern California for its
next president, Terry Burgess, who arrived with high hopes of having
a long tenure at the college. He was attractive, innovative, and
faculty friendly, and in the beginning, seemed an ideal person for
the job. He was finishing his Ph.D., however, and was also hampered
by the fact that his wife, who had a successful career of her own,
stayed in Southern California. This meant that Burgess was away from
the Bay Area most weekends, thereby being unavailable for many
presidential duties. He did, however, leave a lasting legacy in
several areas. He encouraged the reenergized college foundation. He
created the College Council, enabling an effective and collegial
process for decision-making. He also handled the college's move to a
fifteen week semester calendar. He eventually resigned in 2001 to
return to Southern California.
For one year following President Burgess's resignation, Dr. Allan
Kurki held the job of Interim President. Dr. Kurki was experienced
and competent, and his tenure was uneventful, for the most part.
In 2002, Chabot hired Dr. Robert Carlson, who had a background in
the technical/vocational area, specifically, in welding. Carlson
handled the job of president in a low-key but reasonably effective
manner. Like previous presidents, Dr. Carlson updated college
governance plans, reshaping the way the College Council was used,
giving it the responsibility of creating a strategic plan for the
college, and other governance issues. Some faculty believed,
however, that the College Council usurped some functions which had
previously been the purview of the Faculty Senate. By this time, the
faculty union had also assumed several of the traditional senate
functions. The result was a considerably weakened senate and a
stronger executive presence. Dr. Carlson attended senate meetings
regularly, and senators complained that many college decisions were
announced only after they were made, without any senate input.
When accreditation time came around for the first time in Carlson's
tenure, he showed little interest in the process, perhaps because he
lacked a full understanding of its importance. Staff members who
were responsible for compiling the report expressed great
frustration at his lack of interest and participation. They even
felt compelled to hire a retired faculty member as a consultant to
help write and guide the process.
After the passage of a bond measure in 2003, the colleges got a
large infusion of money for construction purposes. Las Positas,
under the leadership of Karen Halliday, was well prepared with plans
for their campus, ready to begin construction of new buildings
immediately after the funds became available. Chabot, with Carlson
at the helm, lagged behind with their plans, resulting in large cost
overruns and a very slow start. By the time work began, costs for
building materials had increased so much that only part of the
original plan could be implemented.
Chabot College's plan called for an overhaul of much of the campus,
including tearing down several buildings, uprooting many mature
trees and plants, and reconfiguring most parking areas. That process
is underway as this history is being written. The result will be a
major dislocation and disruption for faculty, staff, and students
for the next few years. The look of the renovated campus will be
very different than before, making a high-rise office building the
new focal point, but also destroying the symmetry of the original
campus design. For both faculty and students, however, one benefit
of the finished design will be that all faculty offices will be in
the same building, making faculty interaction and student
accessibility easier. With any luck, another benefit will be that
the new faculty offices will not need the misguided (some would say
boneheaded) office door-closing mechanisms which led to much faculty
and student dissatisfaction in the mid-nineties. The campus will
also be fully updated with the newest technology.
Dr. Carlson retired in 2008. He spent the last semester of his
contract as a Vice Chancellor (one of three) at the district office.
In January of 2008, Chabot hired its first female president, Dr.
Celia Barbarena. Not long after she arrived on campus, she remarked
to someone, "I don't know what Chabot looked like. It was already
torn up when I arrived." Her comment could be taken both literally
and metaphorically. For example, in one sign of the times, Dr.
Buffington's picture has been taken down from above the board room
doors. Early reports about her leadership are encouraging, but as
for Dr. Barbarena's length of tenure, only time will tell whether
Reed Buffington's advice, written and left in his desk drawer for
the presidents who would succeed him when he retired, still holds
true. He wrote, "Rent, don't buy."
Post script: Activities of Chabot's presidents after leaving office
may shed subtle clues about our choices.
Reed Buffington moved into another successful career as an executive
with Lucky Stores. Eventually, he and his wife Elaine moved to
Kenwood, where he has remained active in his community, doing a lot
of volunteer work such as delivering "Meals on Wheels." Along with
Bill Moore, he is still active in an informal group who call
themselves "The Vacayshun Group." Their membership includes, besides
these two former presidents, four outstanding administrators, all of
whom were instrumental in getting CARE started, and two of whom are
still on CARE's board. Leo Meyer, Dick Yeo, Art Larson, and John
McKinley remain dedicated to Chabot College and the people who
Bill Moore, after resigning, immediately landed a prestigious job as
President of the Association of Independent California Colleges and
Universities, representing those institutions on public policy
issues in Sacramento and Washington D.C. He kept that job until he
retired in 1991. He and his wife Peggy now live half a year in Napa,
the other half in Montana.
Howard Larsen, following his departure from the presidency and after
his successful stint as a teacher, retired in 1994. At last report,
he was living with his family in Utah.
Dick Yeo, since his well-earned retirement in 1989 (interim
president four times!), lives in Aptos with his wife Gwen, who later
joined, and is still on the faculty at Stanford. Dick still loves
Gwen, Dickens, Laurel, and Hardy.
Terry Dicianna, after his term as chancellor, returned to Texas,
presumably to settle into retirement there.
Raul Cardoza held a number of positions after leaving Chabot. He was
president, briefly, at a Hispanic college in San Jose. He worked for
a national testing company in Colorado. He was a trustee at a small
Catholic community college in Mission San Jose. In October of 2009,
we were notified by Dr. Cardoza that he is now a Dean at Los Angeles
Trade Technical College (LATTC). He is responsible for supervising
over 30 classified staff, and handles the areas of Counseling,
Admissions, Student Services, Puente Program, Matriculation, etc.
Sam Schauerman continued his successful career as rent-a-president.
He presided at Delta College in Stockton for a couple of years, then
eventually returned to Southern California for further work in a
temporary capacity. For several years, he maintained e-mail contact
with a few of his Chabot colleagues.
Terry Burgess returned to southern California, presumably in an
unsuccessful effort to save his marriage. He later became president
of a community college in San Diego, and has had a very successful
career there. He was last seen in a recent documentary about
community colleges in California (available at Netflix), where he
appeared as an articulate spokesman for our statewide community
Allan Kurki's whereabouts and activities since his interim
presidency are unknown to this writer.
Robert Carlson still lives in Hayward. He bought; he didn't rent.
Return to Table of Contents