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CARE Member Contributions to The Next Thirty Years

Chabot College Leadership
Submitted by Helen Bridge
Chabot College

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 style.

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 worked there.

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 college system.

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.

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2007 C.A.R.E.

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