Executive Director’s Message
In the midst of much unwelcome news about the newest round of budget cuts from Sacramento, I received an unexpected and most welcome phone call—the kind of call that makes it all worthwhile. Paul Dickinson, who attended GCC in the mid-1960s, said he wants to give back to the college for what he considers his “start to a successful, satisfying life of accomplishment.” Since that time, he visited the campus, and the guidelines of his generous bequest are being finalized. His gratitude will be transformed into tangible assistance for students who are the first in their family to attend college, as he was.
In this issue of the Foundation Insider, we feature Paul’s story as well as that of a Verdugo Fire Academy graduate who credits his GCC training and Chief Sam DiGiovanna with starting him on his chosen career path. These men with vastly different abilities and aspirations exemplify just two of the many ways that Glendale College makes a difference in people’s lives. Both remember fondly one or more GCC professors or other personnel who mentored and believed in them. If you are inspired to help after reading about them, we’ve highlighted a few of the ways you can support Glendale College: participation in the golf tournament, membership in the President’s Circle and naming GCC in your trust as a living legacy. Every donation is valued and greatly appreciated. And every donor gives us renewed hope that community colleges have a bright future.
Grateful Alumnus Gives Back to College
As a self-described “so-so” student at Crescenta Valley High School, Paul Dickinson reluctantly followed his father’s advice to go to college. It wasn’t a family tradition; in fact, he would be the first from his family to pursue higher education. But his dad’s advice turned out to be solid.
Today, Dickinson is remembering GCC with a generous bequest that will provide scholarships to students who are, like himself, the first in their families to attend college. “I look back on my two years at Glendale College as the turning point in my adult life,” he says. “I went there because I didn’t know what else to do. The first semester was so hard that I was actually ready to enlist and go to Vietnam, rather than continue in academics.”
Sitting in an Army induction center, Dickinson pictured his life in the military and also imagined his father’s disappointment. “It wasn’t a pretty picture for me. I got out of there, went back to school and found my footing with some great instructors like Professor De Grassi and others who made subjects that I previously had no interest in, fascinating. I was hooked,” he says.
This transition from indifference to motivation has served him well. Raised in a working-class family, he never wanted for anything but seldom enjoyed vacations or other extras. “My mother died when I was five. My father raised my sister and me. We were basically OK,” he says. “My dad and his dad before him worked as linemen for the L.A. Department of Water & Power, and that’s one reason he was always on me about college. It seemed like nagging at the time, but it stuck in my mind and he turned out to be so right.”
At GCC, Dickinson got involved in student government and, in 1967, was awarded a $2,000 scholarship from the Oakmont League for maintaining an almost 3.9 GPA while also working 20-25 hours a week to save for college. “That was a good amount of money back then,” he says, “and it helped me with expenses at USC [where he transferred as a junior]. It was also a great honor.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in International Relations in 1969, he completed a master’s program in Public Administration, also at USC. “I was fortunate in that, after graduation, I was offered a job with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission working on an underground nuclear test program. It involved moving to Las Vegas, and I was glad to do that,” Dickinson says. He was transferred to the San Francisco Operations Office a few years later, and after 11 years with the federal government he took a position with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, also in the Bay Area.
That position led to another unexpected but fulfilling enterprise when he was approached by a faculty member from Fresno City College about setting up a collaborative educational initiative. The resulting program grew into a nonprofit organization called the Partnership for Environmental Technology/Education (PETE), now headquartered in Maine and involving more than 600 colleges across the country.
After more than 37 years in the national defense and environmental fields, Dickinson and his wife Barbara retired in 2008. After dealing with the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area for many years, they fell in love with Bend, Oregon and have made it their retirement home. Both are active in community volunteer work in Bend and enjoy spending time with their daughters and two granddaughters.
Looking back on his life, Dickinson firmly believes that Glendale College put him on the path to success. “When I came to GCC it was for reasons other than academic enlightenment, but I was fortunate that the experience molded my adult perspective on life and led me to USC and to an interesting career. I’ve had a good life, much more comfortable than my ancestors ever dreamed of, and I want to help others realize their potential. I also call upon other alumni with similar experiences to do the same.” Dickinson has written GCC into his trust for a minimum of $100,000.
On a recent visit to GCC, Dickinson visited with Professor Leonard De Grassi and several other faculty members, enjoyed a tour of the campus and met with Foundation Board President Ellyn Semler, Executive Director Lisa Brooks and Superintendent/President Dr. Dawn Lindsay. “The tour was a real eye-opener for me, not only in how the college has grown and improved but also when I found out how much more it costs to attend GCC now,” he says. “I’m making this donation to support as many scholarships as possible to students who are facing financial challenges…I want to make their dream of a college education a reality.”
Firefighter Credits GCC/Fire Academy with His Success
For Joshua Marquez, Glendale College and its Verdugo Fire Academy were the gateway to his dream career. Four years ago, he had a degree from Cal State Los Angeles in Fire Science Prevention & Administration but still needed an extra nudge. “I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter,” he says, “but after I graduated from college I really didn’t know the best way to proceed. One day Chief Sam came into a fitness center where I worked. We started talking, and before I knew it I was on my way.”
That would be Chief Sam DiGiovanna who heads the Verdugo Fire Academy at GCC. He recognized in Marquez the maturity and determination that it takes to enter a profession that is dangerous and demanding but also extremely rewarding. “Joshua has what it takes to be successful in any of his endeavors,” DiGiovanna says. “If you love what you do, you will be successful and Joshua loves what he does.”
When Marquez graduated from the Academy in 2007, he had completed six months of intensive training at GCC and other locations. He loved every minute of it, especially the parts that would give most people nightmares. For example, one exercise involved “burn boxes,” structures that measure about 8 x 30 feet. A fire was set inside the box and there was a simulated flashover (the point at which spontaneous combustion occurs). “For me, this situation was challenging and frightening at the same time, but it built confidence in my ability to do something worthwhile,” he says.
Marquez plans to go to Marine boot camp in the near future to experience military life, which he sees as a parallel to firefighting. “The discipline of camp will enhance my abilities, both physical and professional. I want to be a leader, and I believe that leaders are made. The leadership traits I learned at the Academy are invaluable to me,” he says.
Inspired by Chief Sam and other instructors, he has set high goals for himself. He now oversees three other firefighters as a unit leader for the U.S. Forest Service and was among the first responders to the devastating Station Fire in the La Crescenta-La Canada area in September 2009. A favorite aspect of his current job is, once again, one of the most demanding. “We all do stints as ‘hot shots,’ who are highly trained wildland firefighters. We hike in with just enough equipment for two weeks, work 48-72 hour shifts and get by on only three or four hours of sleep. You depend on each other, there’s an incredible bond that grows,” he says.
In fact, he refers to fellow firefighters often as family, pointing out how much they rely on each other and how important it is to trust one another. “Sometimes people go into this with a hero complex, maybe looking for glory, but it’s really about representing an entity that demands and gets respect from the community,” he says. “It’s not about an individual…it helps you lose your self-centeredness.”
Marquez plans to get experience with the U.S. Department of Defense Fire Department, the next step on his upward career climb. “I’m learning more every day, building on the knowledge that I gained at the Academy. I believe that you can give 110% all of the time, and that’s what I aim to do,” he says.
NOTE: The Verdugo Fire Academy begins in January each year and is a one-year program. For more information, go to www.glendale.edu/fire
Or call: (818) 240-1000 x. 5918
Living Legacy Society – an Excellent Way to Remember GCC
Paul Dickinson and Joshua Marquez credit Glendale College with their successful careers. If you’re an alum with a similar experience (or if someone in your family, or a friend, attended GCC), e-mail your story and help inspire new generations of students: Lbrooks@glendale.edu.
There are also several ways to contribute, including unrestricted gifts, donations to scholarships or specific academic programs, endowed gifts to provide long-term support for facilities, and matching gifts. Other deferred gift options are also available, some of which provide substantial tax advantages.
“Every gift, large or small, is important and appreciated,” says Ellyn Semler, President of the Foundation. “Becoming a part of the Living Legacy Society is an excellent way to make a gift that gives many times over. You can designate a percentage of your estate or a specific amount to the college, and know that you have contributed to the enrichment and success of future GCC students.”
For more information, call the Foundation office at 818-551-5199 or e-mail Lbrooks@glendale.edu.
Foundation 2011 Golf Classic is Monday, June 13
Another great way to support GCC—while getting some exercise and enjoying beautiful surroundings—is by participating in this year’s Glendale College Foundation/BB&T Knight Insurance Golf Classic on Monday, June 13 at Oakmont Country Club. The tournament started almost 30 years ago as an athletic department fundraiser and now supports a variety of campus programs.
GCC alumnus Mike Haney of Arroyo Investment Group, the chair for the third consecutive year, encourages golfers of all levels to get involved. “This is a great day on a championship course for an excellent cause,” he says. “Come out and join other GCC alumni, business owners and community members in support of one of our city’s finest assets, Glendale College.”
The Foundation is grateful for Mike’s dedication and for the Grand Sponsor, BB&T Knight Insurance. So far, co-sponsors include Verdugo Hills Hospital, GCC’s Professional Development Center and Union Bank; and corporate sponsor Glendale Adventist Medical Center. Additional sponsorships are available at many levels. Please call 818-551-5199 for more information.
Still Time to Join the President’s Circle
You still have time to join the President’s Circle and enjoy lunch with Superintendent/President Dr. Lindsay, have your name fly on a banner all year-round, and help fund critical campus projects. The Circle now has 33 members who support GCC in an ongoing, sustainable way by contributing a minimum $1,000 unrestricted gift. Membership is renewable each year.
For more information, please contact Foundation Executive Director Lisa Brooks at 818-551-5196 or Lbrooks@glendale.edu.