State names chancellor


At the end of this year, the nation’s largest college system will be under new leadership by someone who truly understands the lives of its students – because he used to be one.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley was the name announced by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors at its July 18 meeting, which was also broadcast live over the Internet.

“The vote to appoint and employ our new chancellor was unanimous,” said Board President Geoffrey L. Baum, who went on to list the recent improvements California Community Colleges has made for students, describing Oakley as the obvious choice to keep the educational system’s momentum going and the ability to strengthen it further.

At the board meeting, Oakley described himself as a California native who grew up in a working-class family that never consider a college education an option. But after serving four years in the Army, Oakley returned to California with his family to make a life here and that thinking changed.

“I was a father looking for work, trying to figure out what I was going to do,” said Oakley. “So, Golden West College opened that door for me, like so many students throughout this great state, and gave me the opportunity to be here today.”

The current president of Long Beach City College, who will begin his new job as chancellor Dec. 19, added that the California Community Colleges are a part of his family and impacted who he has become. Along with his partner Terry Carball, all three of his eldest children started their college careers at one of the state’s public two-year educational institutions and he assured the room his youngest daughter would most likely follow that path as well.

“So, you can see community college runs deep in my family, and it’s amazing to think that one generation ago there wasn’t much thought about going to college,” said Oakley. “And now there is nothing but the thought of going to college. That is the magic of our community colleges.”

Oakley said he was proud to have the opportunity to serve California Community Colleges and help it transform the lives of California students the way the system did for him. And although he treasured its mission, he also made clear he would challenge it at times to make education better for the more than 2 million students at the 113 colleges in the 72 districts that makeup this educational system.

A formal press release from the California Community College Chancellor’s office was sent out the Tuesday following the board’s hiring decision, which also included the highest of praise from government and educational leaders.

“The Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges has made a spectacular choice,” said Ted Mitchell, under secretary of the U.S., Department of Education, who looks forward to working with the new chancellor. “Eloy Oakley is a proven leader of national stature. He has been a valued partner in the president’s effort to provide free community college to qualified students.”

California’s governor, Jerry Brown, echoed Mitchell’s sentiments.

“Eloy Oakley knows California’s community colleges inside and out and has served at every level in the system – from teaching in the classroom to running a campus as superintendent,” said Brown. “California’s 113 community colleges – and the 2.1 million students they serve – are in good hands.”

According to the press release, Oakley will become the first Latino to be leader of the California Community Colleges. He will take the helm from Skinner, who took the position temporarily when Bruce W. Harris retired last April.