College toots its horn

Forty years is celebrated

More than 500 employees and members of the local community celebrated Los Medanos College’s birthday during its March 21 open house that also showcased the college’s new facilities.

“For the past four decades, Los Medanos College has enabled people of all ages and from all walks of life to pursue their career and college aspirations,” said California State Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-11th District, during the opening ceremony.

LMC President Bob Kratochvil opened the event with a quick welcome to the community members in attendance.

“We’ve been celebrating the 40th anniversary of service to this diverse and dynamic community,” said LMC President Bob Kratochvil to the crowd of current and former students, faculty, staff and members of the community and their families. “We hope today’s festivities give each of us the opportunity to reflect on the past, rejoice in the present and reaffirm our future.”

The event was billed as both a 40-year celebration as well as a grand opening for the new Student Services Building.

The building’s addition and renovations were completed in January, but an “official” ribbon-cutting ceremony began the festivities at 10:45 a.m.

The open house was held to “provide an opportunity to experience first-hand the great work that happens at LMC everyday,” said Kratochvil.

The event featured speeches from political leaders Frazier and U.S. Representative Mark DeSaulnier, D-11th District, former LMC President Raul Rodriguez and founding staff members Estelle Davi, Richard Livingston, Len Price and Glenn Wilson.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I love LMC even though I’m not here any longer and it’s great to see the college thrive,” said Rodriguez.

Student representative Kenneth Palle also spoke during the ceremony about being lost as a new student on campus. “Thanks to this new building, that is an issue of the past,” he said.

“Stress is minimized, and time management is maximized” now that the new building is open, continued Palle.

Ward IV Representative Greg Enholm and Secretary John Márquez, Ward I, from the Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board also spoke.

“For those of you who have not been on this campus in some time, we’re sure you will leave today thinking of how the college has changed for the better,” said Márquez of the college. “While our buildings have changed, so have the programs and services to better serve students.”

Kratochvil took the opportunity to introduce the members of the founding faculty present, each of whom shared stories and reminiscences of LMC 40 years ago.

“What I remember was an incredible amount of pent-up enthusiasm,” recalled founding journalism professor Livingston, who also served as dean and interim president. “We were so gung-ho to make a difference in the lives of our students; to make a difference in the life of this community.”

“It has been a pleasure, as well as a privilege, to work with our amazing students, our faculty and staff and our administration,” said Davi on her tenure at LMC. “I’m so grateful to be a part of this institution and a profession that inspires learning, changes lives and helps people make their dreams become a reality.”

After some light-hearted political jabs at one another, Frazier and DeSaulnier recognized Kratochvil and the LMC community for its improvement over 40 years of operation.

“I’m here today, and proud to present a resolution on behalf of assemblymember Bonilla, the California Assembly and myself, to Mr. Bob Kratochvil for Los Medanos College’s 40th anniversary,” said Frazier. California State Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-14th District, was not in attendance; her representative Jamario Jackson assisted Frazier in the ceremony.

Frazier also spoke about his experience as a former carpentry student at LMC, and how the college helped him and his family.

“Today, that carpenter is a state assemblyman,” he said.

Kratochvil also accepted acknowledgment on behalf of the college from Jerry McNerney, through Field Representative Colleen Isenberg, in the form of a “Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.”

The certificate applauded the dedication to learning and higher education of the college community and commemorates the opening of the new building.

After the ribbon cutting, performed by Marquez and Palle, the open house activities and tours attracted the participants and attendees.

Rodriguez reminisced on memories of the campus immediately after the ceremony.

“When you’re a president you leave a part of your heart behind,” said Rodriguez. “Certainly a part of my heart is still here at LMC and always will be here.”

Rodriguez, who helped to plan the expansion of the college in the 90s, stated that the realization of the plans was “accomplished probably even better than the way we envisioned.”

As the Jazz Band played, members of the crowd ushered themselves to the various booths in the outdoor quad, as well as finding their way to open labs in the math and science areas. Also open were numerous departments, allowing participants to get a behind-the-scenes view of the college.

The Drama Department performed scenes of its newest production “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” every 30 minutes. Members of the troupe also flitted about the campus between showings to encourage attendance.

In the Outdoor Quad, music played while attendees and their families visited booths hosted by a variety of groups and departments including the Associated Students, Brentwood Center, Workforce Development, Puente and Rotaract.

“I think the event was great … [we] did all the activities in the science building and my daughter and nephew enjoyed it,” said student Chelsea Lujano, who is transferring to San Francisco State University next semester to pursue a bachelors degree in earth science.

“We brought my nephew and daughter because we want to encourage college, let them know it’s a great option and show them what a college campus looks like,” she said.

She attended with her husband, a former LMC student, who begins his masters program in International Relations at SFSU in August.

The Helping Hearts Club, which seeks to “Spread awareness of non-violence,” had a booth for the open house.

“We oppose violence; domestic, physical and sexual. Anything that can hinder us emotionally,” said member Robert Brown on the club’s goal.

Vice President Diona Shelbourne represented the AS with other members of the senate at its booth, which offered painting activities to engage the members of the crowd.

“Today we’re encouraging people to express themselves through art,” she said of the project she hoped would allow them to arrange the pieces of painted art into the shape of a “40.”

“I’m excited, but I thought there was going to be a bigger turnout,” said Shelbourne.

Although turnout for the event was high, thousands of alumni, community members, students from various schools, and local business leaders were invited.

Barbara Cella, director of marketing and design for LMC, said that the quality of the attendees more than made up for the smaller-than-anticipated numbers.

Cella also noted that many parents and their high-school children seemed to be “seriously interested” in LMC and how to apply.

Davi, who still teaches behavioral science on campus, lovingly spoke about the impact LMC has made from its small beginnings.

“It’s been said that learning is the treasure that takes its owner everywhere. Los Medanos College is that treasure,“ said Davi.

Kimberly Stelly, Damian Lewin and Brendan Cross contributed to this story.