September 2017 Newsletter
Running the Race…Beating the Odds
Bob Stewart, Class of 1951
I’m a proud Modesto native, born in 1931 and raised on Morris Avenue. I road my bicycle each day to attend John Muir Elementary, Roosevelt Junior High and Modesto High Schools. At Modesto High I played basketball and competed in track and field. I was an average student and had no support from home for academic pursuits. My dad graduated from high school and my mom never attended high school. Neither understood the importance of higher education. Despite the lack of support I was voted an outstanding senior in my class at Modesto High.
One day in 1948, during a Modesto High track meet in my senior year, MJC Track Coach Stan Pavko dropped by. He asked me if I was interested in running track at MJC the following year. I was thrilled to be asked, especially by Mr. Pavko, a legend in our region. In the spring of 1949, I competed in track and field at MJC, medaling in numerous events at several of our meets, helping our team to win the conference and Northern California titles. We repeated that feat in 1950. The following year, 1951, I served as an assistant to Coach Pavko and completed my studies at MJC, walking in the graduation ceremony at the stadium.
If not for Stan Pavko, I know that I would never have attended college. He changed my life. I was also influenced by Dr. Ken Rowland in business and Charlie Black in economics, who led me on a path to study real estate and to develop a career in insurance. I completed my studies at San Jose State University in business administration while running track there. Following my graduation I entered the Aviation Cadet School and served two years with stints in Greenville, South Carolina and France. During my military service I kept running track, winning a gold medal for my base. I also entered skeet shooting competitions and went to the championship in Germany where I placed second.
After my time in the military I came back to Modesto in 1955 and applied for work with Giddings Brothers Insurance. The first person I met at the front counter was my future wife, Lucille! I got the job too! Lucille and I married two years later and we raised three great children who all attended MJC and graduated from universities.
A long and wonderful career in insurance always kept me active in civic affairs. I proudly served as an organizer of the Modesto and California Relays for 58 years. I was voted Young Man of Modesto in 1966, Citizen of the Year in Oakdale in 1998 and I’ve had perfect attendance at my Rotary Clubs for the past 45 years. I’m so proud of being inducted into the MJC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. And today, I still give my time to the Memorial Hospital cardiac unit where I’ve counseled hundreds of heart patients who have had open heart surgery (because I’ve survived three of them myself!)
Stan Pavko and I were lifelong friends. I was proud to share with his widow shortly after Stan passed that he had changed my life. I often wonder how my life would have turned out if not for Stan Pavko and MJC. I’m a grateful alumnus.
Professor Emeritus of Agriculture
By D. Dwight “Doc” Wait
Agriculture has been a great blessing to me. My time at MJC was the highlight of my Ag career. It all started when Ernie Tarone, the MJC Agricultural Studies Program chair, contacted me in 1957 to ask if I would be interested in developing the Environmental Horticulture Program. I said yes, and so began a long and “fruitful” career at MJC.
UC Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo developed similar environmental horticulture programs at that time and MJC’s program made strong connections with both universities. The MJC program included the topics of plant identification, propagation, landscape design, landscape installation and maintenance. Classes began in 1959 and I am proud to say that women students were finally allowed to join agricultural classes as a result of the creation of this program.
It was a great pleasure to develop and teach these classes for the next 25 years. And, I’m also quite proud that one of my former students, Dale Pollard, is currently teaching those offerings at MJC today!
I Found my Voice at MJC
By Maggie White, Class of 2014
I began taking classes at MJC when I was 15 years old through a dual enrollment program at Valley Charter High School. My mom had attended MJC, and I grew up hearing about how great it was to be in classes surrounded by people of all different ages and backgrounds with the common interest of getting a college education. I could barely speak in front of people, but Mr. Guy was such a great public speaking teacher that I became a Communications major. I graduated MJC at 19, transferred to Stan State, was appointed to the California State University Board of Trustees by Governor Brown, finished my B.A. degree at 21, began my Master’s Degree in Public Administration, and was elected as president of the CSU system-wide student association. None of it would be possible without MJC and ALL of the fantastic teachers of the Communications Department. I am so thankful!
Staying On Course
By Crystal Garcia, Class of 2016
I began my higher education at MJC during my senior year in high school. I had no idea where I was going or what I wanted to be so I took a very helpful guidance class with Layla Yousif. I was a first generation college student so I joined the College Readiness Program in the summer of 2008. During the program I met a friend who, a short time later, died in an automobile accident at 18, leaving behind her baby girl.
My friend’s desire for a better life for her child was one of my inspirations to stay on the path. I joined the TRIO Program and Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) which helped me understand the degree requirements and how to navigate college. I had the most understanding and inspirational instructors at MJC including Bruce Anders, Kim Gyuran, Todd Guy, Jaymes Michelena and Leslie Collins. Yes, I changed majors a few times, mostly because I kept being inspired by new disciplines and the positive impact of my instructors.
Life has happened…and I’ve stayed the course. I married in 2010 and had three wonderful boys, attending college all along the way, even during my pregnancies. Life got really complicated when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Through that battle (which he is now winning) I persevered, completed my requirements and transferred to CSU, Stanislaus, where I’m now taking a full schedule to earn my Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with a concentration in special education (exceptional youth and children). I had my best semester ever this past spring, earning dean’s list recognition. After graduation in 2018 I expect to earn my teaching credential and gain employment as a teacher.
I encourage others to attend MJC because this college gave me the best academic years of my life. Thank you MJC!
Welcome to the 7,500+ alumni under 35 years of age we’ve added to our newsletter list. Recently, we asked these alumni for their MJC stories. We’ve already received almost 150 stories and two are included in this edition. I encourage all of you who haven’t shared your story to do so. These stories are an inspiration to our students, our faculty and our staff. They also inspire our donors to give in support of students and programs.
Doc Wait is 95 years old. He looks at his years at MJC as some of his most rewarding. The legacy of the Ag Department he served is stronger than ever today. Stan State students Maggie and Crystal were inspired by MJC faculty and that has created a path for their lives as they continue at the university. And, 86 year-old Bob Stewart is fairly certain he wouldn’t be the man he became and is today without the advice and direction of one person – Stan Pavko.
Often in our lives it’s one person (or just a few) who inspire us, direct us, guide us…and make all the difference. I’m fortunate to be serving as a mentor to several college students each semester. It brings me great personal satisfaction. I hope that I can provide a bit of encouragement to these young people as they set their course for the future. I always start our conversations by exchanging our stories. It’s the surest way to break the ice and understand what’s important to us.
George Boodrookas, Ed.D.