Former Modesto Junior College President Richard Rose died Wednesday morning after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56.
Dr. Rose left the college in December after clashes with faculty that included a no confidence vote. Despite the strain, the campus is mourning a leader they call a community college advocate. Dr. Rose spent 34 years at community colleges.
"He was an educational entrepreneur and understood that the institution needed to innovate in order to thrive and to meet the needs of a changing commu- nity," said George Boodrookas, dean of community and economic development. "Bottom line, Rich understood what the purpose of the community college is in our society. He loved serving students and seeing the college respond to their needs."
Dr. Rose took over at MJC in July 2006. He previously worked as a counselor and as a dean at community colleges across the state. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
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Dr. Rose helped steer the college through a rough period, which included funding reductions, construction projects and the placement of MJC's accreditation on probation in early 2008.
"MJC was Dr. Rose's first presidency, and just like for first-time parents, there is no training manual," said Sue Agostini, MJC's dean of matriculation, admissions and records. "He may have made a few miscues at the beginning, but when it came to the big picture, he was the person who was instrumental in moving us from accreditation probation to good standing. He was also the one who made us take a hard look at all of our processes to determine if what we were doing was good for students."
Speech instructor Jim Sahlman butted heads with Dr. Rose as then-Academic Senate president. Though the two had their differences and tense meetings, Sahlman said Dr. Rose had a lot of potential. Sahlman even accepted responsibility for some of Dr. Rose's struggles, saying he could have reached out more to the leader.
"The ending didn't allow him to complete some things he wanted to do, to get back on his feet at another college and prove he could be a good leader," Sahlman said.
Sahlman and others said they'd miss friendly banter over sports — Dr. Rose was a Los Angeles Dodgers fan while others cheered for the San Francisco Giants. Dr. Rose also loved the Oakland Raiders.
Secretary Geri Robles said she'll remember Dr. Rose's sense of humor and his laugh. Others highlighted his professionalism, perseverance and dedication.
Rhonda Green recalled Dr. Rose's passion for education and developing education for students.
"We went to a job fair together, and it's rare for a college president to be on the floor for eight straight hours, but he did. He didn't take a lunch, he was tireless," said Green, MJC's manager of curriculum services.
Former student leader Taylor White was saddened by the news of Dr. Rose's passing. He looked up to Dr. Rose, saying the former president always offered an ear and advice.
"He was somebody that I could just go up to his office and tell him what was on my mind," said White, who was student body president from 2007 to 2009 and is now studying political science at UCLA. "He remained constant in how he treated people, he had the utmost respect and listened to everybody before he put in his two cents."
Funeral arrangements are pending. Cards may be sent to his family at 6582 N. Western Ave., Fresno 93722.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.