Aspen Institute ranks Cochise among nation’s 150 best

gI_134911_aspen2017logoThe Aspen Institute College Excellence Program has ranked Cochise College as one of the nation’s 150 best community colleges. In order to identify the nation’s best community colleges and award $1 million in prize money, Cochise College and 149 other community colleges will compete for the prize funds (to be announced in fall 2016) by insisting on high standards for learning, college completion without delay, and serving as a training ground for jobs that pay competitive wages. A full list of the selected colleges and details on the selection process are available at

Mentioning the urgent need to focus on the value and potential of community colleges, Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner said, “Community colleges have tremendous power to change lives, and their success will increasingly define our nation’s economic strength and the potential for social mobility in our country.”

Nearly half of America’s college students attend community college, with more than seven million students – youth and adult learners – working towards certificates and degrees across the country.

The prize, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges and recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and access and success for minority and low-income students.

Cochise College is now eligible to submit an application containing detailed data on these criteria. It must demonstrate that it delivers exceptional student results, uses data to drive decisions, and uses that information to continually improve over time.

Cochise College and 149 other community colleges will be winnowed to eight to 10 finalists in the fall based on how much students learn, how many complete their programs on time, and how well students do in the job market after graduating.

Aspen will conduct site visits to each of the 10 finalists in the fall. Based on the evidence, the prize jury will select a grand prize winner and two to three runners-up, to be announced this year and prizes distributed in early 2017.

Cochise was also nominated for The Aspen Prize in 2011.

For the first time, Cochise College and other contenders are also invited to nominate exceptional students enrolled in STEM programs for scholarships. Up to 50 Siemens Technical Scholars will be selected from programs that provide outstanding preparation for high-demand jobs in manufacturing, energy, health care, and information technology.

A partnership between the Siemens Foundation and the Aspen Institute, the Siemens Technical Scholars Program intends to help our nation’s community colleges and their business partners bridge the gap between projected shortages of skilled workers and the millions of high-demand jobs in these STEM industries.

Scholarship winners and the programs that deliver rigorous training enabling their success will be announced in fall 2016. For more information and to view video profiles of 2015 Siemens Technical Scholars, go to:

Farewell to a college founder

By Dr. Joe Gilliland

I am writing this in memory of Don Johnson, who recently passed away at his home in Tucson. One of the founding faculty at Cochise College, Don and his wife Cathi, who was College librarian, were residents of Bisbee, but when he joined the faculty, Don and his family made their home in Douglas.

Don Johnson, 1929-2016, was a faculty member and dean at Cochise College from 1964-1989.
Don Johnson, 1929-2016, was a faculty member and dean at Cochise College from 1964-1989.

By almost any measure, Don deserved the title of “Master Teacher,” but then so did many in that founding faculty.  I met Don that first day of faculty orientation in September 1964 and was immediately taken by his wide range of knowledge in his field, our field as it turned out, English composition and literature. He was the only person I had ever met who had taught at every level, from elementary grades through high school and college. He and I had offices in the faculty office building, and we met often to discuss what and how we should or should not teach our freshman comp classes; later, as the college grew, we often talked about what works of literature we should cover, he in world literature and I in British literature.

At the end of the second year Don took over as chairman of communications and languages and I as chairman of humanities and fine arts. We worked together closely, always conferring and sharing faculty. When the college first opened, both Don and I taught sections of remedial (more recently, developmental) English and worked with students who arrived at college not fully prepared for college English. His background and knowledge of modern transformational grammar was extensive and highly useful in setting up the outline for the course; it was Don who brought the county’s high school English teachers to the college to discuss their aims and methods of teaching English in order for us to work more effectively with the experienced teachers of the area.  It was Don who insisted the college hire a reading instructor to prepare students for the ardors of their college-level assignments. As chairman, Don oversaw the hiring of excellent new faculty, two of whom became outstanding instructors, Mary Lee Shelden and Larry Gunter.

Many of us early college instructors recall that Don was one of the founders of the TGIF Club, an extremely “un”organized group that usually met Friday after class at the old Coney Island in Douglas to discuss, unofficially, the college’s needs and purposes, academically and non-academically. He insisted such meetings help establish a collegial environment. Later, when it appeared that the summer would pass without the presence of a dean of liberal arts on campus, the members of the Cochise College Professional Association voted to recommend to Dr. Jack Netcher, president, that he present Don’s name to the Governing Board for the position of acting dean. They accepted our suggestion, and when the new president arrived in the fall he retained Don as dean of liberal arts.  It was the first time in my experience that a faculty had chosen on its own its own dean.  Don was that highly regarded by his colleagues. Later the president of the college made him dean of special projects, which translates as chief grants writer. Don’s grants successfully established several important academic programs, such as the one making Cochise an outstanding ESL college.

We division chairs found him to be an ideal dean of liberal arts, a sturdy bridge supporting and backing the faculty and students in dealing with the administration. And later Don was an important factor in whatever success the college had in the experiment in administration called “Grassroots System” that guided the college for almost a full year sans president or deans.

When Don returned full time to the classroom he voluntarily took upon himself as his main chore the teaching of developmental English classes, surely the most demanding of all teaching tasks in the community college.

Although I arrived at Cochise that first year with more than nine years college teaching experience, I learned much from Don about how to teach the remedial or “developmental” students. We were all impressed how well he worked with students during the years of undergraduate unrest that gripped many colleges and universities in the U.S. As a dean, his tact and diplomacy and his respect for students never allowed student protest or controversy to upset the learning atmosphere at Cochise. Don spent his last years with the college as an instructor on the Sierra Vista Campus.

He and I did not become close friends until his last years at the college, but I recall that as colleagues we worked very closely. I do recall how generous he was to me when he was on sabbatical finishing his Ph. D. in higher education at ASU in Tempe. That spring, as I was facing a week of comprehensive doctoral exams at ASU, Don invited me to stay at his apartment in Tempe, giving me space to spread my books and cram for those most important examinations and a place to sleep undisturbed and relaxed, while constantly assuring me by erasing all my doctoral doubts.

When he retired in 1989, Don’s colleagues nominated him for the honor of Faculty Emeritus. Taken for all in all, he was a Master Teacher, a colleague and friend of wit and wide intellect.

Dr. Joe Gilliland is a founding faculty member at Cochise College.

Send us your old Cochise College photos

Dr. Joe Gilliland sent in this photo labeled Earth Day Tree Planting after visiting the Douglas Campus last month. One of the first faculty members, he continues to teach humanities courses occasionally, including this semester. Gilliland believes the tree was an ash planted near the Charles DiPeso Library on the Douglas Campus.

Do you have other pictures from your time at Cochise that you’d like to share? We’d love to consider using them to engage former students and employees. Can’t identify someone? We’ll try to help. Do the details about what’s happening in the photo escape you? That’s part of the fun!

Contact us at if you have something to share.


Clay, Larry Tree Planting
Help! The only person pictured here that we can identify for certain is Clay Gilliland, left. Since we weren’t here in the college’s early years, we have names of some others pictured but can’t match them with faces. If you can, contact us at

Scholarships provide opportunity for those who apply, donate

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

JD21-150x150Sienna Hope Martinez’s path to a bachelor’s degree is likely to have taken six or more years if not for a scholarship. Her family income wouldn’t allow for studies free of worry about how to pay for the next class or whether taking a break would help her save up for the next step.

Martinez, a 2015 graduate of Douglas High School, received the 2015-2016 President’s Scholarship, funded by a contribution from the late Sierra Vista resident Betty Starysky. Started last year, the program seeks to help graduating high school seniors with a cumulative 3.25 GPA and leadership experience. Recipients earn $2,500 per year and are required to enroll full time and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.

Previously active in high school, Martinez says that without the scholarship, she and her mom would have found “somehow, some way” for her to go to college. Rather than worrying about money, she’s maximizing her time at Cochise by enrolling and excelling in 16 credits per semester. At that pace, she’ll complete her Cochise College studies within two years, pursue her next goal of studying dental hygiene at Northern Arizona University, and enter the professional workforce.

We think that Mrs. Starysky would be proud that her gift, a scholarship endowment she defined in her end-of-life plans, is helping students reach their potential. Planned gifts like hers are increasingly common, and we wish we could thank her. Donors who make gifts during their lifetime reap the emotional benefits of witnessing the impact of those contributions.

For high school graduating seniors and others planning to attend Cochise in the fall, donors have provided dozens of scholarships. The President’s Scholarship will again be available. But they’re not all for academic achievers. Do you have a GPA between 2.0 and 3.0? Get yourself an application. Studying automotive technology or welding? You might qualify. Got an interest in or connection to Germany? There’s something for you.

Now is the time. Apply for scholarships and financial aid by March 31 in order to receive priority consideration for need-based scholarships. The Cochise College Financial Aid Office begins putting together aid packages soon after the priority deadline, helping students define their plans and the college prepare for incoming classes. Wait to apply until July or August and your chances of receiving scholarship funds diminish; you may qualify for federal financial aid but face a delay in receiving it.

Financial Aid Night at Cochise County high schools have already begun. If you’re the parent of a college-bound senior, make sure to attend one, or mark the evening of Thursday, Feb. 18 on your calendar and come to a financial aid “how to” session at the Sierra Vista Campus.

Given the need in Cochise County, the popularity of scholarships with donors, and the college’s desire to increase the number of high school graduating seniors enrolling at Cochise, we are working on a “scholarship guarantee” proposal we hope to share later. It’s an effort aimed not just at recruitment, but also at student success. We think we can help financially, reduce reliance on federal aid, and help students with completion.

Scholarships offer students an opportunity to pursue their dreams and donors an opportunity to make a difference. Everyone can feel good about that.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at

Creative Writing Celebration accepting submissions

CW-logo-final-216x300SIERRA VISTA — The 18th annual Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration is officially accepting submissions for its annual writing contest. The CWC will consider work in three categories: poetry, fiction, and memoir.

The writing contest deadline is Monday, Feb 22, 2016. The cost is $5 per entry and includes cash prizes for winners. First-place winners also have their work published in Mirage, Cochise College’s literary and arts magazine. For contest guidelines, visit

To enter the writing contest, authors must also register to attend the 2016 Creative Writing Celebration, set for March 18 and 19 at the Cochise College Sierra Vista Campus. This annual two-day event brings published writers in several genres, such as poetry, novels, creative nonfiction, juvenile fiction, and screenwriting, to present hands-on workshops to aspiring writers from Cochise County.

New to CWC: Introducing Evening with the Authors!
This event will take place Thursday, March 17, 2016, from 6pm-8pm at the Sierra Vista Public Library. Meet the authors from this year’s Creative Writing Celebration, enjoy readings, book signings, and refreshments. Registration is available online for $10.00 or $15.00 at the door.

For more information about the Creative Writing Celebration, email or call Beth Orozco at (520) 255-6060.

Cochise College Foundation names new board members

Sheila DeVoe Heidman

Sheila DeVoe Heidman, former small-business owner and dean of Extended Learning at Cochise College, has joined the board of the Cochise College Foundation. The foundation also named George Bugen, Bisbee, an honorary member and George Hooper, previously of Sierra Vista, as board member emeritus.

A Sierra Vista resident, Sheila retired from Cochise College in 2014 after 17 years. She served the college as director of the Small Business Development Center; executive director for Business and Workforce Development; and dean of Extended Learning. As the dean, she oversaw the Willcox, Benson and Santa Cruz centers; Online/Virtual Campus; and the Center for Lifelong Learning, Small Business Development Center, Adult Education, K-12 outreach, and the Prison Education Program. She owned the DeVoe College of Beauty in Sierra Vista for more than 20 years. In addition, she has served on various local boards and is secretary of the Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation, where she previously held all other executive board positions. She was an active board member for Just Kids, Inc., where she was the secretary for many years. She also served on the Southeast Arizona Workforce Connection and Sierra Vista Symphony boards. At the state level, she served on the Arizona Occupational Administrators’ Council, most recently as president.

“Sheila’s understanding of the Sierra Vista community and her broad experience with small business, economic development, education, and outlying communities give her a perspective that will be an asset to the foundation,” said Board President Mark Battaglia.

George Bugen

In 2013, the college named its Career Technical Education building for the Bugen family, honoring a bequest that was the largest gift to the institution at the time. George Bugen continues to support the success of local students and will provide insight and perspective on relevant matters that come before the board.

Hooper served as an active board member from 1978 through 2009, often hosting foundation gatherings at his home in Sierra Vista. He spent 30 years in the U.S. Army and later managed Southeast Arizona Medical Center in Douglas. He also volunteered with the Fry Fire Department. Now a resident of Snowflake, he keeps in touch with his Cochise County friends and recently endowed the George and Barbara Hooper Scholarship for nursing students.

George Hooper

“Through their ongoing interest in and dedication to higher education, both of these individuals inspire excellence and help provide high-quality experiences for students at Cochise College,” said foundation Executive Director Denise Hoyos. “We’re excited to recognize them.”

The Cochise College Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to support student success through scholarships, facilities development, and program support. The foundation awarded more than $550,000 in scholarships and academic program support in 2014-2015. Other board members are Gail Zamar, Douglas, vice president; Karen Justice, Bisbee, treasurer; Gene Manring, Sierra Vista, secretary; Yolanda Anderson, Bisbee; and members Charles Chambers and Ruben Teran of Douglas; Jan Guy, Hereford; Bob Strain and Jean Giuffrida of Sierra Vista; and Dr. Dan Rehurek of Sonoita. Cochise College President J.D. Rottweiler serves in an ex-officio role.


Cochise College’s first respiratory therapist cohort graduates

unnamedThe end of 2015 marked the completion of the first respiratory therapist cohort from Cochise College. The group took its final steps as students this last December at the Cochise College graduation ceremony, and sixteen students crossed the stage as young professionals in the health care field.

“There are many things we do at colleges and universities over and over and over again, but one of the things that we don’t do again, is the first one,” said Cochise College President J.D. Rottweiler.

The ceremony was packed with families, friends, and fellow students to share an emotional moment of achievement with the graduates and to share one last, final goodbye to their alma mater. A long line of mentors stood by as each graduate received an honorary pin, signifying their successful completion of the program.

Jennifer Lakosil, dean of the Cochise College Allied Health Department, attended the ceremony. The dean initiated the concept for a Respiratory Therapist Program when she saw a need for one in Southeast Arizona.

Lakosil said, nostalgically, “After four years, I’m nervous; this was my baby, and it’s the first.”

Developing the program was a four-year process from the initial proposal. The accreditation took over two years. The Cochise College Respiratory Therapist Program successfully received accreditation in November 2013 from CoARC (the Commission for Accreditation Respiratory Care) and made way for its first cohort, the Class of 2015.

Program Director James Nosek spoke at the ceremony with tear-filled eyes. Nosek was invited to Cochise College in October 2012 to finish the initial accreditation application, which included an employment survey of the area, curriculum development, and a site visit to inspect the college’s facilities.

“I am very proud of each of the students,” James said. “[They were the] first cohort to graduate from the Respiratory Therapy Program. They have worked hard, and I see great possibilities for each of them in their future career.”

The class started its journey in January 2014. Since then the group has been a vital part of the college’s growing Allied Health Department and an additional service to the Cochise County health care community.

Student speaker Juan Escalonte, said, “This program helped us not just to become respiratory therapists but to become problem solvers, critical thinkers, and well-rounded healthcare professionals.”

Following this success, Cochise College is currently accepting new applicants for the January 2016 cohort, and as of December, thirteen students have enrolled for the upcoming semester. Watch the Respiratory Therapy Recognition here.

College closed for Winter Break

Cochise College will be closed from Dec. 19  through Jan. 3 for Winter Break. Offices reopen under normal business hours, 8 am to 4:30 pm, on Monday, Jan. 4 at all campuses and centers.

Registration Hours 

Spring semester 16-week and 8-week classes begin Jan. 11. Registration for classes must be completed the day before class begins. Extended registration hours are offered for students who need assistance registering in-person on the Sierra Vista or Douglas campuses for the first two weeks of January:

  • Jan. 4 – 12, 2016:
  • 8 am – 6 pm, Mon – Thur
  • 8 am – 4:30 pm, Fridays
  • Saturday, Jan. 9:
  • 9 am – 1 pm

For more information, contact the Admissions and Registration Office on the Douglas Campus at (520) 417-4005 or in Sierra Vista at (520) 515-5336, or email


Bookstore Hours 

The college’s bookstores on the Sierra Vista and Douglas campuses will be open for part of Winter Break. The bookstores are open from:

Dec. 21 – Dec. 22………………..Open 9am – 3pm

Dec. 23 – Dec. 27………………..Closed

Dec. 28 – Dec. 30………………..Open 9am – 3pm

Dec. 31 – Jan. 3……………………Closed

Normal business hours resume on 1 /4/16.


Dining Hours 

Following break, campus dining halls will have adjusted hours:

Sierra Vista Campus

Dec. 19 – Jan. 3…………………….Closed

Jan. 4 – Jan. 8………………………Reopening 9am – 2pm

Douglas Campus

Dec. 19 –  Jan. 3…………………….Closed

Jan. 4 – Jan. 8………………………Reopening 11am – 2pm

Normal dining hours will resume on 1/11/16 for both campuses.

Preserving freedom, happiness with education

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

JD21-150x150The year 2016 may go down in history as the time Arizona began its climb toward the top of the education rankings. The state is taking steps to improve both standards and funding. The process will take time and may be difficult, but the benefits will be worth it. Public awareness and support is helping it happen.

But this isn’t a column about investing more in education. Rather, it’s about each of us as individuals making the most of the educational opportunities we have – not just to improve our own personal prospects, but for the good of society. It’s the people who are aware of the value of education who are the ones advocating for it, at times overshadowed by louder voices.

Public education itself dates to colonial times. Thomas Jefferson himself saw it as a necessity. “No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness,” he wrote from Paris to George Wythe, his law teacher and mentor, in August 1786.

Every resident of this country has the opportunity to earn a high school diploma. If you think that’s not especially valuable, try making a living without one. Second, the opportunity is there to build on that credential, by enrolling in a trade school, community college or university. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s a small price to pay for the economic and social security achieved during your lifetime. Educational attainment is linked with earning potential, life expectancy, overall health and wellness, civic participation (including voting), and even happiness.

Besides the obvious personal benefits, there are the social ones implied by Jefferson. Perhaps education could help us combat or prevent some of the unsettling situations occurring at the state, national and international levels. Education promotes the concept that individuals think rationally and voice opinions in a coherent manner and safe environment, that they have the tools to overcome differences in a civilized manner, that they have the ability to accept differences and make compromises, that dignity follows disagreement. In an educated world, outrageousness and violence are out; thoughtfulness and civil discourse are in. Paraphrasing Jefferson, an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.  

Education may not be a panacea; there are things beyond our control. The term “wisdom” suggests the application of both knowledge and good sense, formed by education and life experience. We’re not born wise. But without the pursuit of wisdom, often shaped by formal education, it won’t be long before we don’t know what we don’t know. Imagine the social chaos.

For our own good, let’s take the education we receive seriously, honor it by way of reasonable behavior, promote the concept of civility among ourselves, and continue working to improve educational opportunities and the quality of life for future generations.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at