A year of inspiration in education

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerTo all readers, I leave you this year feeling joyful and inspired. In addition to having two new grandsons, I am surrounded by good people, working passionately to advance themselves or to help others do so. It seems appropriate to share some of the inspiration I witness every day with you during this holiday season. From many of the people I see on a regular basis, I give you these responses to the question, “What at Cochise College inspired you this year?”

First, from students:

Maria Diaz: “I am inspired by all the TRiO/Student Support Services staff, but especially Norma Brandenburg. She helps me and pushes me to continue with my career and to transfer to a university. I want to follow her example.”
Jenna Lathrop: “My teachers who have gone above and beyond have inspired me this year.”
Laura Lengel: “Together, everyone achieves more.” Thus we are a T.E.A.M. in the endeavor of my successful education.” (Laura also works the college switchboard.)

Victor Ocejo: “What inspired me this semester were the guest speakers in my administration of justice class. We had a district attorney talk to us about the difficulties in his life and how he still persisted to achieve his goals. It gave me a new perspective.”

Jason Thompson: “In one word, ‘community.’ I never thought I’d find a place where people banded together and moved towards a common goal. Every meeting, every volunteer opportunity has always been met with a unified body and one voice.”

Gabriel Wachtel: “I have been inspired by my instructors this year. Since the fire program is taught by actual fireman, it has really given me something to look forward to. Being able to see what the end result will be after I finish my class, has really given me even more motivation to finish it.”

From faculty and staff:

Rose Berumen (Cochise College Foundation): “I have been inspired this year by seeing the impact Cochise College has in the lives of the students. Every day I see the importance of education and how Cochise College is helping our students make a difference in their lives.”

Janet Cramer (facilities/maintenance): “During the candidates’ presentation sessions for a dean’s position, it was very inspirational to hear new ideas to promote student success. It has encouraged me to see how I can make a difference in student success.”

Bryan Homrighausen (student success): “This year, I have been inspired by students who have overcome obstacles in order to pursue their academic goals. For example, I have a student who woke up extra early to walk 2.5 hours to school during a short period when she was without a car. I have another who, despite health challenges that often require emergency room visits, never missed a class. I also have been inspired by the support of different staff members at Cochise College, particularly guest speakers and student services scavenger hunt participants (you know who you are!).

Finally, I was inspired to have the late Chuck Hoyack as faculty marshal at the 2017 commencement ceremony. Even though I only worked with Chuck for a short time, I considered him a mentor and support system.”

Brian O’Brien (facilities/maintenance): “As an employee of Cochise College for more than 20 years, I have witnessed its steady climb to the top in national reviews. The accomplishments of the college this past year have inspired me to do not only what I can to help the facility achieve its objective of being the top community college in the country, but to reflect the college’s goals in my personal life. When you set your sights on greatness, greatness can be achieved.”

Becky Orozco (history): “I have had amazing students this year who have inspired me with their drive to succeed: single mothers with small children who are there for every class; the student who left her husband in ICU to come back to Sierra Vista just so she would not miss; the veteran who has found a new path here at Cochise; the ones who have blossomed over the year.”
Virginia Pfau Thompson (art): “The students inspire me with their willingness to try new things, to struggle and fail a few times and then succeed. They inspire me in the way they face challenging techniques and assignments with attitudes of excitement and curiosity. They inspire me by the creativity and personalities they express in their art.”

Mark von Destinon (alumni): “What inspires me most about Cochise College is the warmth of the college community that extends through generations and transcends decades. This was most evident at the Hall of Fame dinner, which was almost like a warm family reunion. At work in Tucson, the person in the office next to mine was a 1975 Cochise graduate. Two days later she brought another employee who attended Cochise in the 1990s. We are all lunch buddies now. Today I paid my monthly parking fee to a 2005 Cochise graduate who first attended in the 1980s. It turns out that her boss met his wife while they were living in the dorms at Cochise in the 1970s.”

From volunteers:

Yolanda Anderson (Cochise College Foundation): “I am and always have been inspired by all of the people at Cochise. They bend over backwards to help students.”

Chuck Chambers and Gene Manring (Cochise College Foundation): “ I think the establishment of the Graduating Senior Scholarship Guarantee will be a great program for our local students, especially those who cannot compete for academic scholarships. Great idea and great program.”

Karen Justice (Cochise College Foundation): “I like the student testimonials. They reconfirm, scholarships change lives!”

Dennis Nelson (Governing Board): “I ran into an acquaintance who was visiting the Douglas Campus to learn to play the cello. He said his mother had always wanted him to learn, and when I saw him again a few years later, he had! That’s what’s great about community colleges. They are an opportunity to make mom proud.”

Jane Strain (Governing Board): “The hall of fame ceremony in November inspired me. The personal stories of the people who have given years of their lives to teach, coach, lead and provide the best possible role models to students were stories that remain in Cochise culture.”

I hope that your 2017 has been as wonderful as mine. Happy holidays!

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.