By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.
Cochise College students earned more than 1,500 degrees in 2017-2018, and more graduates than ever before participated in the 53rd commencement on May 11.
Commencement celebrates the departure from the college and the commencing of a new journey for our graduates. This year we also celebrated the commencing of a new journey for three iconic faculty, with one serving as commencement marshal and two others honored with emeritus status.
Randy Dorman never intended to stay at Cochise College for 31 years. His initial plan was to teach high school, which he did for five years. He wound up at Cochise College in 1987, and his wife joined him there several years later. “This place, and the job, just grew on us,” he said.
Randy has taught everything from basic arithmetic through the calculus sequence, differential equations and linear algebra. Over 30 years, the subject matter has changed little, but the delivery methods and the pursuits of the students have expanded.
Randy started working at the Sierra Vista Campus when most of the buildings were temporary, there was little landscaping, and resources were sparse. “What a difference the decades have made,” he says. He pointed out that every year, the college improved, and a slow-moving but significant cultural shift in the institution has elevated the workplace.
Randy will not miss grading homework, extra paperwork, and policies/procedures that restrict the way he teaches, even though he agrees with some of them. He anticipates the thing he’ll miss the most is contact with his colleagues.
Cochise College was proud to have faculty emeritus Norm Bates as a member of the faculty for 20 years. An Army veteran who previously taught English at the US Military Academy, Norm served as the English Department chair for seven years, received the NISOD Excellence Award for outstanding teaching and found team teaching particularly gratifying. Norm was selected by students as the 2013-2014 Instructor of the Year for the Sierra Vista Campus. 1997 graduate Darris Richardson, a published author and the most senior military intelligence systems maintainer/integrator, identifies Norm as one of his favorite teachers and still thinks of him when he writes.
Norm’s fondest memories about Cochise are the 15 years he served as advisor for the Alpha Mu Zeta chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community college students. He received the Robert Giles Distinguished Advisor Award in 2004. He also enjoyed serving as secretary/treasurer of the college Honors Committee and as a leadership instructor in the honors program. Since retiring in 2014, he has continued to contribute to the Distinguished Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship.
The years spent teaching and mentoring at Cochise College were, by far, the most enjoyable working years of Norm’s professional experience.
Faculty emeritus Dave Pettes joined Cochise College as a 23-year-old member of the faculty in 1968. He planned to gain experience and move on. Instead, he served until 2014, a 46-year span in which he was frequently called upon to lead. He held a variety of administrative and academic positions. The college became part of his family: it’s where he met his wife, a college employee; where they held their wedding reception; and where they sent their sons for their first taste of college.
Professionally, his most memorable position was as the co-instructor in the reading-sociology learning community. He also was a champion of service learning.
During his tenure, Dave had the honor of authoring not one, but two, accreditation self-study reports. He is most proud of serving as mentor to scores of faculty and thousands of students. Many inspired him with a deep commitment to their own greater future and to that of society. On numerous occasions, students named him Teacher of the Year at the Douglas Campus. He is a founding member of the Cochise College Hall of Fame.
Dave continues to participate in Cochise College activities as a guest presenter, a member of the Hall of Fame committee, and as a donor, ensuring that students receive the Dave and Irma Pettes Scholarship into the future.
Celebrating the new opportunities ahead for our graduates and our retirees makes commencement special. I’d like to thank these, and all college retirees for their dedication and commitment to student success. You have made a difference in the lives of students, colleagues, and the communities we serve!
J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.