Founder’s legacy paves alumni path to success


By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerDr. William Harwood spent only two years at Cochise College, but his impact is felt today. Filling the role of college president after the first died unexpectedly less than a year prior to the 1964 start of school, Harwood quickly set about assembling faculty and institutional leaders from across the nation.

Harwood’s goal was for Cochise College to be good, rather than big.

Dr. Harwood will be inducted posthumously into the Cochise College Hall of Fame on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Sierra Vista Campus. He might be proud to know that being inducted with him are beneficiaries of his work – David LaClair (‘99), an accomplished entrepreneur, and Javier Fimbres (‘77), an award-winning community volunteer. Mary Hall Pope (‘78), a pilot who flies internationally, will be celebrated at a later date.

LaClair attended his first college class – a Windows administration course – while in eighth grade. He earned three associate’s degrees and was an intern on Fort Huachuca by the time he graduated from Buena High School. He quickly earned a bachelor’s in computer science with a minor in mathematics and a master’s in electronics and computer engineering. He received the top award for his master’s computer engineering project at ASU. As a student at Cochise and after graduation, he was active with the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). He provided an example for others of the many opportunities to get ahead via dual enrollment, placement testing, and summer courses. At 20, David was hired as a senior engineer for Lockheed Martin, where he wrote a contract proposal, developed and managed the largest computerized educational training for the U.S. Army at Fort Eustis, Virginia. In 2005, just six years after leaving Cochise College, LaClair founded Insignia Technology Services, which provides enterprise class IT services to commercial and federal customers in software development, mobile computing, system engineering, cloud hosting and security. Insignia was recognized for its growth, culture and leadership and is a multi-year Inc. 500 awardee.

Javier Fimbres goes by “Shorty” and is known around Douglas, where he graduated from high school, for his signature role with the Douglas Food Bank, for which he earned the first Carol Huddleston Volunteer of the Year Award from the Arizona Community Foundation of Cochise in 2015. Shorty played baseball at Cochise and keeps in touch with many teammates. His career was with the City of Douglas Water Department. After graduating from Cochise in the 1970s, he coached Little League and Babe Ruth teams and introduced Tee Ball to the community. He was a member of the National Guard and served in the Middle East during Desert Storm. He volunteered in various capacities with the local school district. In retirement, he built a track for dirt bikes at one of the city’s parks and can often be found organizing golf tournaments. All in all, his nomination said, he’s a person who has committed personal time, effort and interest for the benefit of others.

Mary Hall Pope (‘78) has a great reason for missing the induction next month. A graduate of the Cochise College Aviation Program, she flies regularly to London, Frankfurt and domestic destinations for American Airlines. One of the first women to pursue flight training at Cochise, she has been an ambassador for the aviation program for 40 years. Mary supports amateur auto racing, a hobby she inherited from her father. At the Willcox Inde Race Track, she works with drivers, inspects race cars, and sometimes competes for fun. She also works with Arizona’s black lab rescue and encourages young women to enter the Cochise College flight program. Asked for a resume, Mary said she “never really needed one; in aviation, it’s certification, attitude and reputation that speaks for an applicant. I got that in the Cochise flight program.”

I can’t think of a better endorsement than that, and I’m proud that these alumni were able to take advantage of educational opportunities made possible by the visionary founders of Cochise College.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.