From the Office of the President - February 2021by Dr. Kathleen A. Rose, Superintendent / President on Feb 8, 2021
Welcome back, Gavilan College! As we return to instruction, participatory committee work, forums, student services, podcasts and connecting with each other, we are still learning. We are learning how to live in the “new normal” of a lengthy pandemic. We know that our students are striving to make online classes work while caring for children or older family members, working and studying, worrying about finances and their personal health.
It is not easy. In the days ahead all of us at Gavilan will reflect how we did in the fall. Did we keep our students motivated in a distance education learning environment? Did we provide enough basic needs services to support the retention and persistence of our students? Did we listen, often…and look to each other for support, strength and endurance? Did we seek out those students who have faded away, and offered our help to return to college?
As we start the semester, we immediately have the opportunity to highlight those leaders and student advocates during Black History Month who have demonstrated courage and tireless support for students who are struggling…and the power of higher education to change lives. In my column this month I would like to share the story of Dr. TJ Owens, namesake of our own Dr. TJ Owens GIlroy Early College Academy (affectionately known as GECA), who was indeed a hero for students achieving their dreams, despite barriers.
The GECA homepage offers this inspiring profile of Dr. Owens:
"Dr TJ Owens was a man of stature, a man who tried to make the lives of people better. Dr. TJ Owens, former Dean of Students at Gavilan College was not just an educator. He was a civil rights champion, the president of the Gilroy School Board and, for four decades from San Jose to Salinas, Dr. Owens inspired, coached, cajoled, and in a few cases even rescued young people. He was legendary for his style as well as his smile.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in physical education from CSUF, Dr. TJ Owens earned a master's degree in counseling from Santa Clara University and a doctorate in community college administration from the University of San Francisco. Owens was proud of his athletic background and would often say that the football scholarship he earned from California State University, Fresno, was the catalyst for his future in education.
Owens was a member of the national organization 100 Black Men, the Rotary Club and was president of the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education. He was elected for his second term in November 2002 and would have been up for reelection in November 2006. The father of five, he was also an active member of Bethany Church in Gilroy. He was a man who was very devoted to his spiritual life and was always counted upon in terms of his service and volunteering. Owens served as president of the San Jose chapter for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People during "turbulent times" for the black community."
Because Dr. Owens was an employee at Gavilan for many years, retiring as Vice President of Student Services, we also know that he was one of nine children, born in Shreveport Louisiana, and was the first African American from Barstow California to complete college. We credit Dr. Owens with the vision and creation of the GECA program, which was realized two years after his death in 2005.