Gavilan College Vice President of Student Services John Pruitt, 54, died on Thursday August 29, 2013 at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose. His loss, due to complications from illness, was unexpected. Gavilan College President Steve Kinsella sent an email to all staff that afternoon, which read in part "It will take all of us, particularly those who worked most closely with him, time to grieve and absorb this terrible loss."
John Pruitt first joined the Gavilan College administration in 2005 as Dean of Student Services. He then served as Acting Vice President of Student Services followed by Interim Vice President of Student Services, before being appointed to the permanent assignment of Vice President of Student Services in 2007.
In his role at Gavilan, Vice President Pruitt provided leadership over, and the management of, the student support activities of the college. The student services division includes key areas that ensure that students are supported, know where to go for assistance, and are able to successfully navigate and complete their educational objectives. Some but not all of the operating departments of Student Services are the Assessment Center, Counseling, Student Health Services, Financial Aid, Student Life, Disability Resources, Extended Opportunities Programs and Services (EOPS), Outreach, and Admissions and Records.
According to Gavilan College President Steve Kinsella, "Losing John at such a young age and at the peak of his professional career will have a significant impact. We now face the issues that arise when a key leader of an organization is suddenly lost." For the short term, Pruitt's duties will be carried by other members of the administrative team while plans are made for the long term.
John Pruitt had a passion for student services and was well-known across the state for his expertise. He was well-liked by everyone on campus from students to faculty, staff, administrators and members of the Board of Trustees.
In the words of Joey Hayes, president of the Gavilan College Associated Student Body (ASB) "John Pruitt was someone who really cared about the students. There's been an outpouring of love and emotion, even from those who didn't work directly with John on committees or ASB. We were never "a number" to him. He cared about our personal lives and academic success. We were lucky to be able to have that kind of relationship with an administrator."
During his time at Gavilan Pruitt led the Student Services department through a number of changes, including the addition of many online services, and new efforts including the Student Success Center, Welcome Center, and RAMbassadors. On his last day at work, Friday August 26, Pruitt emceed Professional Development Day and led a workshop to inform staff and faculty about the new Student Success Initiative of the State of California. Vice President Pruitt became ill upon returning to his office that afternoon, after leading a lively discussion with the standing-room only crowd.
Vice President Pruitt’s colleagues knew him as fun loving, compassionate, and willing to engage in humor – many times at his own expense. He served as the regular emcee for the College’s annual Staff Recognition Dinner and coordinated the Professional Development Day at the start of each semester. A celebration of John’s life is being planned and will be held at the Gavilan College campus, at a date to be announced.
Corrected, 5:59 p.m., September 4, 2013: The story originally misstated Mr. Pruitt's age as 55. The account of his last day on campus has been adjusted for accuracy.