BC Choir Reunion Celebrates Historic Victory’s 50th Anniversary

BC Choir reunion

Members of BC’s 1965 mixed choir reunite at BC earlier this month. Photo courtesy Paul King

There have been many great events in the past 100-plus years since Bakersfield College first opened its doors. But few elicit the same type of warm memories and deep sense of community pride as one that happened a half-century ago thousands of miles away from our beautiful campus.

Earlier this month, nearly three-dozen surviving members of the 1965 Bakersfield College choir reconvened to remember the good old days and savor the memories of the day they helped put BC on the global map, scoring an underdog win for the ages with a first place showing at the prestigious Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in North Wales.

Mary Jo Pasek

Mary Jo Pasek who made this event happen.

Thank you Mary Jo Pasek for making this event happen!

To say the choral world was unprepared 50 years ago for a group of California kids to walk into their hallowed competition and not only hold their own, but triumph, is an understatement.

BC Choir 1965

The BC Choir in competition in 1965. Photo courtesy Char Gaines

In fact, members of that group as well as their intrepid choir director Joseph Hutszti will tell you they only wanted to sing their best and show that Americans — Bakersfieldians, in particular — had the chops to perform on the same stage with some of the best choral ensembles in the world.

And boy, did they.

The competition was the centerpiece of a trip of a lifetime for the choir’s 48 young men and women, a six-week European tour that saw the troupe perform in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France.

Joe Huszti with trophy 1965

BC Choir Director Joe Huszti holds the coveted Eisteddfod mixed choir trophy; a green circular bronze trophy with a Welsh dragon about 16 inches in diameter weighing nearly 25 pounds. Photo courtesy Dan Sniffin.

First, the choir succeeded in a sustained two-year effort to raise the $54,000 they needed to make the trip happen. (I highly recommend reading Herb Benham’s fantastic story in the Bakersfield Californian for more on what it took to even get to Wales in the first place.)

Then, it was off to New York and “across the pond” for a whirlwind schedule of performances in nearly a dozen different nations and territories, including a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of their talents for Pope Paul VI at his papal summer residence Castel Gondolfo just outside Rome.

No pressure.  But even the tension of performing for a papal audience couldn’t have matched what those young men and women felt hitting the stage in Wales.

After competing against the top voices of Europe and collecting their championship (by just one point!), the crew capped off their victory on the way home with one final stop at the White House for some congratulations from — and a performance for — President Lyndon Johnson.

Joe Huszti with Pope Paul VI, 1965. Photo courtesy Char Gaines.

Joe Huszti with Pope Paul VI, 1965. Photo courtesy Char Gaines.

In honor of their achievement 50 years ago, 34 of the 48 singers and Choir Director Joe Hutszti (who just retired from UC Irvine) got together earlier this month in BC’s Fireside Room for a reunion, reliving those glory days and rekindling the friendships that started those many years ago at BC.

It’s not every day any of us can say we were the best in the world at something.  While we honor their achievement, only they can truly understand and fully appreciate what they accomplished.

It was heart-warming to see these 70-somethings get together and dive right back into friendships as if no time had passed. And as singers, they’ve still got it. The group tuned up in their old choir room  and performed an impromptu concert of their greatest hits and the magic was still there a half-century later as the video below will attest.

“It was amazing how wonderful and gracious everyone was at Bakersfield College. It could not have been better,” choir member and reunion organizer Ramona Gia said.  “It was absolutely perfect.”

After seeing the light cast on nearby McFarland in the terrific hit film “McFarland, USA,” would it be too much to hope that Disney might be looking for another inspirational period story about a group of Central Valley young people banding together in obscurity to reach greatness?

I can just see “The Bakersfield Belters” on a theater marquee right now…do you think we could get Lea Michele from “Glee” for the lead?

¡Somos El Colegio De Bakersfield!

¡Somos BC!

Latina Leaders BC Gang July 11 2015

Maritza Carlisle, Sandra Serrano, Odella Johnson, Dana Gelder, Lisa Kent, Victor Diaz, Sonya Christian, Kimberly Bligh, Tom Gelder, Rick Kreiser

Last evening, July 11th, a group of us attended the Latina Leaders Awards banquet to celebrate the recognition of one of our very own–Lisa Kent.  It was a beautiful event recognizing the talent of Latinas in Kern County.  We were so proud of Lisa Kent who believes in the transformational power of higher education and who believes in Bakersfield College.  She puts herself out there to do whatever it takes to help others, particularly the young women in our community.  Lisa Kent, we are proud of you!

We had two of our students, two Latinas, from the Making it Happen Program attend the event.  Mariaha Lopez, from Shafter High, and Alondra Lule from Arvin High.  Here they are with Odella Johnson, myself, Lisa Kent, and Kimberly Bligh

BC team with Mariaha Lopez  and Alondra Lule July 11 2015

Standing L to R: Odella Johnson, Director of Equity and Inclusion; Sonya Christian, President; Lisa Kent, award winner; Kimberly Bligh, Department Chair Sitting L to R: Mariaha Lopez, Alondra Lule

The Latina Leaders of Kern County is a great organization whose President this year is Norma Rojas-Mora, who is also on the Bakersfield College Foundation Board of Directors.  You can find more information at http://kernlatinas.com/.  Another recipient is Camila Chavez, Executive Director for the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) whom I met prior to my presidency when she was spearheading the movement locally to pass Prop 30 during the November 2012 election, which helped education in California as a whole and Bakersfield College in particular.

Talking about Latina leaders, I am reminded of Jo Ann Acosta, another amazing Latina, and the person behind the detailed planning and execution of BC’s Chicano/Latino Commencement Celebration.

The 21st Annual Bakersfield College Chicano/Latino Commencement Celebration, held on May 6th, was a festive evening filled with a performance by the Aztec Dancers, a live mariachi band and heartfelt remarks from our graduates. Take a moment to watch the 6:02-minute condensed version of the evening put together in a video by Manny de los Santos.


The program began with a processional of BC’s committed faculty and staff, followed by our students draped in beautiful Hispanic serape stoles with hues of green, blue, red, orange, yellow and white. Both MCs for the event, Lily Martinez (Professor, Foreign Language) and Maritza Salgueiro-Carlisle (Professor, Foreign Language) addressed the audience with translations in English and Spanish. The audience then received words of inspiration from the speaker of the evening Connie Perez (Partner, Brown Armstrong). The Student Speaker was Jose ”Jimmy” Moran (Vice President, Student Government Association), followed by the Presentacion de Certificados! Each of the graduates expressed their heartfelt appreciation for all who touched their lives, there was barely a dry eye in sight!

Thank you Jo Ann Acosta, Corny Rodriguez, the Committee and all parties that helped make the Chicano Commencement a cultural celebration to remember! and thank you Karla Young for capturing content for me for this blog.

More photos can be found at:

¡Somos El Colegio De Bakersfield!

¡Sí Se Puede!

Faculty Spotlight: BC’s faculty are just the best!

Matthew Garrett

Matthew Garrett

I want to congratulate three members of our wonderful faculty: Matthew Garrett, Bill Kelley and Oliver Rosales.

Matthew Garrett

At the annual Mormon History Association Conference, associate professor of history Matthew Garrett received the prestigious Juanita Brooks Award for the Best Manuscript in Mormon History for his forthcoming work, titled, Making Lamanites: Mormons, Native Americans, and the Indian Student Placement Program.

It will be published by the University of Utah Press in the fall of 2016.

Bill Kelley

The Teacher of Excellence (TOE) is a peer nominated award for teachers belonging to the California Agriculture Teachers Association. Bill has been a member for 48 years now.

To be eligible for nomination, you must have taught for a minimum of 10 years and have demonstrated professional leadership by serving in four CATA leadership offices. After your name is placed on the ballot, it is taken before a regional group of your peers for voting.

Bill Kelley

Bill Kelley

Of all the teachers that were nominated, only four are able to represent the San Joaquin region at the state level. Those four must prepare an application regarding their merits. The application gets scored by a panel of twelve teachers who have already received the TOE.

California has about 800 teachers in the CATA and about 15% of those are from the collegiate ranks. Since 85% of the “voters” are high school teachers, it is very rare that a community college teacher is honored in this way. Bill is certainly worthy of the recognition.

Let’s hear from Bill Kelley:

I have spent my entire career and work life (this is my 47th year) as an agriculture teacher trying hard to motivate and help all my students to do their best every day.  I have helped a myriad of students in my 47 years of teaching, and I have thoroughly enjoyed doing it.  If I could start all over, I would do the same thing.  If the good Lord gives me good health, I plan to teach one or maybe 2 more years.

Oliver Rosales

Oliver Rosales, associate professor of history and coordinator of the Social Justice Institute, will be initiating a $10,000 oral history project and public programming “Community Stories’ event series for Bakersfield College later this year. The funding comes from a grant through Cal Humanities.

Oliver was also able to secure a grant from the American Library Association in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Oliver Rosales

Oliver Rosales

As one of 203 grant recipients selected from across the country, Bakersfield College will receive a cash grant of $10,000 to hold public programming — such as public film screenings, discussion groups, oral history initiatives, local history exhibitions, multi-media projects or performances — about Latino history and culture.

The Bakersfield College Grace Van Dyke Library will also receive the six-part, NEH-supported documentary film “Latino Americans,” created for PBS in 2013 by the WETA public television station. The award-winning series chronicles the history of Latinos in the United States from the 16th century to present day. (Learn more about the series at www.pbs.org/latino-americans/en/.)

With these grants, 2015-16 will be a very exciting year for the humanities at Bakersfield College!

For a soon-to-be released schedule of events, visit the Bakersfield College Social Justice Institute website at http://www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/president/social-justice-institute.

Bakersfield College Hosts Inaugural “Week after graduation” Professional Development Institute

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Thank you Lesley Bonds for coordinating this institute and writing this blog.

During the week following commencement, over 100 faculty, staff and administrators gathered to attend myriad sessions designed to support both their personal and professional development. Read on for an overview of each session and to hear about the experience from those who facilitated these important seminars.

Day 1: Using Data to Inform Planning & Decisions
Jordan Horowitz, Vice President of Foundation Relations and Project Development for the Institute for Evidence-Based Change, kicked off the Institute by prompting attendees to share what inspired them to pursue work in higher education. Laughter, collective empathic nods and even a few tears littered the room as attendees shared the stories of what and – most importantly – who, inspired them to pursue their current paths. Following this activity, Mr. Horowitz shared strategies for data use that tells the stories of successes and challenges our students face. This session helped to provide a framework for the ways in which data can be used to drive institutional change to support student success.

Day 2: Assessment and Student Learning Outcomes
Michele Bresso, Associate Vice Chancellor of Governmental & External Relations, and David Neville, Professor of Spanish and Assessment Committee Co-Chair, led the second day of the Institute. Professor Neville shared that the Professional Development Summer Institute was a great success. He said, “The assessment committee appreciated the opportunity to make significant headway on the mapping as well as assessment. This lays the ground work for everything else that we will be doing this next year in our committee and as a part of Program Review.”

Following the session, Neville noticed a flood of positive comments, despite challenges when it came to accessing information from CurricUNET. “We are beginning to have the right discussions dealing with how assessment figures in both at the institutional level and at the course and program level,” he noted. He also observed discussions about how courses and programs align, as well as how assessments could be performed better with the ultimate goal of improving instruction.

“If I were to choose one phrase that permeated the institute and was evident in the comments of the participants, it was that in order to make positive change at Bakersfield College, we must participate. This is the difference between being an employee of Bakersfield College and Being BC. WE ARE BC.” -Dave Neville

Day 3, Part 1: Program Review
On Wednesday, May 20, the Program Review Committee (PRC) hosted a hands-on workshop to guide approximately 60 faculty, staff, and administrators through the Program Review process. After a brief overview, workshop attendees worked on their 2015 program review forms while PRC representatives offered 1-on-1 support and guidance. Below are their thoughts on the experience:

“I enjoyed the work-session format for Program Review. On a personal note, being able to assist on a one-to-one basis with the technology and facilities requests was a great experience. I was able to have meaningful conversations with both faculty and staff who are charged with filling out the forms. It was great!” – Kristin Rabe, PRC classified co-chair

“I was impressed with the number of people who showed up and how much work they accomplished!” Kate Pluta, past PRC faculty co-chair

“This workshop empowered attendees to begin the program review process earlier than ever in preparation for submission in the Fall 2015. Attendees reported a greater understanding and appreciation of the program review process and its impact on institutional effectiveness. Way to go, Team BC, for coming together and keeping the Program Review Train moving full-steam ahead!! A special thanks to the members of the Program Review Committee for organizing this helpful and productive workshop.” – Manny Mourtzanos, PRC admin co-chair

“It seemed as though those who attended the Summer Institute for Program Review were able see the importance of the program review process and its impact on the BC campus. They were able to see how important the work is that they do in their departments and the value of reflecting on that good work. Connecting with members of our BC family from other departments was extremely beneficial for all of us. We were able to alleviate some of the fear and dread of the program review process and answer many questions that bubbled up during the hands on portion.” – Kim Nickell, PRC faculty co-chair

Day 3, Part 2: College-Wide Equity Initiatives
Odella Johnson leads Summer InstituteOdella Johnson, Interim Director of Equity and Inclusion, and Bryan Hirayama, Professor of Communication and Faculty Co-Chair of the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Advisory Committee (EODAC), challenged attendees to center the needs of at-risk students in this dynamic, hands-on session. Johnson opened the session by sharing important updates and strategic goals outlined in the Student Equity Plan. The two facilitators then led the group through a consciousness-raising activity where small groups of faculty and staff members brainstormed how Bakersfield College can implement more equitable policies, procedures and perspectives that support students and lessen the achievement gap. Johnson interjected with tangible, concrete changes, such as a statement about equity on course syllabi, as well as faculty office hours repurposed as “student hours” in acknowledgement of the important relationship that exists between faculty and students. She charged all faculty to continue the conversation beyond the session and to focus on equity in the classroom. Hirayama closed the session by sharing a personal moment of growth in recognizing and combating unconscious biases in grading. The session provided a foundation of dialogue from which future programmatic initiatives, like those discussed during the morning session of day 3, may grow in intentional and meaningful ways.

Day 4: Rethinking and Redesigning Student Support Services
Flow chart - predictive analytics lead us to equity plans, student services success plan, achieve the dream & making it happen mentorship, habits of mind and MIH classroom intervention.Janet Fulks, Interim Dean of Student Success and Precollegiate Studies kicked off the final day of the Professional Development Summer Institute with a report-out on the Making It Happen (MIH) initiative. Her presentation, ripe with student success data, helped attendees learn more about how enhanced communication, one-on-one student contact and improved course placement through Multiple Measures is improving student success at an exponential rate. Following Dr. Fulks’ presentation, representatives from several student support services areas, including Financial Aid, Math Lab, Student Success Lab, Supplemental Instruction, the Tutoring Center and the Writing Center broadened the scope of the discussion to include the interventions in place to support students once they’re enrolled at Bakersfield College.
After lunch, all attendees ventured out to the Student Services building and Library for individualized tours and presentations of the student services areas to round out the day. Attendees reported that they were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit spaces on campus they had never been and to learn more about how they can refer students to services that will support their success both in and outside of the classroom.
BC would like to extend a special thank you to the incredible catering crew who kept our attendees well-caffeinated and well-fed throughout the Institute. The support from other on-campus departments, including Information Technology and our Maintenance and Operations crew did not go unnoticed.


Delano Graduation Celebration. Just wonderful!


Bakersfield College Delano Campus graduates with Rich McCrow, Director of BC’s Delano Campus and Rural initiatives

On May 15th, Bakersfield College celebrated the commencement ceremony for its 2015 graduates, an event filled with all the pomp, circumstance, grandeur and spectacle you would expect in seeing more than 1,000 grads complete their arduous, but ultimately rewarding academic journeys.

And while it’s a lot of fun to watch hundreds of students and thousands of friends and family celebrate such a monumental day, it’s just as satisfying for me to attend the vast variety of smaller, yet no less significant ceremonies honoring sub-sets of our sprawling graduation class during this hectic season.  Bryan Hirayama did the photos which you can find at http://bakersfieldcollege.smugmug.com/2015-Delano-Commencement/

delano_graduation_2015This May marked the 40th year that students were graduating from Bakersfield College’s Delano campus — and just as with the larger BC ceremony, it was with the same level of joy and pride that our executive team was on hand to watch 95 Delano students revel in their achievement at a pre-commencement celebration on this very special campus.

Most of those grads would also walk during the larger BC campus commencement later that night, but this joyous afternoon affair allowed those Delano students to congratulate each other and celebrate together in a more intimate, more familiar setting…..at the very same place they made their dreams come true.

With Rich McCrow, Director of the Delano Campus and BC’s Rural Initiatives, leading the ceremony and the spirited Mariachi Nuevo Grullense providing musical accompaniment, it was a fitting way to honor the hard work and dedication of those 95 students.

Even though the students were the focal point of the ceremony’s theme “A Celebration of Success,” that sentiment could also be applied to Delano and the campus as well. After celebrating the 100th anniversary of its incorporation two years ago, Delano continues into its second century as an agricultural hub, a hotbed of equality for farmworkers’ rights and one of the region’s true backbone communities.

And for the last four decades, Bakersfield College’s Delano campus has been furthering the city’s commitment to advancement through betterment of one’s self and the community around you. Since opening their doors in 1975, nearly 3,000 Delano students have earned their AA degrees, while another 1,300 have achieved professional certification.


Executive Vice President Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg, President Sonya Christian, Vice President Zav Dadabhoy, Vice President Anthony Culpepper

I think I can safely speak for Rich and the rest of our BC leadership team at the ceremony — Anthony, Nan and Zav — when I say how privileged we all are to have contributed in ways great or small to the ongoing success of those new Delano grads.

They are a continuing testament to the amazing work being done 34 miles up the road.

Thanks to Rich and his incredible team for making this beautiful day happen.


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