March 9, 1933 - May 24, 2014
The news of Dr. John Davitt’s passing was met with what seemed truly to be a stunned silence when it was announced on the Glendale College email list on the morning of Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Dr. Davitt was on campus just a few weeks prior attending the annual Retirement/Recognition Luncheon on May 14.
|"John Davitt gazes out his office window, reflecting on his 21-year presidency." Photo by Jane Pojawa, 2006. Reprinted with permission from El Vaquero.
After 2 days, one mourning email was sent to the community by a professor emeritus and friend of Dr. Davitt’s. Within hours, the GCC email list was flooded with sentiments and stories about Dr. Davitt. Chaparral has secured permission to reproduce much of that deeply moving email chain here.
From: Teresa Cortey
Unnerving, perhaps, but sometimes people do not express their intense emotions publicly. Since you may feel few cared, Mike, let me depart from my own tradition and express my deep grief by REPLY ALL email. Dr. Davitt was an impeccable Administrator, a true Educator: it was not only his view of a serious, classic education that he tirelessly strove to achieve at Glendale College –the Dreyer’s Ice Cream Theory, he called it jokingly and perhaps inaccurately, because excellence is not frivolous or sweet but unnecessary like ice cream –it was his humanity, his genuine caring for the many individuals who comprise this collectivity that made him unique. He had an immense heart and left a legacy of love –he loved us all, and he was greatly loved in return. I certainly, like you and many others, will miss him.
As a married man who lived life to the fullest, enjoying food and leisure, friendships and family affections, Dr. Davitt does not meet the criteria the Catholic Church has established for sainthood, but he was my idea of a saint: totally good, innocent in his tendency to believe the best of everyone, and to substitute forgiveness and love for resentment and jealousy. He brought out the best in all of us. He made our part of the world a better place.
From: Ali Kobaissi
That was beautiful Mona, he was a mentor to most of us, and always happy to help me whenever I asked for advise. I'm sure he's riding his Harley in heaven. He will always be loved, and already missed.
From: Alen Andriassian
I spoke to Dr. Davitt the day before he passed away. He called because he was trying to help a student. Until his last day, he was helping others. Dr. Davitt supported me from when I was student, and words fall short of what he means to me.
From: Andra Verstraete
I have a file full of letters, memos and thank-you notes from Dr. Davitt expressing his appreciation for my work. I know that I’m not the only one on campus with such a file. He was not only a kind and loving man, but truly a great leader who recognized everybody’s unique talents and contributions to this college. I used to see him outside from my second floor window in the San Rafael Building picking up trash, or encouraging the students who were playing cards outside to ‘go to class’. He took the time to know all of us and always asked about our families…our kids. He was a beautiful man.
From: Nare Garibyan
I am a recent addition as a professional on campus, as an adjunct academic counselor and I did not have the opportunity to work with Dr. Davitt. But even from my GCC student days, I remember him and I know what he means for GCC. At the recent retirement party, in honor of Sandy Lee, Dr. Davitt made his way up to the microphone and so eloquently spoke about Sandy's work and the purpose of student services. He ended his talk with reminding everyone to love and respect each other within the GCC family. He was not afraid to show his genuine and raw emotion at the celebratory event.
From: Jessica Gillooly
Dr. John Davitt –An Irish Catholic Feminist
As I read the many personal remembrances of Dr. Davitt, I was struck by how many of us have a deep appreciation of his dedication and love for the students and GCC employees. There was one aspect of John, however, that I thought needed to be mentioned… Dr. Davitt the practicing Feminist.
From: Andy Young
I find myself lacking the words to express the loss I feel now that Dr. Davitt has passed. I still can’t quite believe that we will never have lunch together again. That I will never run into him at another campus event. He was president when I had to leave GCC in 1989 for health reasons. He was still president when I returned in Spring 2003. During my final interview in Fall 2002, he acted like he had been hoping I would return to the college. He made it seem like I was coming home again. He had a gentle grace and optimistic outlook that inspired the people around him to do more than they might have achieved on their own. I never wanted to disappoint him, and I hope that I did not. He had encouraged me to consider becoming Senate president years ago, and I am actually sad that he won’t be here when I take on that role in another month. It has been a little difficult coming to work this week, or staying focused on my work when I am here. Too many things remind me of him. I will miss him very much.
From: Emelyn Judge
Always a staunch supporter of the nursing program, Dr. Davitt had a chance to come to our nurse pinning ceremony last December. He was ecstatic and almost cried that we actually remembered to introduce him to the audience at the beginning of the ceremony ....how could we forget such a man! After his retirement, he would come to visit, always with one of our nursing graduates who took care of him in tow. He often asked how we were and always showed interest and concern.
On a personal note, when I was new at GCC, I saw a guy with grey silver hair picking trash off the ground....I later learned that it was Dr. Davitt. He cared about many people and many things, and especially Glendale Community College! We will always remember him!
|From: Ramona Barrio-Sotillo
I would also like to add to something to what Mariah and others mentioned and that is Dr. Davitt’s personal knowledge of something important in our lives. When I would run into him at an event, he would always ask about my sons and my family. He also would take an interest in my future endeavors. Each time I would see him, including this last time at the Recognition Luncheon, he would ask me how I was doing in my new position, if I was enjoying it and what I would like to do in the future. I felt he really did care and wasn’t just making small talk.
I will also miss his annual, personal notes for the Patron’s Club fundraisers. His handwritten comments such as “Don’t forget I wrote that letter of recommendation for the doctoral program at USC Dr. Barrio-Sotillo!” would remind me to write that check.
Dr. Davitt was GCC and he will be sorely missed by those of us, like me, that remember him fondly.
Rest in Peace Dr. Davitt..Or as he would often remind me to address him, John.
From: Sandy Lee
Mahalo Nui Loa and Aloha Oe to Dr. Davitt,
Thank you very much for all you have done for us, Dr. Davitt. You are most likely still listening to us, as we all remember you.
Dr. John Davitt hired me as a Counselor at Glendale College 38 years ago in 1976. He was my Professor at Cal. State LA while in my Higher Education Counseling Master’s degree program. John was the Dean of Student Services at GCC, while Dr. Harold Cochrane was the Dean of Counseling , Dr. John Grande was the President, Dr. Ivan Jones was the Dean of Instruction and Dr. Patricia Lienhard was the Coordinator of the Adult Re-entry New Horizons Program ( the Associate Dean of Student Support Services and the VP of Student Services). Many of our GCC Counselors went through the Master's program at Cal. State LA with John as their mentor and role model. He was a champion of our Student Services Program and always emphasized Counselors being change agents and advocates for our students.
At my retirement party 3 weeks ago, both John and Gael attended. They stayed for 3 hours and enjoyed the Hawaiian luau with 100 other Student Services Division Members, Classified staff, and Instructional Faculty. They took home scrapbooks from Steve Marsden and my retirement parties, with 38 years of Counselors, Student Services and Instructional Faculty, as well many of the Classified Staff photos, He and Gael thoroughly enjoyed looking at the scrapbooks, recalling all the many memories over the years - our GCC leaders in the Guild and Senate, the Prop 13 era some of us went through, the fun parties and faculty who have retired. They looked through the 3 scrapbooks not once, but twice! John a scrapbook loved the scrapbook I made him when he retired! After all, he was so proud of his ‘GCC Family’.
John loved to vacation in Maui and show off his nice tan when he returned to the mainland. Being from Hawaii, I enjoyed talking about his experiences. He even asked me what I thought about the possibility of him landing a job as a College President in Hawaii!
From: Joe Denhart
Dear GCC Family, I am saddened, as you are, to hear of the passing of Dr. John Davitt. I knew it was coming but did not expect it so soon. The last time I talked to him was on January 22, 2013. Yes, it was in response to the Patrons Scholarship Fund. I agree with Mona that Dr. Davitt was my boss, my colleague, my mentor, my friend, and a very brave man. Like Alen mentioned, he continued his love and devotion to the college and the community right to the end, in spite of his debilitating illness.
|Video produced by John Gardner and Scott Stalnaker in 2006 chronicles Dr. Davitt's accomplishments in regard to the development and beautification of the Glendale Community College campus during his tenure.
From: Richard Seltzer
I join the chorus in offering my condolences to John's family, and to all of us at GCC who knew him for so long and miss his caring, "old-school," avuncular leadership style.What I respected most about John (and always will) was his humanity. Like myself and the rest of us, he was not perfect. We had a few moments of conflict, and each time, we overcame them. His deep personal faith guided all his choices in dealing with people. The quality of a long-term relationship was much more important to him than a little skirmish along the way. The memory of the way he treated me after my father died suddenly in 1988 will always stick with me. He left me feeling that should there be the need to be back east for a period of time to deal with a family emergency or any other unexpected reason, that he would always do everything legal to be sure my job was secure. So, when I say "old-school," I mean that he was the kind of leader who took care of his people....the way a leader should. I'm reminded of when the late speaker of the House, Tip O'neil (another spirited and witty Irish elder with great people skills) died, a news announcer said, "Bring your kids to the tv and show them all these clips. We will never see this again." John.....rest in peace...... we know we will never see the likes of you again. In my faith tradition, we say "May his memory be for a blessing.."
From: Melita Baumann
I, too, have wondered when messages would begin coming in re the passing of our very dear Dr. Davitt. Speaking on a personal note, I certainly realized he was very ill. The possibility of his leaving, however, was put out of mind. Everyone has said it - he was always there! The door to his office was open. The first questions always, "How are you? How's the family? What do you need?" If I received a phone call from him, it was out of concern for a student, and how GCC could help and support him/her! It IS sad to no longer have Dr. Davitt with me (us), but good memories remain - a huge legacy!
From: Jayne Campbell
Dr. Davitt retired after my first year at GCC: here is how I will remember him:
His cheerful greeting whenever we passed on the campus.... His smile when the Chamber Singers performed at the annual Christmas retiree luncheon.... The way he would "tear up" when we sang the alma mater...... surrounding him with a male chorus... These will be my fondest memories.
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.” -Flavia Weedn
From: Abe Barakat
Fond farewell Dr. Davitt ,
From: Levon Marashlian
Saturday at John's funeral, when I saw the Davitt clan, all his grown children and grandchildren, it reminded me of something he told me several times during the years after he hired me in 1980 (though he was a dean and not the president at the time). With his arm around my shoulder, for example once after we had lunch, he would urge me to have children soon, with comments like: "Don't you want to be young enough to run and play ball with them when they grow up?" He cared enough to give me that good advice--an example of how he was always caring and helpful to me, like to so many others, and not only in the sphere of professional affairs on campus. In addition to being my "boss," which is what I sometimes called him, he was also like a father or older brother.
Eventually--almost 30 years after he first gave me his advice--when I told him the good news that I had 2 new daughters, he was so happy! And when I told him that I should have followed his advice a lot sooner, he came back with a typical Davitt-style wry remark. And of course, whenever I saw him during the recent difficult years, he would always ask about them.
I share the thoughts and feelings expressed so well already by so many faculty and staff and the Trustees. And I'll miss hearing his voice saying "call my office, let's have lunch."
From: Henan Joof
My last interaction with Dr. Davitt is very telling of the man he was .
Last week Friday right around 12:15pm I got what would be my last call from Dr. Davitt. In true Davitt fashion he started off by asking how it was that I came to be hired at GCC and that someone in HR must be doing something wrong :)
He proceeded to share his concern about a student who was facing multiple obstacles in registering for summer classes (at Glendale High School mind you) and wanted my input on how to assist the student. At the time I had a student in my office and so after a few probing questions I asked him to send the student my way, first thing Tuesday morning. (I have been staring at the Post It note I wrote myself with the students' information).
I was amazed at how sharp and caring he still was and was honored that he thought of me to help. Before hanging up, he asked about ME! He never failed to do that.
Looking back I realize that my drive at work of wanting to guide students "personally" through the matriculation steps, stems from the experience I had while I was a student here at GCC...which Dr. Davitt instituted, promoted, expected and exemplified EVERYDAY.
I will miss him. I will continue to carry his torch for students and I will keep this picture of him; because he was a visionary & saw in me the ability to be great long before I even knew who I was.
Rest in Peace Dr. D.
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