Executive Vice President Academic Affairs, Long Beach City College
Those who know Don Berz know that he is a force of nature: a swirl of humor, compassion, loyalty, and fierceness. For more than forty years, Don has dedicated himself to the mission of the community college through leadership development, program development, and resource-building all aimed at improving student success.
At every college where Don has served, he has been a lightning rod for change. At Peralta District, Chaffey College, and Long Beach City College he has distinguished himself not just as an instructional leader, but as a visionary. He identified the need to focus on the issues facing so many underprepared learners entering the community college in the late nineties, while he was the Vice President at Chaffey College, where he launched a major campaign to refashion student success programming designed to accelerate and promote transfer and completion rates. Those efforts are still in force, even after his departure, which is a testament to his ability to not only change programs, but change a culture. His insight a decade ago into the need for colleges to focus on the needs of underprepared adult learners demonstrates that he anticipated the national trends long before the rest of the state or the rest of the nation. His insistence that colleges dedicate themselves to college readiness in order to strengthen and ensure the country’s work force and standard of living was not only perceptive but prophetic.
In addition, Don has demonstrated a long career dedicated to the development of leadership. He was a founding member of ACCA and has invested his talents and wisdom in every dean with whom he has served by mentoring and advising them. Because of his long tenure as a Chief Instructional Officer, he has also mentored many executive leaders, some of whom are now chancellors and presidents throughout the nation. In truth, many of them still seek his guidance and advice.
Educators seek Don’s support because of his laser-like skill at identifying the heart of an issue. While he is skillfully strategic, he is also humane and moral. His ethical compass is at the center of his professional and educational decisions, which makes his judgment, even when people disagree with it, almost irresistible.
Don Berz’s contribution to the education of California’s community college students cannot be overstated. In many ways, he is one of the architects of the student success movement currently dominating higher education, and his influence is likely to be felt for generations.