Pima Community College Governing Board Should Not Break With Naming Tradition

Perhaps the highest and most enduring honor that Pima Community College’s Governing Board can bestow is naming a College facility for an individual or an entity. In a careful review of the number of buildings and/or areas among our campuses, I find that previous Boards have made it a point to recognize those who have died after serving the college with great dedication. In short, they dedicated buildings or College areas in their memory.

In fact, there are only two entities named for an individual—the Lou Bernal Photography Center and the more recently named facility for former longtime Governing Board member Georgia Cole Brousseau Ms. Brousseau was also a former student and Board member who championed the students of the College throughout her life.

Mr. Bernal was an “internationally renowned photographer,” who was tragically killed during the prime of his professional life in a motorcycle accident on the way to the West Campus where he taught his many loyal and talented students. Indeed it was his students and Art faculty colleagues who led the initiative to recognize his work by naming the Center after him!

I believe in this tradition of naming facilities after people who have literally given their lives to the College. However, if an individual wishes to finance a building or a center to advance the teaching and learning mission of the College, I would consider supporting such an endeavor.

It was with great wisdom that for more than 50 years previous Boards of Governors and Chancellors opted to rarely name buildings or centers after chancellors, administrators or board members. They knew human nature and recognized that once the proverbial floodgate opened, the Governing Board would be called upon to play Solomon among many well-deserving candidates.

Former Board member Sylvia Lee’s name has been suggested for this prestigious honor. Ms. Sylvia Lee has had a long and multi-faceted career at the College. However, who is more deserving of having the first major campus facility named after them by our Governing Board? Certainly not Sylvia Lee.

● In 2012-13, Sylvia Lee was the whistle blower that gave the college a bad name and was highly responsible for the college’s being placed on probation by our accreditor, the HLC.

● Sylvia Lee had numerous negative emotional outburst in public meetings during her term on the Board.

● Sylvia Lee Admonished distinguished faculty members unjustifiably for exercising their free speech.

● Sylvia Lee ridiculed members of the public and accused members of the community of sabotage simply for voicing their opinions.

● On one occasion, in a public session, Sylvia Lee rose and demanded that three board members resign!

● Sylvia Lee, was the one board member who was most responsible for dismantling the meet and confer process, thus denying employee’s fair due process. All of this in the name of reorganization.

● Finally, it is a matter of public record that as a board member, Sylvia Lee donated significant financial and political support to board incumbent candidates who were being challenged. Not very ethical or intelligent decision-making for a board member.

If the Governing Board members are serious about honoring a worthy individual, Maria Urquides would be an excellent choice. Ms. Urquides was a founding member and the first Mexican American woman to serve on Pima’s Board of Governors. She was also the first Mexican American woman to serve as president of the Tucson Education Association. She was on the Board of Directors of the National Education Association, and who was nationally renown as the “Mother of Bilingual & Bicultural Education.”

Dr. Angela Zerdavis should have the first facility named after her. She took the Northwest Education Center and spear-headed the design, building and bringing online its facilities as campus president.

Other founding board members are equally deserving of consideration for this highest honor of being the first to have a major campus facility named after them. Mr. Don Shropshire and Mr. Jacob Fruchthendler come to mind. Esther Tang, left a great legacy as well because she was instrumental in ensuring the establishment of the east campus. Other former board members who ought to be considered are Dr. Macario Saldate, Dr. Nelba Chavez and Rudy Castro, and Larry Toledo, longtime Athletic Director with a stellar reputation.

The point in all this is that there are many more well-deserving candidates than Sylvia Lee. It is my firm belief that this Board and others in the future will be inundated with requests for having their names placed on College buildings, facilities, and centers.

Thus my view that this Governing Board should NOT break with tradition and should continue the course of not naming College facilities after living former administrators, chancellors or Board members. Let’s keep our focus on our mission of teaching and learning. Surely, the administration can find another way to honor those dedicated to College service.

Luis A. Gonzales
Former PCC Board Member