NORWALK — A Latino educator who has been the president of a Seattle community college for the past two years has been named president of Cerritos College.
Ernest A. Martinez, who received most of his college education in California and was a teacher and administrator for more than 20 years in the state, will become president of the 18,000-student college on Jan. 12. He will replace Wilford Michael, who is retiring. Martinez will be the fifth president in the 30-year history of Cerritos Community College.
"I wanted to get back home. I got lucky. Everything fell into place. I'm familiar with the area," Martinez said in a telephone interview from the San Jose home of his parents.
Martinez, 45, the president of Seattle Central Community College, was born in Dixon, N. M. and grew up in nearby Mora. He received bachelor's degrees in English and biology from New Mexico Highlands University before coming to California to get advanced degrees and to teach.
He has a master's degree from Sonoma State University in reading instruction and a doctorate in folklore from the University of California, Berkeley.
Martinez started his teaching career as a junior high school teacher in Blythe. He was a professor of Chicano studies at Sonoma State and director of special education programs at the university.
From 1981 to 1984, Martinez was assistant superintendent and vice president of instruction at the 13,000-student Cabrillo College in Aptos. He was hired as president of the 8,500-student Seattle Central in June, 1984.
Martinez was appointed to the Cerritos position after a three-month selection process that included the "input from the entire community," said Robert Epple, one of seven Cerritos College board members.
The selection committee included a community representative, faculty, classified personnel, a management research firm and the board, Epple said. Four members of the selection committee visited the Seattle campus before Martinez was chosen.
"We were impressed with the open community approach and the great amount of emphasis he placed on staff and faculty participation in making decisions," said Dale Hardeman, president of the Cerritos College board of trustees.
"People were happy on the campus. Employes were happy. Students seem to be happy (even though) it was final exam week, no less," Epple said.
Last week, the Cerritos board agreed unanimously to hire Martinez. At a special meeting Saturday, the board agreed to pay Martinez a yearly salary of $85,000. His contract runs through June 30, 1990.
At Seattle Central, Martinez is known as a communicator and "a real people person," said Bob Tarpchinoff, director of cooperative education and career placement at the college.
Downtown Seattle Campus
The college in downtown Seattle is the largest of three colleges in a district that serves the Seattle metropolitan area.
Martinez's ability to successfully manage a large, "diversified ethnic group" of students, Hardeman said, played a part in his appointment.
"Seattle is a smaller campus but is somewhat like Cerritos with a very mixed ethnic group. He was able to relate to this," Epple said.
At the Cerritos campus, the white student population is 38%, Latino students make up 21% and Asian students account for more than 11%. The minority population of the Seattle campus is about 40%, Martinez said. He said about 30% were refugees from areas such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Eastern Europe.
Returning to California also will allow "me to play tennis outdoors," said Martinez, a divorcee with four children ages 19 through 26.
Michael, 64, is retiring next week after 13 years as president of the college, which serves Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, La Mirada, Lakewood, Norwalk and parts of Long Beach, Santa Fe Springs and South Gate.
In retirement, Michael said, he will devote more time to his family and church activities.
The college honored Michael recently by naming the campus learning resource center, which includes the library, after him.
"That was something special. It was a great honor," Michael said.
The college, Michael said, has not seen the last of him. He said he will continue to attend sports activities and cultural events on campus.