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Oxnard College Names President

Education: Selection of Lydia Ledesma-Reese, head of a two-year school in the Northwest, fills a nearly 11/2-year vacancy.

April 18, 2002|LISA LEFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The top official of a Washington community college--an immigrant rights advocate with Southern California roots--was hired Wednesday as the new president of Oxnard College.

Lydia Ledesma-Reese, president of Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, Wash., was selected by Ventura County Community College District Chancellor Phillip Westin just hours after he had interviewed her and three other finalists for the job.

On July 1 Ledesma-Reese assumes the $138,744-a-year post, vacant since December 2000.

Westin said Ledesma-Reese, 53, was his top pick based on her personal and professional experience. Westin said he liked that she attended community college as a reentry student, worked at UC Irvine, still teaches part time and has held leadership posts in several national organizations, including the National Community College Hispanic Council.

"Lydia brought that extra thing that we needed," Westin said. "She passionately cares about the mission of the community college. She passionately cares about the diverse students we have at Oxnard College. She is a woman of color herself and she lives that."

The other candidates were Erlinda J. Martinez, vice president of student services at Cerritos College in Norwalk; Rose-Marie Joyce, president and superintendent of the Gavilan Joint Community College District in Gilroy, and Craig S. Washington, executive assistant to the chancellor of the Pima County Community College District in Tucson.

At Oxnard College, news of Ledesma-Reese's appointment was greeted with cheers, said Academic Senate President Mary Jones, who led a campus screening committee that winnowed the original pool of 61 applicants to the four finalists. "We're really, really thrilled. There is a genuine sense of relief."

Oxnard College has had five permanent and interim presidents since 1994, and the latest search effort represented the district's third attempt to find a successor to Steven Arvizu, who resigned for health reasons 17 months ago.

The first search resulted in too few applicants, and the second ended last fall without an appointment after Westin decided neither of the two finalists was qualified.

According to Jones, each of the four finalists had some faculty support after a public forum on Monday.

But Ledesma-Reese emerged as the clear favorite of several students, including Student Body President Albert Mendez, a screening committee member.

"As a student, I feel she is the one," Mendez said. "She was the whole package."

Ledesma-Reese endeared herself to many in the audience when she confided she was attracted to the Oxnard position in part because it would allow her to live nearer to her 3-year-old granddaughter and soon-to-be born grandson in Placentia.

She also won fans when she described her background as a young mother of two who entered Cypress College in Orange County at age 26 and spent five years earning her associate's degree.

She went on to obtain both her bachelor's and master's degrees in speech communication from Cal State Fullerton. She later earned a doctorate in institutional management from Pepperdine University.

After spending eight years as an administrator at UC Irvine, Ledesma-Reese was a dean at Cerritos College and De Anza College in Cupertino before moving to Hartnell College in Salinas, where she served two years as vice president for instruction and assistant superintendent. She has been president of Skagit Valley College since 1995, and has testified before the state Legislature on a need for bilingual education and rights for immigrant students.

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