They were taken away from their homes, kept behind metal bars and wire fences like criminals—animals. Millions were murdered. Millions more were displaced, left without a home, without family, without much hope. But they survived.
On Yom HaShoah, and every other day of the year, we: remember those who lost their lives in the Holocaust—condemned simply because of their religion; continue to learn from those who survived; and honor those who risked their lives, livelihoods, and families to aid the Jewish people. They show us the resilience of the human spirit; that inclusiveness and diversity are a strength and necessary priority; that there is always still hope for humanity; that in the end, we are all the same.
With these themes of survival, gratitude, hope, and inclusiveness, Cypress College held its second Yom HaShoah Day of Remembrance event on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, a follow-up to the hugely successful inaugural event just a year prior.
Nearly 1,300 people lined the Cypress College Pond for the event featuring: remarks from Holocaust survivors Gerda Seifer and keynote speaker Zenon Neumark; music and dance performances by Cypress College students and faculty; photographs taken by Cypress College Photography Professor Clifford Lester; and a memorial candle lighting.
Also speaking at the event were Cypress College History Professor David Halahmy, Dr. Holli Levitsky of Loyola Marymount University, and Cypress College President Dr. Bob Simpson. Rabbi Heidi Cohen of Temple Beth Sholom led a Kaddish prayer.
Holocaust survivors Seifer and Neumark were joined by three other survivors, Harry Lester, Sarah B. Schweitz, and Piri Katz, and second-generation survivor and Cypress College staff member Rick van Beynan, for a meet and greet with local middle school students prior to the ceremony and the lighting of memorial candles.
Neumark, the keynote speaker, focused his remarks on the “thousands of incredibly brave and decent people, men and women of all nationalities, who in the hour of need, and in spite of the risks, extended a helping hand and thus saved many from certain death.”
“I am here because of them,” he said, calling them the “real heroes of the Second World War.”
Neumark was a teenager when the war broke out. He escaped from a Nazi labor camp and was given food and lodging for several days by an ethnic German family living in Poland.
“They never asked me how long I’m going to stay,” he said. “They never asked me for any remuneration. They were absolutely angelic by doing it. I can assure you, I cannot put into words the enormity of the deed that they had done.”
Neumark later lived in Warsaw, where he was involved in several underground Polish and Jewish movements, then Vienna, where he worked as an electrician, under a false Catholic Pole identity. He attended the University of Oklahoma and earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, then received his master’s degree in physics from UCLA. He worked for the Hughes Aircraft Company for 35 years.
Gerda Seifer, who is just one of two survivors from her family of 40, also survived under a false identity as a Catholic Pole. Her mother died in a gas chamber at Bełżec, a concentration camp in southeastern Nazi-occupied Poland, and her father died under unknown circumstances.
An orphan, Seifer went to England following the War, learned English, and became a registered nurse in 1950. She moved to the U.S. a year later, met her husband, and settled in Long Beach, California.
At the Yom HaShoah event, Seifer implored the crowd to learn from history and keep the stories alive.
“It is 72 years since the end of World War II, yet there is still so much violence, so much killing and prejudice in the world,” she said. “Why is it so hard for human beings to learn from history and not commit the same mistakes over and over again? It seems so simple, just to treat others as you would want to be treated.”
She continued, “I’m speaking as a survivor at a time when there are fewer and fewer survivors still alive. In 10 or 15 years, there will be no living witness to the horrors of the Holocaust, so I’m depending on you to keep alive the memory of this horrible tragedy in hopes that this history won’t repeat itself. It is a great responsibility, and there’s a reason I speak to so many people as I do.”
Following Seifer and Neumark’s remarks, the crowd watched a slideshow of mesmerizing photos of Holocaust survivors taken by Clifford Lester, the Cypress College photography professor. The slideshow was accompanied by a musical composition written by Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Michel Klein, and performed by Klein and Cypress College music faculty.
“Today, as a second-generation survivor, I take portraits of Holocaust survivors. I have been doing so since my mom’s passing,” Lester said. “It is my way to carry on her efforts to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.”
Both of Lester’s parents are Holocaust survivors. His mother’s brother—his uncle—was murdered at Auschwitz.
Lester, whose photos are now featured in a permanent Holocaust Survivor Photo Gallery at Cypress College, will be on sabbatical in the fall to pursue a project to photograph even more Holocaust survivors “and assemble their portraits and their biographies into an undying document.”
“It is my hope that through education and learning the powerful lessons of the past, that we will work diligently to honor one another with kindness, with respect, and that we will all make every effort to bring merit to the message of the survivor and bring forth light from the darkness,” he said.
“As we hear the stories of the survivors, we become witnesses of the past and we become the light that lives on. It is up to us now to continue to bring light into the world.”
Cypress College President Dr. Bob Simpson added, “The example of the remarkable lives of the honored speakers with us today, the survivors who have graced us with their presence and their words, are living examples of the power of the individual to prevail in the face of all odds. Let us use their lives as inspiration for what we, too, may be able to accomplish in our time.”
“Commencement is a joyous time for our graduates because it marks the completion of a significant endeavor and leads to the next phase of their lives. Likewise, it is a celebratory time for the institution as well because we are so proud of the Class of 2017.” — Cypress College President Dr. Bob Simpson
Claudia Villasenor, 2017 Outstanding Graduate of the Year
Like many first-generation college students, Claudia Villasenor began her time at Cypress College uncertain with what she wanted to do. Two associate degrees later, the honors student describes Cypress College as “a place that allowed me to find myself and discover the career that I was destined to do.”
Villasenor moved to the United States at age 11, an experience that has shaped her desire to go into education for a profession. She has transferred to California State University, Fullerton where she is working on a bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent development and a Multiple Subject Credential with a bilingual authorization. She plans to teach elementary school.
“I decided to enroll in Cypress College because of the atmosphere of inclusiveness and acceptance that Cypress portrays,” Villasenor said. “My older sister graduated from Cypress College, so she always mentioned the positive atmosphere shat she felt. She mentioned the attentiveness of the faculty and the enthusiasm of the staff.”
At Cypress College, Villasenor participated in the Honors Program, was a member of the Honors Club, participated in events such as Donate a Day of Service, and had her art and writing published in Gender Smash and Sole Image. She has also worked on campus throughout her time at Cypress College as one of the original members of the Student Ambassador team — a role in which she shares her experiences with potential new students.
“Most of these prospective students have the preconceived idea that college education is not something that is within their reach, so my job is to make them think otherwise,” Villasenor said. “I feel accomplished whenever new students come to Cypress College and thank me for helping them during their application process.”
Villasenor earned an associate degree in liberal social arts in social and behavioral science from Cypress College last spring and is completing an associate degree in art this spring.
Swen Nater, 2017 Outstanding Alumnus
If a person never played high school basketball, what are the odds he would win two NCAA championships? What are the odds of him being selected in the first round of the NBA draft and going on to stardom? Impossible, right? Not for Swen Nater. Swen never played high school ball, nor did he ever start a game in college; however, he was selected in the first round of the NBA draft and went on to play 12 years professionally. He not only started, he led the ABA and NBA in rebounding, became an All-Star, and set several records. Swen Nater never paid much attention to the odds. He loved basketball and dreamed of playing the sport at the highest level. That is exactly what he did, thanks to his inexhaustible industriousness and the countless hours he spent in the gym.
Swen enrolled at Cypress College as a math student. By then he was 6’ 9”, but weighed only 185 pounds. While Swen was eating lunch on his first day of school, the assistant basketball coach, Tom Lubin, noticed his height and asked if he was planning on playing basketball. When Swen said, “No,” Coach Lubin asked if he could work with him and Swen agreed. At Cypress, Swen became a Community College All-American his sophomore year and helped lead the team to a state title. After a game in which Cypress College played against the UCLA freshman team at Pauley Pavilion (he scored 25 points and grabbed 25 rebounds), Coach John Wooden recruited Swen to attend UCLA to play as Bill Walton’s back-up. Walton said Swen was the best center he played against in College — which he did every day at practice.
At a post-season All-Star game that included the best college seniors in the country, Swen started because another player was injured during pre-game warm-ups. Suffice it to say he more than held his own, scoring 34 points, grabbing 25 rebounds, and being named Most Valuable Player. Swen was ABA Rookie of the Year, and the following season he led the ABA with 16.4 rebounds per game. He went on to lead the NBA in rebounds and still holds the all-time record for defensive rebounds in one half at 18. He is one of only five members of the “30/30” club — scoring 30 points and getting 30 rebounds in a single game. The others are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin Love, Moses Malone, and Robert Parish. Swen still holds the record for most rebounds in one game for the Milwaukee Bucks at 33. He also holds the all-time California Community College single game rebound record at 39.
Swen resides in Issaquah, Washington with his wife, Wendy. He’s a buyer for Costco and a motivational speaker.
Jeanette Vázquez, 2017 Commencement Speaker
Jeanette Vázquez is a passionate educator and proud graduate of Cypress College. She was raised in Fullerton and, as a daughter of immigrants, learned from her parents’ hard work, resilience, determination, and integrity. She has dedicated her personal and professional lives to serving her community.
Vázquez attended Cypress College as a first-generation college student. She was the Cypress College Associated Students president and graduated in 2009 with an associate degree in liberal arts. She transferred to the University of California, Berkeley where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minor in public policy. Following some time as an AmeriCorps Fellow with Iowa Legal Aid, Vázquez then earned her teaching credential and master’s degree in education from Loyola Marymount University.
Vázquez is now a sixth grade teacher in North Orange County and was elected to the Fullerton School Board in November 2016.
During her time at Cypress College, Vázquez became known as a change agent in her student government roles. As president, she reinvigorated the Associated Students Council, oversaw the first formal legislative advocacy efforts of the governing body, and revamped the organizational structure which facilitated greater effectiveness in meeting students’ needs.
She and a group of peers from Associated Students have remained connected to Cypress College in a variety of capacities — including work to help form the first alumni association through the Cypress College Foundation.
As young adults we often think we have to have all the answers, know what career we want and what paths we need to take to get there. The truth is we don’t always know. And that’s OK.
The Path that Led to the NSA
Víctor H. Maysonet González was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He didn’t grow up knowing he would one day work for the National Security Agency (NSA). He didn’t even know the NSA existed, he told a room full of STEM scholars at Cypress College on May 5. However, the paths he took led him there.
The son of divorced parents (his mother a teacher and father a dancer and musician), Maysonet González was exposed to different ways of thinking. His mother pushed him to succeed, impressing upon him the value of doing hard work and getting A’s in school. His father incorporated a strong sense of creativity into his life, even teaching a young Maysonet González how to dance.
Maysonet González’s background includes a degree in public communication with an emphasis on PR and advertising, and he worked at a hair salon, for Club Med, and for 20+ years as a dancer and choreographer. He was led to the NSA by his then-girlfriend – now wife – who had gotten a job with the Agency. He stressed that the choices you make have impact and to “be intentional with every step that you take.”
To read his resume, one might not automatically see how the steps he took prepared him for an NSA career. However, his education taught him strategy and safe-guarding an image. His job at the hair salon showed him how appearance affects lives. At Club Med he learned the value of diversity. And dance? Dance taught him “it’s OK to take a step back, but make it a rock step so you can go forward with more momentum.”
(STEM)2 student Kayla Calle took Maysonet González’s story to heart, saying, “The most important thing that I learned in the workshop was that no matter where you came from or what background you have, you can always use the skills you have to go out and thrive in whatever you want to do.”
Fellow (STEM)2 student Kevin Fune added that he learned from listening to Maysonet González that it is important “to be intentional with your actions, because it will always impact someone’s life. Be proud of where you came from to learn where you want to go, and surround yourself with cheerful people who will help you be successful.”
The National Security Agency/Central Security Service
The NSA/CSS saves lives, defends vital networks, advances U.S. goals and alliances, and protects privacy rights. Established in 1952, the NSA is a service organization that receives requirements, and operates and executes on those requirements using cryptologic components. Through the use of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (AI), the NSA responds “to customer requirements for information relating to the plans, intentions, capabilities, and locations of foreign powers, organizations, terrorist groups, or persons, or their agents, who threaten America’s national security,” the NSA website states.
Throughout its offices in Maryland, Colorado, Georgia, Texas, and Hawaii, the NSA/CSS is unwavering in its respect for U.S. laws and Americans’ civil liberties – and in its commitment to accountability.
How You Can Work for the NSA
Interested in working for the NSA? Courtney Tyler, who works in the Recruitment Office at the Agency, informed students at the event of the various opportunities the Agency has for them. Undergraduates in their junior and senior years of college are eligible to apply to 12-week paid summer internships. Students who successfully complete the recruitment process receive partially paid housing, annual leave, sick leave, and are placed in offices directly related to the NSA’s mission.
Students in their second semester of their freshman year of college can enter the cooperative education program. This program, which is currently accepting applicants who are majoring in computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, cybersecurity, or Chinese, is an alternating program, meaning it’s a semester at work, then a semester at school, and so on. One of the perks is that each time you come back to the NSA you’re placed in a different office, giving you the opportunity to try out various areas and see which is the best fit for you.
Full-time employee benefits include travel opportunities, health and retirement, flexible work schedules, an onsite fitness center, relocation assistance (if you live 75 or more miles away), and more.
If you’d like to apply, there are a few requirements. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and undergo a background investigation, polygraph, and psychological assessment.
As (STEM)2 Peer Mentor Cat Aburto said, “It was great to learn about the opportunities available to students at the National Security Agency. The knowledge and experience that Víctor and Courtney shared with us definitely opened my eyes to new career and internship possibilities.”
Cypress College held a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Holocaust Survivor Photo Gallery in the second floor hallway of the Student Center. The gallery features photos taken by Photography Professor Clifford Lester, whose parents were Holocaust survivors.
“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to photograph the survivors and to present to our campus community, and our community around, the message of the survivor,” Lester said at the ceremony, “which I think, over the years to come when we are all gone, that their words and their spirit should continue to bring light into our world, and to guide us into how we treat and respect one another.”
Dr. Jacob Eisenbach, a Holocaust survivor and the keynote speaker at Cypress College’s 2016 Yom HaShoah event, praised Cypress College, Dr. Simpson, and Professor Lester for opening the gallery and making inclusiveness and peace a priority.
“This gallery is teaching our students, it’s teaching our communities…that genocide and Holocaust should never be forgotten,” he said at the dedication.
Piri Katz, another Holocaust survivor and a guest of honor at this year’s Yom HaShoah event, also attended the dedication with her daughter.
Cypress College President Dr. Bob Simpson said efforts like this photo gallery and the College’s Yom HaShoah Holocaust Day of Remembrance event came out of a desire to “support and advance that core value of the College of inclusiveness” through the College’s Diversity Committee.
He added, “Another message that I have shared since I became president was I want us as a College to dream big dreams. Let’s not waste time on the little stuff. What can we do that’s going to have a profound and lasting impact?”
All members of the Cypress College campus and extended community are invited to walk through the gallery and learn the survivors’ stories.
As the 2016-2017 academic year moves into its final weeks, Cypress College gathered to give thanks to employees for their service to the campus and, most importantly, to our students. Among the gratitude expressed at the annual End of the Year Luau was recognition of employees who have or are retiring during the 2016-2017 year. We thank them and offer them our best wishes in retirement.
Raul Alvarez Raul Alvarez has served as Executive Director of the Cypress College Foundation for the past 16 years. During his tenure Foundation assets grew from $500,000 to over $3 million, and student scholarship awards increased from $125,000 per year to nearly $400,000 annually. Prior to coming to Cypress, Raul worked for the YMCA and was the founding Executive Director of the East Los Angeles Y, developing a $3 million facility in a community that previously was without YMCA services. Raul and his wife, Nan, have five children.
Karen Cant Karen Cant has served as Cypress College’s Vice President of Administrative Services for 10 years, and was the Director of Budget and Finance for almost eight years prior to that. She is known for her guardianship of the campus budget, a critical component of keeping the College operating during lean budget years. Likewise, as the person responsible for the physical infrastructure of the campus, she provided leadership for capital projects which have resulted in significant cost savings from a reduction of energy and water usage. In addition to Maintenance and Operations, other areas in her line of reporting include Academic Computing, Bookstore, Business and Auxiliary Services, Campus Accounting, Campus Safety, Facilities Use and Rentals, Financial and Business Support Services, Grant Support Services, Personnel, Physical Plant and Facilities, and the Faculty and Staff Service Center. Prior to coming to Cypress College, Cant worked in the Coast district, including in finance positions at Golden West College and KOCE TV. Outside of campus, she has served on the board of directors for the SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. In retirement, she plans to travel.
Nina DeMarkey Prior to her employment with NOCCCD, Nina DeMarkey spent almost 20 years working for corporate America as a Human Resources Director. She has a Masters Degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Higher Education & Career Counseling from Chapman University, and received her B.A. degree in Psychology from Northeastern Illinois University. Nina has worked in the District for almost 22 years — working at all three instructional entities. She began at Fullerton College where she taught classes in resume writing, interviewing and job search techniques, and advised students in these areas. She then worked for the School of Continuing Education in Digital Media Programs and Grants, and she also did adjunct counseling for SCE and Cypress College. Nina began her current position as the Dean of Social Sciences at Cypress College in July 2004. She also manages the Teacher Preparation and Honors Programs. In retirement, Nina hopes to spend more time with her husband, cats, friends, and with her family in North Carolina. You might even see Nina and Bernie traveling around the U.S. in their red Corvette convertible. She also plans to do volunteer work with her church and provide career counseling to women in domestic abuse shelters.
Steven Donley Completing his 41st year with the NOCCCD, Steve Donley has been at Cypress College since 1995. Prior to that, while also working in the private sector, he was an adjunct instructor at Fullerton College since 1976. At Cypress, he has held the positions of full-time Professor, Dean of Career Technical Education & Economic Development, Interim Dean of Business & CIS, and Interim Vice President, Educational Programs and Student Services. His current responsibilities include oversight of the CTE Division, consisting of five academic departments; coordination the College’s Economic and Workforce Development initiatives, administration the College’s state and federal grants, and facilitation of the California Community College System Office’s degree and certificate program approvals. He previously also had responsibility for Distance Education. He has taught courses in business, law, a variety of other management classes.
Bonnie Fast Bonnie Fast began working at the Cypress College Library on January 26, 1987. She worked as the Circulation night supervisor for many years before becoming a Library Assistant III. As the Library Assistant III, Bonnie was responsible for managing the entire technical services department of the library, which included the acquisition and cataloging of all library materials. Any book, magazine, journal, newspaper, DVD, or compact disc you find in the library, Bonnie played a part in adding it to the collection. During her 30-year career at Cypress College, Bonnie was involved in many campus committees including planning for the new library. Bonnie’s scrapbooking skills are top notch and many retirees have enjoyed receiving one of her prized scrapbooks as a farewell gift. Bonnie retired on April 10, 2017, and her future plans include relocating to Las Vegas, hitting the open road on her beloved Route 66, and visiting with friends and family.
Pat Ganer It is a challenge to cover Pat Ganer’s 46 year career at Cypress College. Actually two years should be added as she was a member of the first graduating class (and the first student to bring home a trophy, in Forensics of course). Along with contributing to the success of the Communication Studies Department, she served for two decades as Director of Forensics. Her other accomplishments include service as Curriculum Committee Chair, as Accreditation Chair, and three times as Academic Senate President. She was also president of the Western States Communication Association, American Forensic Association, Western Forensic Association, and California Community College Forensic Association, and she has been active in the National Communication Association. Locally she often speaks at League of Women Voters events and serves as a trustee for the Buena Park Library. Her extracurricular work was recognized by the College when she received the Charger Award. Dr. Ganer has indeed had quite an illustrious career. Her colleagues will miss her for her political insights, keen wit, and candor.
David Gibson David Gibson started his career here at Cypress College in 1985. He began as a custodian then worked as part of the floor crew and then moved on to larger equipment such as the Campus parking lot sweepers. David and his wife Donna, both retirees, from Cypress College are enjoying their retirement time together.
Carol Harvey Carol has served as team leader for several nursing courses in the program and has especially enjoyed working with the first-year students. She led the skills lab team for many years and integrated clinical simulation into the nursing curriculum. As Assistant Director, she collaborated with Dr. Fishman to help the department develop an outcome-tracking system and a mentor program, as well as with several successful accreditation visits from the Board of Registered Nursing and the National League for Nursing. Carol’s passion is orthopaedic nursing and she developed a comprehensive course to help students and RN’s from the community gain knowledge and skills in this specialty. She will continue to support orthopaedic nursing education in retirement as well as the health ministry program at her church in Santa Ana. She sings in her church choir and helps to lead the youth choir. She is a past recipient of both the Outstanding Faculty award and the Charger Award, presented in 2016 for her work here in the USA after hurricane Katrina, and for mission work in Kenya and Nicaragua. She continues to lead these efforts in collaboration with AMOS Health and Hope in Nicaragua and looks forward to returning there next year. Carol enjoys travel with her husband Stew and her son Nick, and she says that after her 22 years at Cypress, she will really miss the students and the amazing faculty and staff.
Robert Johnson Rob has been a mainstay of the Photography Department for over 30 years. Cypress College has definitely benefitted from his leadership, particularly in his tenure as Academic Senate President and his 15 years as Department Coordinator. Rob’s creativity has brought him national celebrity as a professional artist, which should not be too surprising since he began his career as a darkroom assistant to Ansel Adams. There is one unusual rumor about Rob — that he can catch trout with his bare hands. That should be a very handy skill in retirement. We will miss you Rob! The Photography Department will be out of focus without you.
Michael Kavanaugh Mike has a 35-year tenure with NOCCCD. He began February 2, 1982 as an hourly employee and became a permanent hire on June 30, 1983 as a Jr. Computer Operator. In 1986 he was promoted to a Lead Computer Operator position. In 1987 he became the Communications Specialist at District IS. In 1990 he was a Project Leader. In 2003 he became an IT Services Coordinator II. His last assignment was with Cypress College as the Manager, Systems Technology Services. In this position he led the “small but mighty” crew of computing support staff in developing the College’s Technology Plan which includes an annual computer replacement component. He also led the two-year effort of converting the campus to a License Plate Recognition system for parking permitting. Mike will be retiring June 2, 2017.
Kevin Luckey Kevin Luckey started with the NOCCCD at Fullerton College as a Groundskeeper in October 1996 and then transferred to Cypress College in December 2004. Since Kevin joined our Campus he has always dedicated himself to the grounds areas he manicured. Retirement for Kevin and his wife permit them continued, unlimited enjoyment of outdoor activities and nature.
Barbara Marshall Barbara Marshall has been a member and an active contributor to the English Department since 1985. In addition to the consistently excellent teaching she has provided for students over the years, she embraced new methodologies: she was one of the first to engage in online instruction, and her willingness to find new ways to contribute to student success has been evident most recently in her volunteering to teach “Fast-Track” courses, giving students an opportunity to complete English 60 and 100 in just one semester. Dr. Marshall assumed other important roles as well: for many years she was United Faculty’s chief negotiator, and she was also active in the Community College and California Teachers associations. Her colleagues will miss her for friendliness and sense of humor and will wish her the best as she now has more time to engage in her equestrian hobbies.
Agnes Martinez Agnes “Aggie” Martinez worked in the Counseling Division for over two decades. She was the Counseling Administrative Assistant in the Business/CIS Division for several years before the Student Center was built in 2008. She was responsible for point-of-service in the Counseling Center and entered counselors’ schedule in SARS (scheduling software program). She was known as the SARS Administrator and was instrumental in working with the vendor when upgrades or technical assistant was required. Aggie was the calming staff member which students naturally gravitated towards due to her engaging smile and upbeat attitude. She has been deeply missed, but her colleagues are happy she is enjoying retirement.
Debra McPherson Debra McPherson became a full-time ESL instructor in 1999. Aside from being an excellent instructor, she played an important role in the success of her department, as it has been consistently recognized as being one of the most successful in California. She revised and created new curriculum, developed directed learning activities in the ESC, helped select recipients of the annual scholarship award, and served as department coordinator. Her broader campus contributions include membership on the Academic Senate as well as a number of committees. Her colleagues will miss her contributions, her great sense of humor, and her uncanny memory. In her retirement she will have more time for horse-riding, one of her favorite activities.
Barbara Meyer Barbara has been the Theatre Department’s greatest cheerleader. Her love for her craft and her passion for her students is clearly present. Typically covered in paint from her work on the latest production’s scenic elements, Barbara’s impish smile would work its way into the heart of the students. Barbara has probably single handedly created more theatre arts majors than any other faculty member in the department. Barbara helped support the creation of the Lively Arts Club which won the coveted Cypress College Associated Students Club of the Year award for two consecutive years. There will be a huge absence center stage without Barbara.
Jeanne Miller Before Joining the staff at Cypress College, Jeanne taught at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, the University of LaVerne, and Mt. San Antonio College. She gained accounting experience with KPMG for her Certified Public Accountant license and had her own accounting practice. She started at Cypress College in 1996 and has served on numerous committees. She was the Cypress College Distance Education Coordinator for seven years and has served as the Accounting Department Coordinator. Jeanne loves any activity that involves being outdoors. Her favorite outdoor place to be is anywhere near a large body of water, especially where her dogs can swim. She and her husband, as well as her daughter and family, will be re-locating to the Front Range of Colorado at the end of May.
Tien Nguyen Tien Nguyen started with Cypress College in 1997 as a custodian and spent his years diligently cleaning all areas of the Campus during the third shift when most of us are away. He spends his time enjoying retirement with his friends and family.
Mary Rothera Mary (Marianne) Rothera began working as the College’s Physical Science Laboratory Technician on September 1, 1977. For 40 years, she served SEM students wholeheartedly, with an amazing talent for creating innovated solution to problems she identified in our laboratory program. She also taught classes in the department, specifically a circuits class for which she developed laboratory experiments that helped expand our curriculum. In fact, Mary was the last person without a math or science degree to teach a course within the SEM division. Because of her background in the classroom, she always approached her duties with an instructor’s mindset. She continuously modified experimental setups to simplify them and help students obtain more-accurate results. She was constantly searching for classroom demonstrations to make physics more approachable from a conceptual level. Mary also assumed the role of shepherding adjunct instructors unfamiliar with campus experiments and repaired much of the department’s broken equipment. The Physical Science Department will miss her technical expertise, and the SEM Division will not be the same without her.
Cathy San Roman Cathy San Roman started as the Switchboard Operator/Receptionist at Cypress College and was known as “The Voice of Cypress College.” In or around 1988, Cathy came to the M & O Department where she stayed until retiring last year. The crew considered her the “Oracle” of M & O. She lives by her quote “Shoot from the hip, play it by ear and live the dream.” Cathy and her husband John, both recent retires from the NOCCCD, are definitely living the retirement dream.
John Sciacca John came to Cypress College after 32 years in university positions. At Northern Arizona University he traveled a lot, serving on federal grant review panels and national committees, and working on American Indian health projects; for years he had a Marriott Platinum member card, which is for those who spend at least 75 nights a year at a Marriott. At Cypress College a major goal was to be available to faculty members and others when needed and to respond promptly to all requests for assistance. As he finishes his ninth year here, he wants to recognize faculty, staff and managers for their sincere commitment to our students and their success. He is proud to have worked with such competent, devoted and hardworking colleagues and for such a fine College. In retirement he plans to volunteer at a non-profit agency and return to writing, collecting books and records, singing in a barbershop quartet, and reciting Cowboy poetry. A key goal is to get back into good physical shape and to spend more time riding both his mountain bike and motorcycle, and with yoga, kayaking, running and cooking.
Robert Simpson Dr. Bob Simpson became Cypress College’s 11th president in July 2012. He is a proud product of California’s public education systems, something that has fostered his deep devotion to our students. He has been involved with community college education for 30 years, starting as a classroom teacher at Fullerton College for 12 years. He also served that college as an instructional dean for and additional 9 years before coming to Cypress College in 2007, as the Executive Vice President. He has focused upon issues of access, equity, student support, inclusiveness, and community outreach. He has also overseen the initial implementation of the Measure J bond projects — notably guiding the development of a new science, engineering, and mathematics building and a new veterans resource center. In his free time, Dr. Simpson enjoys outdoor sports, reading, playing the guitar, and fly fishing his favorite trout streams in south-central Idaho.
Gail Smead Gail retired on December 31, after almost 20 years with Cypress College as an Administrative Assistant II. In addition to the many tasks that Gail saw to as administrative assistant, she also played a part in establishing the Workforce Prep Center, as well as the CalWORKs and TRAC programs. She then continued to support those programs, as well as the CARE program, by providing budget support among other duties. Gail also served as the CSEA Treasurer for five years, was a member of several CSEA negotiating teams, served on PAC for four years, chaired the CSEA Hospitality and Entertainment Committee, served on the Foundation Golf Committee, and the Guardian Scholars Advisory Board. With so many accomplishments and achievements under her belt, it is easy to see why her colleagues have stated that Gail could never be replaced, and will be missed dearly. Now retired, Gail is spending more time with her husband and sisters, and traveling to her river vacation home as well as visiting Disneyland more often. Most importantly, Gail will be getting a new puppy in June and has already given him the name Huckleberry.
Shirley Smith Shirley Smith began working at Cypress College in May 2001. She was the first Director of Campus Safety when the Cypress College began 24 hour and 7 day a week Campus Safety staffing. During her tenure she hired most of the staff who are supporting the operation today. Shirley retired after 16 years with Cypress on January 17, 2017.
Judith Swytak Judy is a caring and energetic nursing instructor. She has served as team leader for nursing courses and taught elective courses in addition to her regular load. She has tirelessly worked with nursing students to improve their confidence and communication skills and is beloved by our students for her caring, positive, but no nonsense approach to learning and providing person-centered nursing care. Each year the Health Science Division supports Interval House, a shelter for battered women and their children and each year Judy makes colorful pillowcases from her collection of fabric so that each child has a personal holiday possession. Judy also volunteers at Mary’s Kitchen and is active in her church and community. In retirement she plans to travel with her partner in life, Steve Swytak, spend time with family, including her son and two daughters, and continue her hobby as an expert quilter.
Cypress College faculty and staff will celebrate the end of the school year, and recognize retiring colleagues and coworkers receiving service pins at a luau in the Theater Lobby Wednesday, May 3. There are 26 employees retiring this year and 65 employees being recognized for their years of service at the College.
Raul Alvarez, Foundation/Community Relations
Karen Cant, Administrative Services
Nina DeMarkey, Social Sciences
Steven Donley, CTE/Economic Development/Grants
Bonnie Fast, Library
Pat Ganer, LA/Communications
David Gibson, Physical Plant / M&O
Carol Harvey, Health Science/Nursing
Robert Johnson, Fine Arts/Photography
Michael Kavanaugh, Systems Technology Services
Velia Lawson, Counseling
Kevin Luckey, Physical Plant / M&O
Barbara Marshall, LA/English
Agnes Martinez, Counseling
Debra McPherson, LA/ESL
Barbara Meyer, Fine Arts/Theater
Jeanne Miller, Business&CIS/Accounting
Tien Nguyen, Physical Plant / M&O
Mary Rothera, SEM
Cathy San Roman, Physical Plant / M&O
John Sciacca, Health Sciences
Robert Simpson, Administration
Gail Smead, SSS/CARE-CalWORKS
Shirley Smith, Campus Safety
Judith Swytak, Health Science/Nursing
David Wassenaar, Business/CIS
Sharon Bataran, Health Center
Yadira Cazales, Production Center
Adam Eckenrode, Mathematics
Marla McBride, Health Center
Charles Rogers, Dramatic Arts
Ann Sheridan-Solis, Accounting
Nadia Wallace, Fine Arts Office
Marredda Williams, Nursing
Julie Angevine, Science, Engineering & Math Office
The number of women in California elected office has remained stagnant or decreased over the last few election cycles. In an effort to inspire and engage the next generation of women leaders, the North Orange County Community College District hosted the Women in Politics Symposium at the Fullerton Community Center Friday, April 28.
The event, organized in partnership with California Women Lead, a nonpartisan association of women encouraging greater female participation in government leadership roles, and the Orange County Legislative Task Force, gathered about 100 Orange County students, education workers, and political leaders for discussions on topics like entering California politics as a woman, what it’s like being an appointed government official, and how to get women more engaged in politics and becoming leaders in elected and appointed office.
Three panels of women leaders spoke about different government roles and aspects of political life, answering questions from moderators and also taking questions from attendees.
Jeanette Vazquez, a member of the Fullerton School Board and former Cypress College Associated Students president, participated in the first panel of the day. She said she’s proud of the NOCCCD for its role in hosting and helping to organize the symposium.
“I remember, as a community college student myself, when I was thinking about what life in public service would be like and seeing it as a possibility, it was definitely all about me trying to figure it out on my own,” she said. “I think that this is really important for the District and other community colleges to have for students early on as they’re starting to think about public service because they already have that seed there. What this does is it gives them those tools and that push without shying them away from the field because of all the rhetoric that’s going on right now.”
Vazquez graduated from Cypress College in 2009 with an associate’s degree in liberal arts. She transferred to the University of California, Berkeley where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minor in public policy. She earned her teaching credential and master’s degree in education from Loyola Marymount University. Vazquez is now a sixth grade teacher in North Orange County.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, who represents District 65, which includes the NOCCCD, said she believes there’s more encouragement for and engagement with women to become involved in politics now, especially compared to about 15 years ago when she first ran for elected office.
The former public school teacher and huge supporter of education added, “I think it’s really a vital part of women choosing to run when they can be educated about not only what it takes to run and when, but what the job’s actually like and actually hear from local and state leaders that are doing the job.”
Speakers also provided words of wisdom and suggestions for becoming involved in public service and governance.
Mona Pasquil, appointment secretary in California Gov. Jerry Brown’s office, told the audience that one of the most valuable things is to find a mentor and advised everyone to “be prepared to step up at any time to think about how you want to lead your community, your state, your country, this world.”
Former California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez added that you can choose to be a leader, no matter the role you have.
“Everybody has a comfort level, and at any point, a woman can be a leader,” she said. “We can all be leaders. Whether we’re in politics or not, we must be and take that responsibility of being leaders in our communities.”
Other featured speakers and panelists included:
Barbara Bagneris, Orange County Fair Board vice chairwoman
Lisa Bartlett, Orange County supervisor
Alicia Berhow, Accountancy Board chairwoman
Cyd Brandvein, State Board of Optometry member
Letitia Clark, City of Tustin councilmember
April Lopez, State Council on Developmental Disabilities member
Fiona Ma, State Board of Equalization member
Rachel Michelin, chief executive officer of California Women Lead
Loretta Sanchez, former member of Congress
Jaqueline Rodarte, NOCCCD trustee
Betty Yee, California state controller
Imparting some last few empowering and inspiring words, Dr. Cheryl Marshall, chancellor of the NOCCCD, closed the symposium saying, “Your voice matters. Everybody here remember that. You matter, your voice matters. Find your passion. Go forward, lead, live your values. That’s what matters as we walk day by day through this life.”
Over 1,000 people gathered at the pond at Cypress College last year in honor of the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis. Those in attendance heard moving speeches by faculty as well as Holocaust survivor, Dr. Jacob Eisenbach.
On April 26, Cypress College will once again pay respect to Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Day of Remembrance. This year’s ceremony will once again promote acceptance, inclusion, diversity, and justice, regardless of one’s race, religion, color, or creed.
The tribute will feature moving words by this year’s keynote speaker, Holocaust survivor Zenon Neumark. Accompanying Mr. Neumark are the unforgettably touching images Photography Professor Clifford Lester captured of Holocaust survivors, as well as dance and musical performances, and the lighting of memorial candles. In honor of this day of remembrance, the candles will be lit by Holocaust survivors Neumark, Gerda Seifer, Piri Katz, Harry Lester, Sarah Schweitz, and Rick van Beynan.
Also speaking at the Yom HaShoah event are Seifer, Cypress College professors David Halahmy and Lester, Dr. Holli Levitski of Loyola Marymount University, and Cypress College President Dr. Bob Simpson. A prayer will be led by Rabbi Heidi Cohen of Temple Beth Sholom.
Biographies of Participating Holocaust Survivors and Offspring
Zenon Neumark, Holocaust Survivor
Holocaust survivor Zenon Neumark avoided the horrors of the death camps by escaping from a Nazi Labor Camp and then living and working in Warsaw and Vienna as a fugitive under a false identity as a Catholic Pole. To share his unique story, he authored a book, Hiding in the Open. “Such a life was not easy. Each day as a fugitive presented the risk of being discovered and killed,” Neumark says.
He credits his survival to some daring and some luck, but mostly, to the help he received from many righteous people: Poles, Jews, and even some Germans. “In occupied Europe, especially in Poland, anyone caught helping a Jew with lodging, food, or work could be killed on the spot,” says Neumark. Thus, he is forever grateful to those who risked their own lives to save him as well as thousands of others. He refers to them as the true heroes of the Holocaust.
Zenon is a quiet and gracious man who is very thankful for the many successes he has had in his life. In particular, he feels gratified not only for his own survival, but also for the opportunities he has had to help others survive.
Gerda Seifer, Holocaust Survivor
Gerda Krebs-Seifer was born in Przemysl, southeastern Poland. She was the only child of Henryk and Edyta Krebs. In 1940 her family moved to Lwow, to avoid being sent to Siberia. They lived under both German and Russian occupation. She spent several months in the Lwow Ghetto — six weeks hidden in a cellar — during a violent Akcjonen roundup in the summer of 1942. Seifer lost her mother during that roundup, while Gerda was hidden in the cellar. Seifer then moved in with a Catholic family, acting as their illegitimate daughter, by taking the birth certificate of that child, who died in infancy.
Out of about 40 relatives, there were only two survivors: a cousin four or five years older than herself, and Seifer.
After the war Seifer was lucky to go to England as a war orphan and join her relatives, who escaped in the nick of time from Munich. She later learned enough English to train and become a State Registered Nurse in 1950. She arrived in America in 1951, where she met her husband.
Harry Lester, Holocaust Survivor
Harry Lester entered the German governmental school system in 1933. In January the Nazi party had become the majority in the Reichstag Parliament and Hitler had been appointed chancellor by the president. To state that no anti-Semitism existed in Lester’s classroom would be false. The woman teacher, who proudly wore a Nazi party membership pin, took another Jewish boy and Lester and seated them apart from their classmates. During recesses and on their way to and from school, they were harassed, beaten, and sometimes cut.
Lester’s mother worked feverishly to obtain a transfer for him to a Jewish school, but it took about six months for that to be accomplished. “I’m sure no kid felt as relieved as I did, on the first day at a new school,” Lester says.
Lester’s next upcoming “moment in the sun” was going to be his Bar Mitzvah. He had started studying, learning the many chants and prayers. All difficult stuff for a pre-teen to grasp. However, he wanted to do it well. Relatives from all over Germany arrived the day prior. There were a total of fourteen. Jews were forbidden by then to stay in hotels so somehow his parents had to squeeze all visitors into their small apartment. Whoever was able to grab a blanket or bed sheet, and an unoccupied few inches on the floor, was considered fortunate.
Unfortunately, the synagogue where the ceremony was to be held was occupied by an SS cavalry unit. Unable to enter, a teary-eyed Lester went back to his parents’ home.
His real Bar Mitzvah occurred several months later. The rabbi, who was supposed to preside at the original event, also served as spiritual advisor to a Berlin Jewish Hospital, arranged for the ceremony to take place at the hospital’s chapel. Lester recited the prayers, even though he was unable to read that week’s Torah portion. Thus, with no relatives present other than his parents, and in front of a few people sporting various illnesses, he became an adult Jew.
Sarah B. Schweitz, Holocaust Survivor
Sarah B. Schweitz was born in Trikala, Greece in 1940 to Abraham and Alice Barouh. When the Italians invaded Greece, her father was drafted into the Army and sent to the Albanian Front. After a year the German Air Force came to Trikala and destroyed almost every building except the Temple and some very nice homes that they intended for their use. Schweitz’s childhood home was located next to the Temple, and it was spared. It was also occupied by the Germans.
Schweitz’s father was captured and was sent to a concentration camp in another town in Greece with his co-workers from the Agrarian Bank of Greece. Schweitz’s father was Vice President of the bank in Trikala.
On March 23, 1944, Abraham Barouh was released from the concentration camp and joined his family in Trikala. It was a happy reunion. Early the next morning, the Germans went to the Jewish Quarter in Trikala and captured everyone except those few who escaped. Schweitz’s family was part of those few, thanks to the kindness of a righteous gentile, George Kalogerometrou. Because of his courage and generosity, Schweitz’s family remained in hiding in the high mountains of Greece until the end of the war in 1945.
Schweitz later moved the U.S. and graduated from Ohio State with a degree in pharmacy. She is married and has three daughters. She has committed herself to working so that the memory and legacy of the precious human lives lost in the Holocaust will not be forgotten. She lectures to students as well as different organizations to help overcome intolerance and indifference through learning and remembrance.
Piri Katz, Holocaust Survivor
Piri Gross Katz was born November 18, 1927 in Tibiva, Czechoslovakia, a small town in the Carpathian Mountains. She was the seventh of 11 children, the daughter of Volf Hersh and Chaya Blima Gross. In 1943, at age 15, she was taken to the Munkatch ghetto, during Pesach, and later was in the camps of Auschwitz, Geislingen, and sent to Dachau, where she was liberated by the Americans in May 1945.
After the war she was in a Russian prison for having more than one passport in her possession, and later was in displaced persons camps in Germany for two years before coming to the United States to her sister Roselyn and brother Sydney in Detroit, Michigan in November 1949. She went to night school in Detroit to learn English, worked as a seamstress making drapes, and later met the love of her life, her husband, Dr. Milton Katz.
Following Milton’s death in 1968, Katz worked at getting more of her family to the U.S. She took classes here at Cypress College and ran a small retirement home with her sister in Los Angeles, all in an effort to put her children through college and graduate school.
Katz will be 90 years old this November, and she continues to speak to young people about the Holocaust, and hopes that children will appreciate freedom, and be tolerant of others regardless of their race or religious beliefs. She continues to go to synagogue, is a staunch supporter of the State of Israel, and is thankful and proud to be an American.
Clifford Lester, Photography Professor, Holocaust Survivor Photographer
Cypress College professor Clifford Lester, son of late Holocaust survivor Ursula Lowenbach Foster, began photographing Holocaust survivors over a decade ago. After the death of his mother – who lived in Amsterdam and is mentioned in Anne Frank’s diary – in 2004, Lester decided to show the survivors in a different light, letting their faces, as they are, tell their stories. The first survivor he ever photographed was Nathan Langer, founder of the Langer Juice Company.
He has since photographed many others, the resulting images not only connecting him to his mother, but also being the driving force behind the Yom HaShoah events at Cypress College.
Lester said of his photographs of Holocaust survivors, “These images take a look at the human spirit and the determination for survival. As we take a glimpse into their eyes, it is my wish that they emerge ‘victorious’ over the evil that befell their loved ones. We will ensure that their spirit will forever live on, if we maintain respect for our fellow man.”