Mortuary Science Alum First in Line as Baccalaureate Application Opens

Steve Crawford was so determined to be the first applicant for Cypress College’s Funeral Service baccalaureate program, he flew to Southern California from the Bay Area a day early to hand in his completed application Monday.

“I’m very excited. I wanted to make sure that I was that person who was the first one in,” the alumnus said after he handed in his application. “I came down yesterday so I could be prepared, so I could be here, print all my stuff at eight o’clock, drive over here, and be done.”

Crawford graduated with an A.S. Mortuary Science degree in Fall 2014.

Applications for Cypress College’s first baccalaureate program opened Monday. The bachelor’s degree is part of a statewide pilot program signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2014 to offer four-year degrees at California community colleges. Under the pilot, these degrees do not compete with programs at UC or Cal State schools.

While a student, Crawford championed the program to the District Board of Trustees, helping to secure their support to submit the program to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office for consideration. Each district could only submit one program. Cypress’ Funeral Service proposal was up against Fullerton College’s proposal for a law enforcement supervision degree.

In January 2015, the CCCCO selected Cypress as one of 15 community colleges to participate in the pilot.

Crawford credits Cypress Mortuary Science faculty member Jolena Grande with making the program a reality.

“If not for her, the program wouldn’t have made it,” he said. “I’m sure I helped, but the credit really goes all to her. She went all out for this. It’s really her baby.”

Cypress’ Mortuary Science program is just one of two public programs in the state and the only one offering a four-year degree on the West Coast. Courses for the program start next fall.

Crawford said his interest in mortuary science started with a desire to land a job in a coroner’s office. One way to meet job requirements was a degree in mortuary science, and Cypress was his school of choice “because it’s ranked really highly just in the list of mortuary programs nationwide,” he said.

“I don’t know if I would be where I am within my own organization without the education from Cypress,” he added.

Crawford is currently completing an embalming apprenticeship working as a crematory manager for the Holy Angels Funeral and Cremation Center in East Bay. He hopes to finish up his professional licensing while completing the bachelor’s program.

He said he hopes that having a bachelor’s program in funeral services will help to start change the way the mortuary and funeral industry is viewed by the public.

“The funeral industry kind of gets a bad rap,” he said. “People think they’re basically used car salesmen for death, trying to upsell people…taking advantage of people when they’re grieving.

“Hopefully, through furthering the education process and really getting involved more in the professional organizations, we will change that outlook.”

‘Matriarch’ Pat Ganer to Retire

Dr. Ganer is the Longest-Serving Faculty and One of the College’s First Students


As an alumna of both USC and UCLA, the moniker “a person divided” accurately applies to Dr. Pat Ganer. Despite loyalties on both sides of that Southern California rivalry, there’s little doubt about which campus holds her heart: Cypress College.

She was standing at the campus flagpole on Day 1, September 12, 1966, as one of Cypress College’s very first students — student number 428, to be precise. Fifty years later she again stood at the flagpole; this time, as the matriarch of Cypress College, she emceed an anniversary event.

Dr. Ganer, a faculty member in Speech Communication at Cypress since 1971, will retire at the end of the academic year. At Cypress College, she spent 7 years as Chair of the Curriculum Committee, served four terms as President of the Academic Senate, chaired the Professional Growth and Development Committee, and was the first faculty Chair of the Accreditation Self-Study. She twice instructed in the semester-abroad program in both London and Madrid. For two decades, she directed the school’s speech teams, taking them to local, state, and national competitions.

Off campus, she served as President of both the American Forensics Association and the Western States Communication Association. She has taught consistently at California State University, Long Beach. Known, in part, for wearing her politics on her sleeve, Dr. Ganer has served as an analyst on presidential debates for the Los Angeles Times and MSNBC. One of her courses at Cal State Long Beach focuses on campaign-based communication. Another of her classes covers international speaking —  an area in which she also brings real-world experience, having presented at conferences in Japan, Dublin, Amsterdam, Sydney, and Sao Paolo.

In 2010, Dr. Ganer was dubbed the “Matriarch of Cypress College” after the retirement of colleague Donna Friess. In fact, Friess provided her with a crown to make the moment official. “I love the atmosphere at Cypress College,” Dr. Ganer said at the time. “It is a very collegiate environment. Everyone pulls together to make things work.”

She earned her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Southern California, her M.A. in Political Science, from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. in Communication, with an emphasis on Political Communication, from the University of Utah. She is an avid fan of the Utah Utes as well as the Anaheim Angels.




Attorney Wayne T. Kistner is 2016 Outstanding Alumnus


Wayne T. Kistner’s record as an advocate for his clients and the community is clear. For 25 years, he’s served as counsel for private, non-profit, and public entities with appearances in courtrooms across Southern California. He has extensive private and court-appointed experience in mediation, collaborative conflict resolution processes, group facilitation, and association/organizational planning.

But, it is a connection to service that provides meaning for Kistner, who attended Cypress College in its formative years and has served as a member of the adjunct faculty in Human Services since 1999.

“Life has a way of going full circle as I was one of the early students in the newly created Human Services Department in 1973,” he said. “Part of my involvement in that program resulted in the establishment of a peer counseling program on campus and a directory of social service agencies, which would later serve as field work opportunities for students in the program.”

After completing his general education at Cypress College in Sociology and Human Services in 1975, Kistner transferred to California State University, Long Beach. There, he was President of the Law Society and graduated with his bachelor’s in 1978 as a member of the President’s Honor List. Kistner then enrolled at Southwestern University School of Law, completing his juris doctor in 1981.

“As Cypress College is approaching its 50th anniversary, I am proud to be among the ranks of the many outstanding alumni who have been enriched by Cypress College,” he said.


Cypress College is recognized as one of California’s top community colleges. Recent accolades include:

– #1 in the U.S. | Top Toyota T-TEN Auto-Tech Program in the Nation.

– #2 in C.A. | Top Two ESL & Basic Skills English Programs in California.

– #3 in C.A. | Ranked as a Top Three California Community College (

– #3 in the Region | Ranked Top Three in Greater Los Angeles & Orange County for Student Transfer and Graduation Rates (

– 15 of 113 | California Community Colleges piloting a Bachelor’s Degree (Mortuary Science)

– #17 in the U.S. | National Ranking on MTV-U’s website “Rate-My-Professor”

– Top National Licensure Exam Pass Rates | Perfect state licensure pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Hygiene, Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Abdomen; Diagnostic Medical Sonography (OB/Gyn); Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Physics; and Mortuary Science: Sciences. 90+% state licensure exam pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Assisting; Mortuary Science (Arts); Radiology Technology. And 85%+ state licensure rates for students in: Health Information Technology; Nursing; and Psychiatric Technology.

– 2/3ds of the Class of 2015 qualified for transfer to a UC or CSU institution.

– 76 Orange Empire Athletics Conference Titles

– 25 California Community College Athletic Association State Championship Titles

Cypress Puente @ UC Berkeley

Cypress College Puente Program visits UC Berkeley, March 2016.
Cypress College Puente Program visits UC Berkeley, March 2016.

With a 100% retention rate and a transfer rate of nearly 70%, the Puente Project at Cypress College is one of the strongest, most successful programs on campus.

Open to all underserved minority students, Puente helps those from low-income, underrepresented communities transfer to and graduate from four-year colleges and universities. At the start of each academic year, a cohort of 30-some students embark on an intensive year-long curriculum in which they are brought up to speed in college-level writing, given access to cultural events and university trips, paired with a professional mentor and imbued with the infectious Sí, se puede Puente spirit – Yes, you can accomplish what you set out to achieve. Through this process of academic growth and camaraderie they become Puentistas – poised to successfully move on to the next steps in their educational and personal paths.

For some of our Puentistas that next step is UC Berkeley – one of the nation’s premier public research universities. Our Puente students transfer to and succeed at Cal in impressive fashion, and then move on to successful career and life paths.

Two examples are Jesus Madrigal and Gaby Estella Garcia, both of whom our current crew of Puentistas had the pleasure of meeting on a recent Northern University Trip in March. Jesus and Gaby are 2013 Cypress/Puente alums and 2015 UC Berkeley graduates. Jesus transferred to Cal as a junior after completing his general education course requirements at Cypress. He is currently a Ph.D. Russian Literature candidate at Berkley. When he finishes his dissertation (in many years to come!), he plans to teach on the East Coast, preferably in New York (he was also accepted for a Ph.D. program at Columbia University). Gaby also graduated from Cal last year and is now working as a marketing contractor for Google in the Bay area.

2013 Cypress College / Puente alums and 2015 UC Berkeley graduates.
2013 Cypress College / Puente alums and 2015 UC Berkeley graduates.

Gaby and Jesus’ stories are especially notable in that they both started at Cypress as remedial students. They credit Puente as having transformed their lives – getting them through English 60 and 100 and then on to subsequent academic success. They fully embraced the Sí, Se Puede ethos – they worked hard and smart, sought out great professors and guidance, set lofty goals… and transferred with distinction.

Cypress has thousands of similar student stories: individuals who started at the base of the academic tier and are now doctors, lawyers, industry creatives, professors, community leaders, the list goes on. By improving individual lives, Puente –and many other academic and cultural programs at Cypress – contributes to positive local change.

Whether you’re enrolled in a program similar to Puente or not, UC Berkeley is a viable option for Cypress College/California Community College (CCC) students. Currently, Cal accepts approximately 25 percent of CCC transfers. This figure is set to increase as UC Berkeley plans to admit greater percentages of transfer students in coming years. As a whole, transfer students have clearly demonstrated their academic value to the UC’s. In fact, nearly 30% of all UC graduates started at a California community college, and nearly half of all UC graduates in the STEM fields are California Community College transfer students.

UC Berkeley Office of Admission Transfer Panel, March 2016.
UC Berkeley Office of Admissions Transfer Panel, March 2016.

So how to transfer to Cal? Some advice from the Office of Admissions and student panel that spoke to our Cypress Puente group: 1) Fill out your applications to a tee – don’t miss deadlines, signatures or documents; 2) Ensure that your personal statement details your unique, compelling narrative – how have your experiences shaped you to be a more resilient person? How will you contribute to the Cal community? Candidates that can show how they’ve overcome diversity, demonstrate that they are broad-minded thinkers with life experiences in-tow – these are individuals that the Office of Admissions may be more apt to recognize as contributors to the intellectual vibrancy and diversity of the institution; 3) Don’t be afraid of a few “W’s” on your transcript, but definitely explain a whole slew of them by attaching an addendum to your application; 4) Recommendation letters from professors who know you well is, of course, a plus; 5) While the Admissions Office doesn’t discard any application based on GPA (they read them all!), aim for at least a 3.0 (the higher the better).

In addition to this Cal visit, Puente students spent the remaining two days of their Northern Trip touring other top-notch transfer options, including: Stanford, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz. Students came away with a feel for each campus, and first-hand insight into the fact that transferring is definitely doable. Sí, se puede!

For a photo tour of our Puente visit to Cal, access the full gallery posted on Facebook. Also, the Transfer Center offers numerous transfer tours throughout the year. These are free to all Cypress students. For upcoming tours and additional information access the Cypress College Transfer Center page.


Cypress College is recognized as one of California’s top community colleges. Recent 2015-16 accolades include:

– #1 in the U.S. | Top Toyota T-TEN Auto-Tech Program in the Nation.

– #2 in C.A. | Top Two ESL & Basic Skills English Programs in California.

– #3 in C.A. | Ranked as a Top Three California Community College (

– #3 in the Region | Ranked Top Three in Greater Los Angeles & Orange County for Student Transfer and Graduation Rates (

– 15 of 113 | California Community Colleges piloting a Bachelor’s Degree (Mortuary Science)

– #17 in the U.S. | National Ranking on MTV-U’s website “Rate-My-Professor”

– Top National Licensure Exam Pass Rates | Perfect state licensure pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Hygiene, Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Abdomen; Diagnostic Medical Sonography (OB/Gyn); Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Physics; and Mortuary Science: Sciences. 90+% state licensure exam pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Assisting; Mortuary Science (Arts); Radiology Technology. And85%+ state licensure rates for students in: Health Information Technology; Nursing; and Psychiatric Technology.

– 2/3ds of the Class of 2015 qualified for transfer to a UC or CSU institution.

– 75 Orange Empire Athletics Conference Titles

– 25 California Community College Athletic Association State Championship Titles


#CypressCollege #PuenteProgram #StudentSuccess #Transfer #CalCommColleges


OC Weekly Spotlights Cypress Culinary Alum

Cypress College alumni go on to great careers in a range of fields, and OC Weekly recently featured one of those success stories- Spencer Kim, an alumnus of the Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary Arts Program. Spencer has a restaurant, Spencer’s Bistro, in Buena Park, and the Weekly spoke with him about food, cooking, and his background.

Spencers_Bistro_Kim1-thumb-550x367(Photo Credit: OC Weekly/Brian Feinzimer)

Spencer credits the program at Cypress for helping him break into the industry:

…I am glad I went there because if it wasn’t for the support and recommendation from the dean, Mike Bird, I wouldn’t have ended up at Roy’s, the place where I refined my skills tremendously.

Spencer’s success demonstrates the quality of the Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary Arts Program. The program is hands-on, with Culinary students managing and operating the full-service Bistro Café. Many alums go on to open their own restaurants, transfer to the nation’s best four-year institutions, and pursue management careers in hotels, resorts, clubs, and tourism operations. Culinary product development and special events/meeting planning are also popular career tracks for HRC alums.

Read Part One of the interview here, and Part Two here.

Spencer’s Bistro is located at 6084 Orangethorpe Ave, Buena Park. For more info on the restaurant, check out their website and Yelp page.

Congratulations, Spencer, and best wishes in your culinary endeavors!




48th Commencement: Live Broadcast Scheduled


A live broadcast of Cypress College’s 48th Commencement will be available on the website and via the USTREAM web service. The graduation ceremony takes place starting at 6 p.m.on Friday, May 22, 2015.

Cypress College’s USTREAM channel can be accessed directly at: The video can also be streamed from the player below.


Recorded Video from the Live Broadcast:

Part 1:

Stream without ads!

Part 2:

Stream without ads!

OC Weekly: ‘Stick a Fork in it’ Profiles Alum Gio Bolivar

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 8.06.01 AM

The May 18, 2015 edition of OC Weekly features Culinary Arts alumnus Gio Bolivar of Dory Deli in Newport Beach. In the piece, authored by OC Weekly’s Anne Marie Panoringan, Bolivar discusses, food, the culinary industry, and his educational preparation to go into the field.

From Panoringan’s column:

Where did you attend culinary school? And did you learn anything that you might not have been taught if you didn’t attend?
I attended Cypress College; they have an amazing culinary program headed by Chef Jeremy Peters and Lisa Clark. I feel that culinary school really got me ready for a life in the kitchen and put me on the right path for the future.

The full piece is available at:

48th Commencement: Navy Captain Russ Bird is 2015 Outstanding Alumnus

Russ Bird


Retired United States Navy Captain Russ Bird has been selected as Cypress College’s Outstanding Alumnus Award for 2015. The honor is presented on behalf of the College by the Cypress College Foundation. Capt. Bird will be recognized during the campus’ 48th Commencement on Friday, May 22. The ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. in the Gateway Plaza.

Navy Captain Russ Bird’s longtime dream of becoming a pilot took flight at Cypress College. After a brief stint at a neighboring campus, he enrolled in 1977 at Cypress College — where he would earn accolades aplenty for his flying. It was a notable stop on what would result in a career as a Naval Aviator, in which he accumulated more than 4,500 military flight hours (including over 2700 in the F/A-18 Hornet), 100 combat hours and 650 carrier arrested landings.

During his 2 years at Cypress College, Capt. Bird took aviation courses and was an active member of the Cypress College flying team. He also helped vault the Cypress College flying team to national recognition. During the 1978 Regional Pacific Intercollegiate Flying Association (PCIFA) flying competition, he received six individual flight event awards. His flying prowess contributed to a second-place overall team finish and a first place standing among the community college teams. At that year’s National Intercollegiate Flying Association competition, he received five individual awards and was named the number three collegiate pilot in the United States. His performance boosted the team’s national ranking to seventh overall and first in the nation for the community college category.

He transferred to San Jose State University, where he joined the flying team. In the 1979 National Intercollegiate Flying Association competition, Capt. Bird was awarded the prestigious award as the top male pilot and top instrument pilot among college aviation students in the nation. He graduated from San Jose State with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical Operations in 1980. During his collegiate years, Capt. Bird amassed over 1,500 civilian flight hours and obtained his commercial, multi-engine, instrument and flight instructor ratings. After graduation, he entered the Navy in January 1981 as an Aviation Officer Candidate and was commissioned later in 1981. He graduated from primary flight training number one in his class, and was selected for jet training. In 1982, he received the coveted “Wings of Gold” recognition — again as the top student in his class. He was selected to be the first newly-winged aviator to fly the F/A-18 Hornet.

His deployments came aboard the USS Constellation, the USS Nimitz, and USS Abraham Lincoln — serving deployments over Iraq in “Operation Desert Storm” and “Operation Southern Watch,” and over Somalia in “Operation Continued Hope.” Capt. Bird graduated from the Army Command and General Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, which marked the start of a long list of leadership positions between 1995 and his retirement in 2008. Capt. Bird’s personal awards during 27-plus years of honorable service include the Legion of Merit, Navy Meritorious Service Medal, with two gold stars, Strike Flight Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, with 3 gold stars, Navy Achievement Medal, with one gold star, and various unit, Service and Theatre awards.

Capt. Bird dedicates much of his time raising money to support college scholarships through the Tailhook Association, Rocky Mountain Tailhookers Chapter. He also volunteers with local mountain bike clubs in the perseveration of mountain bike trails in his community. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with his wife Christina. He has three children, Scott, Amy and Courtney.


‘elumni’ Association Launched in Advance of 50th Anniversary

Cypress College has started a free "elumni association" as the 50th anniversary approaches.
Cypress College has started a free “elumni association” as the 50th anniversary approaches.


As the 50th anniversary of Cypress College approaches, we are pleased to announce the official formation of our free “elumni association.” Our goal is to reconnect with our students in advance of a festive anniversary celebration.

For starters, we’ll be sharing some old photographs and asking you to share the memories they trigger — in the style of “You know you went to Cypress College when …”

Feel free to post your own photos on the Facebook page.

Baseball Coach Pickler’s Summer Team Wins Cape Cod Championship

Cypress College baseball coach Scott Pickler
Cypress College baseball coach Scott Pickler
Scott Pickler

Head Baseball Coach Scott Pickler led his Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox to another Cape Cod Baseball League title in mid August. Pickler coaches in the elite league during the summer, and has now led the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox to six Cape Cod League Championship appearances and has captured four titles in the past 10 seasons (2004, 2006, 2007, and 2014).

The Cape Cod League features some of the nations most elite and competitive Division I baseball players from around the country. Athletes from powerhouse baseball programs such as UCLA, LSU, Tennessee, Missouri, U.C. Santa Barbara and Cal State Fullerton among others, competed for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox this season.

Cypress College Assistant Coach Brian Resnick also coached alongside Pickler this summer.

Pickler is headed into his 30th season as the head coach for the Cypress Chargers baseball program. He has led Cypress to five State Championships, seven Orange Empire Conference Championships and has helped more than 200 student-athletes receive scholarships.

More than 120 of his former players have been selected in the Major League Baseball draft — with 18 of those former Chargers reaching the Major League, including eight who are currently active.