Tribute paid college chief

UNIVERSAL CITY ? More than 500 people packed the Grand Ballroom at the Sheraton Universal on Saturday to pay tribute to Glendale Community College president and superintendent John Davitt, who is retiring from his post at the end of the month after 21 years.

"John has left behind not only touching the lives of generations of students ? but he left a tangible mark on the campus of Glendale Community College," Rep. Adam Schiff said.

The retirement dinner included speeches from Schiff, Assemblyman Dario Frommer, Glendale Mayor David Weaver, Burbank Mayor Todd Campbell and others. The Glendale College Concert Singers performed.

Davitt, who is known for his commanding voice and sardonic sense of humor, joined the Glendale College faculty in 1968 as the dean of student personnel services. He took over as acting president and superintendent in August 1985 before formally assuming the post in July 1986.

During his tenure, Davitt oversaw substantial expansion on the Glendale College campus, including the San Gabriel Building and library attachment, which added 100,000 square feet of space. At the time of the building's dedication in 1997, it was the largest single community college expansion project. In 1999, Davitt negotiated what was then the largest financial gift ever given to a community college ? a $1 million contribution for the Cimmarusti Science Center.

The Huntington Beach Independent twice listed Davitt as one of the top 103 most influential community members. Davitt was number one in 2003.

"I think you lend a great example for future generations, and the students have benefited from your tutelage," said Campbell, who graduated from Glendale Community College in 1989, moving on to Georgetown, USC and Yale University.

Speakers praised Davitt's graciousness and his fondness for lasting personal and professional relationships. Davitt took his turn at the podium to a standing ovation, choking back tears as he offered thanks and hope.

"As I told the faculty the other day, it is up to us to maintain the atmosphere of Glendale College," Davitt said. "When it's a happy place to work ? that translates into achievement for the students."

Davitt will retire as head of the college as the longest-seated community college president in the state of California on May 30 ? the same day he celebrates 50 years of marriage to his wife, Gael.

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