051717 ahc retirement celebration

Hancock College's retirees pose for a group photo during the Retirement and Recognition Celebration on May 17.

Shelly Allen grew up on Hancock College’s campus. She attended preschool there, spent summers at the pool and visited PCPA. She took accounting classes following high school, became a student employee and eventually became the college’s budget analyst.

On May 17, Allen and several other faculty and staff were awarded pins for their years of service to the college during the annual retirement and recognition celebration.

“It’s been great,” said Allen, a 30-year-employee, adding that she and her son make second- and third-generation Hancock students. “Everyone here is great, and I loved growing up here. I’m still not tired of coming to campus.”

While several faculty and staff received pins declaring their years of service to the college or recognition of achieving tenure, the highlight of the event was to honor and bid farewell to Hancock’s retirees, who contributed a combined 468 years of service to the college.

Various administrators took turns reading resolutions acknowledging the service and dedication of the retirees.

College deans, department heads and co-workers took time to craft the resolutions since they worked closely with the retirees for years. While some were references to inside jokes that everyone could laugh at, each of the resolutions brought forth the character of the retiree and exactly how much their contributions to the college meant to the people they worked with daily.

“Nancy protected and nurtured her staff like a proud lioness with her cubs,” read the resolution honoring the retirement of Nancy Meddings, Hancock’s outgoing academic dean who started as a librarian. “Nancy did what it takes to build staff camaraderie and inspire students even if it included visiting the college president dressed as a punk rocker.”

One resolution referenced the tireless effort of Suzanne Valery, who worked for the college for 12 years before her retirement in January as director of institutional grants.

“Copious amounts of chocolate often made the late night grant writing a bit more tolerable,” for Valery, who helped secure over $51 million for the college through 106 new grants and the renewal of 12 more.

For most, the celebration was bittersweet as attendees bid farewell to their co-workers, instructors and friends, reminisced about fond memories at Hancock and talked about the retirees’ future plans.

For Donald “D.K.” Philbin, that bittersweet feeling occurred last week during his final chemistry lecture.

“I had planned to give a short farewell to the class, telling them how much I enjoyed having them this semester and how much I will miss working with them,” Philbin explained. “I found myself unable to finish. The reality of finishing my teaching career caused me to be at a loss for words and I was barely able to say goodbye.”

He added, “The class was wonderful. They gave me a standing ovation, which is the best farewell I could have hoped for.”

Philbin joked about teaching the children of his former students now that he has been at Hancock for 36 years, and said his devotion to serving the students and his level of integrity have not wavered.

“As a teacher, you have the ability to really have a positive impact on the students you serve,” Philbin said. “It is such a joy to see your former students succeed. I remember an email I received last year that began: ‘Dear Professor Philbin, I hated your chemistry class!’ But he went on to express his appreciation because he was so well prepared for his work at the university. That is why I teach.”

For Bob Nichols, art and ceramics professor at Hancock, the constant and dynamic changes that have taken place throughout his 29 years in the Fine Arts Department are what kept him at Hancock for so long, including the newly constructed or renovated buildings, the conversion of one-story structures to two stories and the addition of numerous seating areas for students and staff.

“When I started teaching at (Hancock), I had no idea how long that I’d continue with teaching,” Nichols said. “Among my experiences has been the opportunity to create curriculum to serve students on a diverse array of topics. I am most appreciative of the college’s support for offering students these experiences.”

Also on May 17, the Admissions and Records office was named the college’s department of the year.

Over the last year, the staff processed about 4,000 applications for degrees and certificates, evaluated 2,300 college and high school transcripts and processed 7,000 transcripts.

The department was also recognized for some major projects, including class placement through multiple measures, the expansion of the concurrent enrollment program and the use of a new nationwide online application system.

Krista Chandler covers education in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast News. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KristasBeat.