Pierce College president announces resignation
By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
July 21, 2009 -- WOODLAND HILLS - The Pierce College president who has boosted faculty, bolstered attendance and led a $200 million campus makeover announced Monday he will step down to care for his ailing adult son.
In an emotional resignation, President Robert Garber said he would leave Aug. 1 after serving the award-winning community college for 23 years.
<<Robert Garber, President of Pierce College
"All of these things - the awards, the building, the enrollment, it's never been about me," said Garber, 61, his voice breaking. "It's about the whole college community.
"It's been an amazing experience - and I leave extremely reluctantly. But the circumstances in my life and in my family trump anything that goes on in this work."
Garber, who was hired in February 2006 to replace Thomas Oliver as president, has been credited with fundamentally transforming the Woodland Hills campus.
Under his watch, Pierce College embarked on a voter-initiated capital improvement program that included a new child development center, student services and science buildings.
He also supervised the construction of new faculty offices, a campus mall, roadway and parking improvements and a state-of-the art heating and cooling system.
In addition, Garber hired two vice presidents and 80 full-time faculty members while keeping Pierce College in the black as other community colleges struggled to balance their budgets.
The result: college attendance increased 41 percent, from 17,000 to 24,000
"It's like changing a flat tire while driving down the street," Garber said. "It's been an interesting challenge. I've thoroughly loved (it)."
College administrators and business leaders were shocked to learn of his departure. No replacement has been named.
"We're all quite stunned," said Doreen Clay, marketing manager for Pierce College. "We had no warning. It came out of the cornfield."
In a letter to the Pierce College Community, Garber
said that his 23-year-old son Jesse had been diagnosed with acute liver failure stemming from a reaction to prescription medication for an unnamed illness.
He said his son, on the waiting list for a liver transplant, needs full-time care and monitoring throughout his recovery.
"Given the daily demands and unknown duration of his care and treatment, it has become clear that I can't possibly support Jesse and, at the same time, maintain the level of engagement that is necessary for me to serve Pierce as president," Garber wrote.
"It has been the the highlight of my career to serve as Pierce's president for the past 3 1/2 years, and I am truly distraught about leaving at this point in this way."
Garber, a native of Seattle, began at Pierce College in 1976 as a student counselor and rose to dean of student services. In 1996, he left to serve as an administrator at San Diego Miramar College before returning to Pierce as president in 2005.
On his first day at Pierce College, he witnessed students giving artificial insemination to cows. Nearly a decade later, he rode an elephant across campus.
In what could be a career motto, he said: "It's definitely better to be part of the solution, than part of the problem."
Under Garber's tenure, Pierce College received lifetime service awards from the Valley Industry & Commerce Association and the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley.
"He loves Pierce College and has worked hard for the community, to transform that college into a shining beacon of education and green technology," said VICA President Stuart Waldman. "It's a tragic loss."
"Really really really heartbroken to see him leave," added Bruce Ackerman, president and CEO of the alliance. "He was doing such a fantastic job for Pierce.
"My heart goes out to him. I can't believe what he's going through personally. Tough one. Really tough."
BREAKING NEWS: Garber Leaves Pierce
Pierce College President Garber is retiring
Anibal Ortiz/Pierce College Roundup
Monday, July 20, 2009 -- Pierce College President Robert Garber announced August 1 to be his last day as president today due to family complications in a letter to the Pierce Community.
In his letter, Garber explained that his younger son Jesse has been diagnosed with acute liver failure (ALF), a condition that, according to emedicine, normally targets younger people and weakens liver functions. His son is now on the waiting list for a liver transplant.
Garber has been president at Pierce for more than three years and has worked as part of the Pierce community for more than 23 years.
Garber will leave his position at Pierce in order to take care of his son saying,
“I am truly distraught about leaving at this point in this way. I hope all of you will know how painful it is for me to give up this position and will understand how it would be even more disturbing for me to stay and not do my best for either Jesse or Pierce.”