Alice Gosak: Global Citizen

By Ron Levesque

Alice Gosak in Slovenia
Alice Gosak in Slovenia

The teaching career of Alice Gosak in English as a Second Language, spanning the years 1980 – 2006, gifted San Jose City College with an experienced multiculturalist, who was deeply sensitive to the experiences and needs of our immigrant students.  Growing up in a family with Polish and Slovenian roots exposed Alice to other languages and cultures, all in the Chicago area.  Around her undergraduate and graduate studies, she served in various countries, from three years in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, to a Fulbright lectureship for thirteen months in Yugoslavia, nine months in Barcelona, and several different periods in the 1980s in Egypt, where she and her late husband, Norm Gary, were married.  Alice retains a great deal of interest in these regions, especially in the people, and has continued to travel her entire life. In fact, now retired, she is about to visit relatives in Slovenia and friends in Novi Sad, Serbia.

At San Jose City College, Alice played a key role in expanding the ESL Program and making it the largest in the district at that time.  She and fellow-retiree Patricia Nguyen, developed flyers and reached out personally to the local immigrant community with great success.  For example, she still recalls having sent announcements to Korean churches and then seeing a number of Korean ministers in the ESL classes!  Alice says she met wonderful people in her classes; in fact, she is still in touch with students from her very first class.

Shortly after retirement, Alice became involved in the quest by retirees to form a retiree group.  In 2007 she joined George Forrester, Bill Jacobs, and Walter Soellner on the first board of the Faculty Association Retiree Chapter and served as secretary for two years.  She remains active in the group (now AFT 6157R) and frequently contributes to the newsletter.

Alice has been identified as a ”Doer” and honored by Mosaic America as a “Shero”.  Her retirement years bear out the extent of her service fully.  Numerous local organizations have been strengthened by her involvement.

Several years ago, she formed a group called Ladies Who Do Lunch. They cooked and served hot meals to unhoused women through the Women’s Gathering Place at the now-closed First Presbyterian Church on North 4th Street in San Jose.  Socializing with the women at the meals was an eye-opening experience for the Ladies Who Do Lunch as they could identify with them as their own family members and rejoice with them when they found permanent housing.

Since her retirement, Alice has been very active in the San Jose Woman’s Club.   At the club she greatly supports an activity group called Be a Dear and Donate a Brassiere.  This group collects new and gently-used bras, sports bras, and other women’s underwear to donate to women at risk and to foster adolescent girls.  The Ladies Who Do Lunch serve a luncheon at the club to marginalized women. These guests receive underwear, bags of swag, and information on social service organizations.

Alice also volunteers for the Preservation Action Council of San Jose, a nonprofit that is focused on preserving the unique architectural and cultural heritage of the city.  Her main involvement is with the annual yard sale, a huge event that can raise $7000.  She helps to set up, sell items, and break down afterwards.

Near and dear to Alice’s heart is refugee resettlement.  For five years, she has been a board member at Immanuel House Refugee Project.  This program supports unaccompanied male immigrants, assisting them with housing, employment, and education.  At times Alice has led a group to the campus of San Jose City College, especially during open house events. She says that San Jose City College has been ahead of the curve in enrolling refugee students in its non-credit ESL courses via Zoom, providing them with a loan of laptops and books. Also, Alice is active with Jewish Family Services, which is dedicated to bringing in immigrant families and helping them to get established in this culture.

Children's Reading Room in Harar, Ethiopia
Children’s Reading Room in Harar, Ethiopia

Alice’s proudest moment was the successful establishment of a children’s reading room in Harar, the Ethiopian town of her Peace Corps service.  Working with other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) after their service ended, she helped fund the “Reading Room” in an  elementary school and attended the grand opening in 2012.  Books are donated and students have access to them there.  For many years prior, Alice collected and shipped books to Ethiopia.  The program Ethiopia Reads has books translated into local languages.  Recently, Alice reports, a girl student organized a book club.  She says, ”The thing that touched me was seeing these girls in school.  In my day, they would have been illiterate and married off at 13 or 14.”

A crowd attends the celebration of the opening of the Children's Reading Room in Harar, Ethiopia (2012)
A crowd attends the celebration of the opening of the Children’s Reading Room in Harar, Ethiopia (2012)

In her free time, Alice greatly enjoys reading, taking OLLI courses, learning Slovenian via Zoom, watching the Warriors, and gardening. Her vegetable garden is quite productive.  She also has an extensive flower garden, featuring roses and bearded irises.  She is a guru for the iris, donating corms to all her friends.

A sampling of Alice's bearded irises
A sampling of Alice’s bearded irises

In her retirement, Alice has followed her heart to serve her community and those in need in San Jose and all the way to Ethiopia.  For many like Alice, retirement has been a gift, and she has taken full advantage.