Gerald H. Strelitz, PhD, died on February 14, 2018, from congestive heart failure. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Karen Strelitz, their two daughters, Beth Strelitz and Serena Alaily, and three grandchildren, Kate, Maddie, and Isis Alaily. Jerry, as he was known to all, was 87, born on Dec. 11, 1930, in Philadelphia, Pa, where he graduated from high school and then attended Temple University where he earned a B.A. in General Humanities, and two M.A. degrees, one in history and one in education administration. Jerry then traveled across the country to Los Angeles where he earned his PhD in education administration at USC. Following his graduation from USC, he accepted a job at Rio Hondo College as Dean of the Evening Division until he was offered the position of Associate Superintendent at San Jose City College in 1967. He remained at SJCC until 1975 when EVC opened, and he was appointed as the first president. He continued in that position until he retired in 1990. After enjoying a couple of months of retirement, the West Valley / Mission CCD enticed Jerry to return for 6 months as Interim Chancellor, a position that lasted through the entire 90/91 academic year.
Of his many accomplishments, Jerry will be remembered most, by those of us who helped start EVC, for his exemplary leadership that oversaw a startup enterprise unrivaled for its collegial and warm-hearted qualities, all modeled by Jerry, himself. He knew, for example, the name of every employee in the college, no matter what his or her role might have been–he generally knew the names of their family members as well. In addition to knowing every employee’s name, he also sent everyone a card on his or her birthday. He also sent gifts and cards to recognize family events like births and graduations. On most mornings, Jerry could be found at a center point on campus, near the fountain, conducting his “office hour” where a passer-by would be reminded, by Jerry’s presence, to stop and share whatever was on his or her mind—or to simply say hello. Another memorable example of the “Jerry touch” was that he assigned every employee, no matter what his or her job might be, to serve on at least one committee. As a result, everyone got to better know at least some of the others on campus, and for all of us to discover that everyone’s opinion was valuable. He also personally “invited” every faculty member to attend graduation for the sense of unity that resulted. Most importantly, for good or bad, he wanted the organization of the college to be developed by us, the users, not just by a few administrators. Members of the Board of Trustees and district administrators often challenged our college decisions, but Jerry was a strong and able defender of “our” way. He left us all with the feeling that he “had our back”—without his complaining about the battle scars he received in the process. The small details to which he attended were too numerous to list here as they would fill a book that should probably be written. Jerry was a strong, smart, caring person with a great sense of humor and a warm, ready smile, a person whom I was proud to call my friend, and a person referred to by some as a “gentle giant.” May he rest in peace.
A memorial service was held on April 16, at 2:00 p.m., in the chapel at Santa Cruz Memorial.