From priest to president: Garcia named to interim spot


Ed Trujillo (left) and Robert Eustes welcome Peter Garcia to Diablo Valley College at his reception at the BFL Conference room. (Travis Jenkins/The Inquirer 2010)

Jonathan Roisman

DVC will have an experienced veteran at the reigns for the remainder of the school year in new Interim College President Peter Garcia.

Garcia, 58, took over October 1, replacing Judy Walters, who had been at the helm of the college for the past three years.

Garcia was president of Los Medanos College for eight years before taking the interim job at DVC and he will be returning to his post there on July 1, 2011.

Although he’s worked in college administration for nearly 25 years, Garcia said DVC would be a new challenge for him.

“What I expect and what I think I’ve been learning, kind of every minute of the last few days,” Garcia said, “is just kind of… the scope and scale of the college {that} make[s] communication, integration [and] messaging a real challenge.”

This is not the first interim position Garcia has ever held; in fact he has held four of them at LMC.

“Interim jobs were really good for me,” he said. “They were a chance for me to understand what a job was about, and it was a really good chance for the college and my colleagues to figure out how I did the job.”

Donna Floyd, interim vice president of student services, said Garcia is great at helping her look at her job and the challenges it comes with in new ways.

“He’ll help the college as a whole,” Floyd said.

Garcia said the people at DVC care about their responsibilities and that motivating them didn’t take a complex formula.

“[You] appreciate good work when you see it and get out of the way as often as possible so they can do that work,” he said.

Other administrators have faith in Garcia’s ability to run the school for the next few months.

Susan Lamb, vice president of instruction, said Garcia is a high-energy person who’s “very open and willing to discuss things.”

“He’ll come in with a wealth of knowledge, not just with the district, but with teaching and student services,” she said.

Garcia taught philosophy and critical thinking for six and a half years at LMC before entering administration there. He also coached the football team’s offensive line for two seasons.

“Hopefully my skills and experiences will be a good fit for the college,” Garcia said.

A native of Contra Costa County, Garcia graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1970 before attending Chico State College, where he received a B.A. in political science and public administration.

He later received a B.A. in philosophy at St. Albert’s College in Oakland and a master’s degree in theology at Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, a graduate school in Berkeley.

Garcia was a priest for three years before leaving to marry his wife and said philosophy has helped him with his different jobs over the years.

“There’s something about philosophy that [makes it] an organizer,” Garcia said. “It helps you really look at the world through prisms and perspective. It gives you a way to organize how you’re understanding life.”

Garcia said the college’s main focus is to get DVC fully accredited again, and that much of his focus would revolve around that while he’s interim president.

DVC was put on “show cause” in 2009 before being moved to “probation” earlier this year by the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, because of deficiencies they found in an evaluation in 2002.

“[The goal is] continuing that path of full accreditation, and what I think is rightfully the colleges, which is a really strong history and reputation as a college that does a great job educating students and preparing them for the future,” he said.

School finances will also be a top priority.

Garcia said the budget for the current academic year was mostly set, but he foresees cuts for 2011-12, “primarily because there will be increased costs, even if the budget’s the same and nothing else happens.”

He said discussions on possible cuts for next year could begin as early as next month.

Regardless of what happens after returns next year to LMC, Garcia said he’s confident in DVC’s future.

“People seem highly committed to an academic environment.”  


Contact Jonathan Roisman at [email protected]