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The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Former DVC Journalism Professor Dies at Age 80

Jean Dickinson, beloved professor and former advisor of The Inquirer, passed away in December 2023.
Photo Credit: East Bay Times

Jean Dickinson, a former Bay Area journalist, educator and intrepid hiker, died at age 80 on Dec. 10 2023, after a long illness. She was a longtime resident of Berkeley. After years as a high school teacher and then reporter in the Bay Area, Dickinson served for 16 years as a journalism faculty member and department chair at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, where she advised the student newspaper, The Inquirer.

Dickinson was born March 8, 1943 in Long Beach, California to parents Jessie (Barnes) and Robert Dickinson. After transferring to Stanford University and earning a B.A. in English to pursue education, she changed course and obtained a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.

She wrote for the local newspapers – including the Richmond Independent, Berkeley Gazette, and the Concord Transcript – before landing at the Contra Costa Times as an education writer. Her reporting included in-depth coverage of state legislative efforts to ban LGBTQ teachers and LGBTQ reference materials from public schools, for which she interviewed Sen. John Briggs, and stories about nationwide censorship efforts in schools, for which she won numerous awards. She wrote about the realities of domestic violence and about an effort by a local school board to limit student access to Ms. Magazine. The latter included an interview with Gloria Steinem.

After a stint as Public Information Officer for the Mt. Diablo School District following her reporting career, Dickinson merged her passions for education and journalism when she became a journalism instructor and faculty adviser for Diablo Valley College’s student newspaper, The Inquirer. Under her guidance from 1994 until retirement in 2010, both The Inquirer editorial staff and numerous individual students won excellence awards from regional and state press associations.

Outside of her robust careers in education and journalism, Dickinson was also a skilled and passionate outdoorswoman. She climbed to the top of Mount Whitney – the highest mountain in the contiguous United States – twice. She regularly backpacked and camped in the Eastern Sierra and the Pacific Northwest with her family, friends and often solo. In her later years, she and her partner traversed California, the Southwest, the Northwest, and British Columbia in her Bambi Airstream trailer. She is survived by her partner, Kathleen Sikora, her children, and grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be sent to any of the following charitable organizations:

  1. The Range of Light Group (part of the Sierra Club’s Toiyabe Chapter)
  2. F.A.I.R. (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)
  3. COLAGE (Children of Lesbians & Gays Everywhere) 
  4. Back to Earth’s W.I.L.D. Scholarship Fund

This obituary was originally published in the East Bay Times and has been lightly edited for clarity.

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    Donna SmithFeb 15, 2024 at 8:58 am

    Jean was a truly great teacher. She was a powerful motivator and opened new ways of thinking to her students. She helped create the “Inquirer” in its early days and inspired many to pursue successful careers in Journalism and Media. She was a friend to many at DVC and gave me a start here to teach in journalism. I will always remember her sneaky wit, her good humor, her profound dedication to her students, and her many kindnesses to me. You’ll be missed, Boss!