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Oakley bids farewell to California Community Colleges in final board meeting

Eloy Ortiz Oakley bade farewell Monday to California’s community colleges during his final board of governors meeting as chancellor of the 116-college system.

“It’s sort of weird to say that this is my last board meeting in the California Community Colleges because I’ve been to a lot of board meetings. As many of you know, I’m a product of the California Community Colleges,” Oakley said as he addressed the board for the final time.

Oakley’s journey at the college system began more than 30 years ago when he enrolled at Golden West College in Huntington Beach. He said he was lucky enough to walk onto the campus, pick up a class schedule and “run into the right people.”

“Thirty some-odd years later, here I am. It’s been an amazing journey,” he said.

Oakley officially plans to step down from the college system on Aug. 1, when he will become president of the College Futures Foundation.

Oakley was named chancellor of the community college system in 2016, and he said Monday that “a lot has changed” since then. He said he never expected a global pandemic that would disrupt higher education. He also did not anticipate “a secretary of education who was hellbent on destroying public education,” seemingly referring to Betsy DeVos, the former U.S. secretary of education who was confirmed to the position in 2017 after being nominated by then-President Donald Trump.

“But what kept me coming to work was the amazing resilience that I saw on the faces of our students,” he added. “Every time one of these challenges came up, it was the students who kept me coming back to work because their resiliency, their determination is what this is all about. It’s what this work is all about.”