Dixie Bullock

Dixie Bullock

Nursing Faculty; Dean of Health Sciences and Human Services; Applied Sciences and Technology; Math, Science, and Engineering; Acting Vice President of Instruction; Acting Dean of Fine Arts and Media Technology; Acting Chancellor; and President

Dixie BullockI was hired as a nursing faculty member beginning in the summer session of 1976 and serving as a one year replacement for Howard Adams who was on a leave.  I was interviewed by a committee of nursing faculty which was a little daunting, interviewed again and recommended to the College president, Dr. Lombardi for hiring.   I took the position even though it was not a tenure track position because I so needed to leave my previous job as nursing faculty at Rio Hondo College.  It was not a bad job but there had been 9 changes in administration of the Nursing Program in the seven years that I worked there.  I wanted to move so badly that I borrowed the money to “pay off” a sabbatical leave commitment to Rio Hondo College for the one semester leave I had taken to finish my Master’s degree.  I LOVED the position here at Saddleback College and that wonderful opportunity for the one year replacement truly paid off when I was hired for the tenure track position that came open the following year.  I have never regretted that decision and look at Saddleback College and my many memories here as the “trip” of a lifetime, one of the best jobs anyone could ever have.

I worked at Saddleback College as a permanent employee for 28 years and then had the exciting opportunity, post retirement,  of filling in as an Acting Administrator in Fine Arts and Media Technology for a full year and then moving on to an Acting position as Chancellor for the SOCCCD for six months.

I have so very many fond memories and impressive student contacts throughout the years that it is very difficult to pick out any one or even a few.  However, I will talk about a few events and people who made an impression upon me.  I had many impressive nursing students the years that I taught and still run into many of them in hospitals, clinics, and even the CVS pharmacy “Minute Clinic.”  They are still impressive and doing their part to promote health and wellness.  A fun task that I had working with faculty from several departments was our small group that we christened the “Dirty Eight” whose task it was to “pluck” curriculum offerings from Saddleback College’s approved curriculum and plan its transplant to Irvine Valley College, even before there was an IVC.  It was great and gave me an opportunity to mix with academicians from other disciplines, an opportunity not often afforded to nursing faculty at that time.

While I was still faculty, the holistic health care craze was going strong and even though curriculum was scarce in this area, I was presenting health care continuing education to the public as well as to a variety of health care workers.  On one particular occasion I had contracted with a spiritual presenter of renown, Patricia Sun, from the Bay Area to present holistic concepts in a large classroom on campus from 6-10 PM.  Well, sometimes things just go wrong!  She took a rather late flight from San Francisco to John Wayne Airport.  Her plane was scheduled to land right behind the plane that crashed on the landing strip at the airport.  Needless to say the airport was not accepting any incoming flights and only dealing with the one that crashed.  Her flight was rerouted to Ontario Airport which at that time was quite small and almost primitive.  The room was full of hopefuls who wanted to hear the lecture and although I offered them a refund of the money that they had paid for the program, NOT ONE PERSON WOULD LEAVE!  We stayed and waited--no cell phones in those days.  Ms. Sun finally arrived at 10PM to the room full of applauding audience who insisted that she deliver her entire presentation.  Well, she did most of it but also asked if we would pay her cab fare of $90.  I’m afraid that her late start from San Francisco made that bill her own to cover.

 I became the Dean of Health Sciences and Human Services in 1984 and had the most traumatic first year that anyone can imagine, almost more than was tolerable.  Nursing instructor, Donna Clawson, was appointed to the position of Assistant Director of the Nursing Program to begin with the fall 1984 semester. On September 15th of that year Donna, a very capable, bright, and beautiful woman was shot and killed at her home by her estranged husband, Don Dawson.  Mr. Dawson was the Dean of the Technology Division here at Saddleback College and everyone involved spent many hours and days dealing with this tragic event.  Just as the Nursing Department was settling down from this, another long-time and beloved faculty member, Sybil Orr, developed cancer that was quickly terminal.  Faculty took turns staying with Sybil and caring for her until her death in November.  The College administration and faculty were loving and caring and assisted in memorial services for both faculty members in the McKinney Theater.  While these two were not the only tragic losses we have experienced throughout the years, they were so memorable partly because I was so young and so “green” in my job.

During the first years that I was the Dean of Health Sciences and Human Services the Division offices were on lower campus in M building.  That building was a “temporary” structure put up almost 10 years before we occupied it.  My memory of sitting at my desk one day and watching as the books on the corner of my desk began to slide off as the desk began to disappear on one end into the “sink hole” of the rotted flooring.  I jumped up and got out of there fast (must have been a funny sight) worrying that my chair too would disappear into the dark hole below the floor.

Those days brought other memories not nearly as amusing as the desk down situation.  We lived through almost a revolving door of higher administrative appointments including a very unpopular chancellor, a stream of appointments to the financial officer post, and a faculty union trying to feel its way to success.  We even gave back 5% of our salary! 

The additional and unusual approval and appearance of a semi-professional baseball team called Vigilantes,co-sponsored by the City of Mission Viejo, provided abundant reasons for further disagreements among and between faculty and others in the college community.  The team didn’t last long as they, in fact, were not a seasoned and winning team and didn’t have the total support that they needed.  Soon the beautiful stadium was gone with the memories.

Many other noteworthy, sometimes difficult yet mostly exciting situations came to my attention.  One of those challenging opportunities for our division that presented itself during those years would result in a new program for us and for the college.  The administrator for the county’s Emergency Medical System offices contacted me to tell me that the contract for Orange County’s only Paramedic Program was coming up for bid shortly and that Orange County was really looking at the possibility of a community college program.  We felt that we needed to grow the division with another program and I believed that being awarded the Paramedic Program would bring prestige and an influx of new students interested in Saddleback College.  With a limited knowledge of paramedic requirements, I hired a knowledgeable faculty member from Butte College in Northern California that had a program respected statewide.  The consultant and I sat down to write this very complicated curriculum with the consultant’s program knowledge and with me providing the Saddleback College curricular technical requirements.

The more difficult part of the process was soon to come as we had to present our program to the County EMS Administrators and Medical Director and several OC Fire Chiefs.  We were in competition with UCI Medical Center, Santa Ana College, and a hospital program from Los Angeles County and needed to convince them that we would be the best program to turn out the quality graduates that residents of the county deserve.  One of the qualities that the decision makers were looking for was the show of support by our college administration.  We were so blessed with our turnout at that meeting attended by Vice President of Instruction Everett Brewer, Dr. Don Busche, Dean of Occupational Education, Dr. Richard McCullough, Professor of Physiology and the Academic Senate appointed Chair of the Curriculum Committee, a nursing faculty member, and myself. That was the support that was so important to the program.   It was stressful but successful and soon the Paramedic Program at Saddleback College was in full swing.

I was appointed to the position of President of the College by the Board of Trustees in 1998 and served until July 2004 when I retired.  I have so many wonderful memories of my tenure as the president that it is very hard to pull out just a few.  It was my good fortune in the early and learning stage of my appointment to work under the leadership of Dr. Cedric Sampson, then SOCCCD chancellor, who was a great role model and a friend to me and my husband.  While he was there I learned so much about administrative decision making as it applies to both positive and negative outcomes.  However, as is my usual luck, shortly after I took the job we were scheduled for a WASC accreditation team visit for accreditation renewal.  The college’s accreditation report was completed and already with the accrediting commission when I took my position.  Unfortunately, I had no time to make any changes in the situation within the college and the district and probably would not have been able to make many substantive changes anyway.  Our situation and the possible remedies would require heartbreakingly long term solutions.  Chancellor Sampson was very supportive but even his protests to AACJC fell on deaf ears.  Regardless, some of the outcomes from that experience were positive and resulted in better communication and camaraderie for our employees.  In fact we had a RESPECT campaign that many participated in and this resulted in some positive changes with relationships throughout the campus. 

As part of our emphasis on overall college improvement one of our deans chose to take on a project of a “clean campus” that would involve students, staff, faculty, and administrators.  It included a “clean up the campus” day on a Saturday.  Many employees showed up wearing jeans and work shirts to shine up the campus.  Organization was thorough and well planned with teams for various areas of the campus.  I’m sure that I was set up but I really didn’t mind the task of pressure washing out all the trash cans on campus.  Everyone got a real laugh about it and I’m sure that some of the pictures are probably still around here.

I couldn’t finish this story of Saddleback College memories without mentioning my wonderful experiences with students, faculty, and college facility improvements.  I especially remember one young woman who first came to me because of a disputed grade from one of her teachers.  I could not change her grade or even convince the faculty member to reevaluate the student’s performance in the classroom but we became close and I continued to hear from her for many years.  I followed her through her educational journey until the last letter that I received before we lost touch in which she told me about her doctoral program and her ultimate career goals.

In addition to this student’s letters, I received many letters from students mostly praising the faculty members that contributed to their superior education and providing anecdotes that illustrated the caring and teaching expertise of so many wonderful faculty members.  A multitude of letters praised the learning that they had received from the teaching expertise of the faculty member in Physics, a most difficult subject.  There were many complimentary comments from students in Math classes.  It was a source of great Saddleback College pride when I heard from many former students that the learning they received at the College prepared them well for careers and also further education, sometimes expressing that their time here was superior to that in other institutions.   For some of those I had had the rewarding experience of interviewing and recommending them to the Board of Trustees to be hired.

Another student memory that was challenging involves a young woman who came to my office because of a faculty assignment that required her to write a paper about the topic “graffiti as art.”  She said that she just couldn’t do that because she works as part of an anti-graffiti group and knows the tremendous cost to all of us for graffiti removal.  Since this was in connection with a chapter in the textbook, I was able to negotiate a positive solution with the faculty member on her behalf so that she could write about another chapter to meet the course requirements. It was gratifying and also enlightening to me to know how much our decisions impact areas outside of our college when I received a “thank you” phone call from the president of the National Anti-graffiti Organization.

Besides the many exceptional “people” experiences that provided great job satisfaction for me, it is no surprise to anyone that Saddleback College has long dealt with huge problems of poorly constructed buildings, sliding earth, and major damage from rains on the sloping hillsides.  It was my pleasure to be able to advance several programs by improving and adding facilities thanks to a frugal budget manager, a knowledgeable Director of Maintenance and Operations, and faculty dedicated to their programs.  A beautiful and modern Horticulture facility was constructed on upper campus across from their Division Office for that popular and growing program.  The program’s current home was inadequate and outdated, located in an out of the way corner of the lower campus.  The Lifetime Fitness Center Building 600 became a long awaited reality on lower campus with the expert advice and assistance of Physical Education faculty, administration, and staff members.  While not being a direct classroom effect but providing substantial improvement for all, we were able to counteract some of the difficult demands on the college’s electrical system through purchase of a state of the art generator system that can carry the workload of about 1/3 of the college requirement.  And finally my long hoped for dream of moving the Health Sciences and Human Services Division from the lower campus into a modern three-story building in the heart of the upper campus became a reality as the last facility that I was proud to be a part of. 

As you can tell my almost lifelong experience at Saddleback College has been a fulfilling and fun career that has been more than most people could ask for - a great ride at a great place with great people!