Employee of the Month

April 2014 Faculty of the Month

Ok, start singing Willie Nelson’s classic country song “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.” Why? Well, because our April Faculty of the Month was – and could have remained – a cowboy. And if he had, Ohlone College would have missed out on one of our great faculty members.

He is half Greek and half California Native American of Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Ancestry. Born in Salinas, California, he was raised in the Native American culture, spending summers on the family ranch deep in the mountains near the Carmel Valley. From his culture, he learned to respect the earth and how to live off the land. He learned to respect others and not judge them since he had not followed in their footsteps. He also learned that others do not always abide by the code of respect for life. His great uncle was killed just for being Native American, with the perpetrators never having to pay for their crime. While this could have given our awardee a very different outlook on life, his culture and family guided him to always want to help, not hurt, others. (You will see this characteristic throughout his careers – read on.)

He lived the cowboy life through high school -enjoying activities such as round ups, bar-b-cues, rodeos, horseback riding, and calf roping. He started calf riding at various junior rodeos with a dream to become a professional rodeo cowboy riding Brahma Bulls, saddle & bareback broncs. So how did he get from the junior rodeo circuit to Ohlone College?

Maybe his mother had heard and heeded the Willie Nelson song, but regardless, she saw what was happening and she did not let her baby grow up to be a cowboy! She made sure he was college-bound. He attended Hartnell Junior College, earning an A.A. degree in Police Science. He then transferred to San Jose State University where he earned a B.A. degree in Penology and a M.S. degree in Criminal Justice Administration with a minor in Education. Haunted by the memory of his third grade teacher calling him stupid in front of the class, he was determined to do well. He made the Dean’s list during his undergraduate work and achieved a 3.8 GPA upon completing his Master’s studies.

From the university he went on to spend 25 years as a police officer for the City of Palo Alto. During this time he worked all divisions of the department. His career was very rewarding - saving lives, preventing crime and arresting criminals. While serving as a Palo Alto officer, he received two honors: “President of the Northern California Crime Prevention Officer Association” and the Palo Alto Lions Club’s “Police Officer of the Year Award for Community Service.”

Unfortunately, a medical situation ended his career in law enforcement. But luckily for Ohlone College, he went into teaching. He has been here for 14 years and loves it. In his own words he exclaims “what a time I am having!” He finds his most challenging endeavor is to help guide his students in a certain direction. He works to assist them as they determine their short and long range goals, using academic discipline, academic honesty, and academic freedom.

Remember I said that his goal is to serve others. He did that on the police force and he does it here at Ohlone. Want proof? Here is what a former student says about him: “I have taken a lot of his classes. He is tireless when it comes to helping his students. He is always willing to take time to address questions and help students to do better in class. He also advises students on law enforcement careers and dispenses advice for personal problems. Rich Cominos is one of the best instructors I have ever had the pleasure to learn from. I personally consider him one of my mentors.” And he always remembers to treat his students with dignity and respect, believing that everyone can succeed and instilling that message in them.

Well, I think that says it all. Now you know why he is getting this recognition. He has spent his life serving and enriching the lives of the people around him, always going above and beyond the call of duty.

Please congratulate our April Faculty of the Month:

Rich Cominos
Administration of Justice

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