Article - Office of College Advancement

Area activist Dan Archer dies at 88

Former Ohlone trustee served in numerous civic, volunteer roles

By Matthew Artz, Staff writer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—When Newark school officials hired Dan Archer in 1961, they thought they were getting a middle school teacher.

Little did they know that they were bringing to town the man who would head several city schools, shepherd the growth of Ohlone College, log more than 2,500 volunteer hours at Washington Hospital and sit on seemingly every volunteer committee in Fremont and Newark.

Archer, who earlier this year resigned from the Ohlone board of trustees, died Sunday night of heart failure. He was 88.

"He loved Ohlone, he loved Fremont, and he devoted his whole life to helping other people," his friend Sal DiGeronimo said.

For more than 40 years, Archer was an omnipresent force in civic life. He was principal at Silva, Milani, Muller and Musick schools in Newark from 1962 through 1979, and then served 27 years on the Ohlone board. He penned a column for a community magazine and had his own public access television show.

Although he lived most of his adult life in Fremont, he was so active in Newark affairs, the city named him an honorary citizen.

"Dan was the kind of guy who got involved in everything: church, school, the community," said Ruthe Foster, who taught with Archer in Newark and later served with him on the Ohlone board.

"He was a very good teacher," Foster said. "He was very kind and very interested in making sure every student got an education."

At Ohlone, Archer campaigned hard for Measure A, a construction bond to build the university's new campus in Newark. He was also a founding member of the Ohlone College Foundation, through which he and his wife, Bernice Marie Archer, a painter, started a scholarship foundation for art students.

"He was a very knowledgeable, very informed board member, said Floyd Hogue, a former Ohlone president.

Much of Archer's life centered around Holy Spirit Catholic Church, DiGeronimo said. He attended Mass every day at 7 a.m, and as a eucharistic minister, he brought communion to the sick.

Born in Ohio, Archer moved west after serving as a Marine in World War II.

Archer, who fought in the bloody battle of Tarawa, wasn't shy about sharing his war stories, said Garrett Yee, an Ohlone board member and Iraq war veteran.

"For him, it was a very vivid recollection," he said.

While on leave in Grants Pass, Ore., Archer met a woman whose oldest son had died in the war.

The two became friends and eventually married. When Hogue came to Ohlone, he recalled that Bernice Marie Archer used a wheelchair, and Dan Archer wheeled her everywhere.

"He was totally devoted to his wife," Hogue said. "It was a wonderful love story."

Archer suffered periodic seizures, and by the end of Hogue's tenure in 2003, he sometimes struggled to keep his focus during board meetings.

"He probably should not have run in his last election," Hogue said. "He was such a proud man. He just could not stand the thought that he was not capable."

His pride flared at meetings, Yee said, when after a seizure he would struggle with paramedics trying to take him to the hospital. "It would take three to four guys to get him on the gurney," Yee said.

Anyone who doubted Archer's strength need only shake his hand, Yee said. "He had the firmest handshake, you've ever seen. For a guy his age, what a grip."

Although his health continued to worsen, Archer remained civically engaged. While living at Merrill Gardens, a Fremont Senior home, Archer organized breakfasts for about 15 friends, DiGeronimo said.

"He wanted to help people so badly."

In Newark at least, Archer accomplished that mission with flying colors, Mayor Dave Smith said.

"Dan left his mark on our community, our children and our college," the mayor said. "His spirit is, was and will continue to be present."

Archer did not have any children of his own, but is survived by his wife's son, Don Howard, and Howard's four children. A visitation is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Chapel of the Roses, 1940 Peralta Blvd. The funeral will by at 10 a.m. Friday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 37558 Fremont Blvd.

Staff writer Matthew Artz covers Union City for The Argus. He can be reached at (510) 353-7003 or

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