By Jay Bedecarre
Cal State University East Bay Concord Campus, “the best kept secret in Contra Costa County,” celebrated its 30th anniversary late last month.
The ceremony drew nearly every elected official from the area and included the conferring of an honorary doctorate to business and civic leader Sil Garaventa Jr.
Cal State president Mohammad H. Qayoumi and a procession of two dozen faculty, staff and alumni in cap and gowns ascended a temporary stage at the Hilton Concord Hotel for the stirring anniversary ceremony. The commemoration of the founding of the Concord campus included short commentaries and a performance by the Cal State East Bay Singers.
The lunch’s highlight was when Robert Linscheid, vice chair of the Cal State board of trustees, and Qayoumi conferred the honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Garaventa.
Linscheid, an Antioch native, recounted how he attended Diablo Valley College at the same time as his mother, but “my mom always got better grades than me.” He finally took to heart her admonition that he needed to “attend class and study” in order to do well in school.
The honorary doctorate was fitting for the homegrown civic leader, who was also celebrating his personal victory over cancer.
Cal State officials called Garaventa last spring when he was on a long-planned family vacation in Italy to accept the degree at the June 2010 commencement. He had recently bbeen diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer but didn’t want to spoil the trip, so he delayed starting his treatment (and public acknowledgement of his condition) until after the vacation. Knowing he was in for a prolonged treatment and recovery period, he declined the offer and asked the school if he could defer the honor for a year.
CSUEB officials said they had even a better idea: They would tie it to the 30th anniversary celebration planned for early 2011. Garaventa is now cancer free and done with an excruciating period of treatment, so his non-stop smile on the dais throughout the ceremony had double meaning.
Garaventa has been CEO of his family’s Garaventa Enterprises since 1998 when his father, Silvio Garaventa, died. The younger Garaventa has served as president of the Concord Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club of Concord as well as chairing the CSUEB Concord Campus Advisory Board.
“He has made important contributions to the economic vibrancy and the quality of life for citizens in both the city of Concord and Contra Costa County,” the college reported.
In his acceptance comments, Garaventa said the need for community involvement instilled in him and his siblings came from their father and their grandfather, Andrea Moresco, who founded the disposal business now called Garaventa Enterprises. The senior Garaventa was awarded an honorary doctorate of public service in 1994 from the University of Portland, where Garaventa Jr., his brother Joe and sister Marie all attended. His mother Mary, wife Patty and sons Silvio and Robert were on hand for the Hilton ceremony along with many of his siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins.
The elected officials in attendance included state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, Supervisor Karen Mitchoff and three of her colleagues from the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister and three Concord councilmen including newly appointed councilman and former mayor Dan Helix, as well as former Concord mayors Guy Bjerke and Helen Allen. Garaventa will be able to line his office walls with all the proclamations he was presented at the luncheon following the ceremony.
Executive director Emily Brizendine gave a capsule history of the Concord campus, which opened in 1992 after 11 years since the fall of 1981 on the former site of Pleasant Hill High School. It was through the vision of two-term CSU trustee Dean Lesher and the indefatigable efforts of state Assemblyman and Sen. Dan Boatwright that the land was secured and the Concord campus took shape.
Boatwright recalled after the ceremony how he twice had to defeat bills (once in the Assembly and another in the Senate) to sell the Concord property set aside for the campus. “We were the largest county in California without a four-year college campus,” he noted.
Garaventa Jr. led the fundraising drive which saw youth sports fields built on an undeveloped portion of the Cal State campus leased to the city of Concord. The area was named the Daniel E. Boatwright Youth Sports Complex and hosts play for thousands of youth baseball and soccer players annually.
Today, the Concord campus offerings have grown to 11 bachelor’s and five master’s degrees, certificate programs and teaching credentials. Tomorrow, the Concord Naval Weapons Station redevelopment plan calls for a 150-acre, four-year CSUEB campus.