John Davitt

John Davitt, Glendale Community College's former Supt./President, died Saturday. He was 81. He is pictured surrounded by his scholarship recipients, from left, Adriana Flores, Brittney Fierro, Seyedsalar Hajimirsadeghi and Charlie Skaf. (Photo by Ruth Sowby / May 17, 2013)

Glendale Community College’s former Supt./President John Davitt passed away peacefully on May 24, after a battle with Parkinson’s, his family said. He was 81.

Davitt was the longest seated president of a community college in California when he retired from the position in 2006, a role he first stepped into in 1985.

Years prior, in 1968, Davitt joined the faculty at Glendale Community College as dean of student personnel services. He then became the college’s vice president of instructional services in 1983.

During his time at the college, student enrollment significantly increased, and Davitt supported passing the college’s $98-million Measure G bond in 2002, which the college relied on to upgrade its facilities.

In 1999, Davitt was credited for negotiating what was then — at $1 million — the largest financial donation to a Los Angeles area community college from a living donor when brothers Larry and Ralph Cimmarusti gave the funding for the college’s Cimmarusti Science Center.

The Glendale News-Press twice named Davitt as one of the community’s most influential residents.

Mary Mirch, who serves as the college’s vice president of instructional services, said Davitt was known for being both intelligent and personable, knowing the names of college employees’ children and where they were attending school, she said.

“He made it a point to know what was going on with people,” she said, adding that his commitment to the college was unwavering. “This is where he put his heart and soul.”

Mirch said Davitt was still very active in attending events tied to the campus, and he visited the college in recent weeks, attending the annual employee retirement and recognition luncheon and the Patrons Club scholarship awards luncheon where he visited with former colleagues.

“Everybody’s kind of in a state of shock,” Mirch said of his passing.

“While we are so saddened by his loss,” said college trustee Ann Ransford, “I try to remember how blessed we were with his presence on this campus.”

As a charismatic leader known for his legendary contribution to the campus, Ransford said, Davitt counseled students, walked the campus picking up trash and fed the homeless each week.

“I never lost my admiration for his amazing ability to connect,” she added.

According to a 2006 News-Press article, his retirement party in June that year was packed with more 500 people who paid tribute to his 38 years of service at the Sheraton Universal Hotel’s grand ballroom.

There, they gave Davitt a standing ovation, and he choked back tears after taking the podium.

“As I told the faculty the other day, it is up to us to maintain the atmosphere of Glendale College,” he said then. “When it's a happy place to work, that translates into achievement for the students.”

He also belonged to boards tied to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, the Glendale Symphony Orchestra and Holy Family High School, among others, said his son, Michael Davitt.

“He was just a great person, husband, father, and grandfather,” Michael said.

Davitt is survived by his wife, Gael, and children Terry Davitt, Laure Healy and Vincent and Michael Davitt, as well as 11 grandchildren.

Services for Davitt will begin at 10:30 a.m. on May 31 at St. Bede the Venerable Church, 215 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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