In January of 2023, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges lost a strong ally and a dear friend with the passing of Rich Hansen. Rich was a long-time faculty member at De Anza College and served as the president of the Foothill-De Anza Faculty Association, as statewide president of the California Community College Independent unions, as a member of the board of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC), and in various other leadership roles. Although he never held a formal leadership position with the ASCCC, Rich was one of the ASCCC appointees to the 2011 Board of Governors Student Success Task Force and was for many years one of the primary resources to which ASCCC presidents would turn for input and advice regarding union issues and senate-union relations.
Both of the authors of this article worked closely with Rich Hansen in a variety of contexts over a number of years. We would therefore like to offer our individual reflections on Rich’s career and his importance to the faculty of the California Community Colleges system.
Rich was the first person I met from our local district union when I was hired full-time at Foothill in 2000. He made a point of coming to our new faculty orientation to talk about what the union did and what FACCC did, as he was already involved at the state level. As I became local senate vice president and then president, and later served as district senate president, Rich was always available to talk through matters and provide a union perspective, as well as make sure that the academic senate’s positions were respected and listened to. When I was a new senate president, more than once Rich pulled me aside during a board meeting to let me know I should probably speak up about an issue, for which I was grateful and humbled, especially when I found out that other senates did not have a close working relationship with their unions.
After I began my statewide service with the ASCCC, Rich was one of the first people to congratulate me. He continued to be an advocate for the academic senate’s view and a tremendous ally for the ASCCC. He served on the part-time task force in the year that the task force transitioned to a committee and was instrumental in ensuring that the Rostrum articles and other work we were doing walked the fine line between senate and union issues. He and I bonded over our love of history—his undergraduate degree, before he decided to become a mathematician—and good wine, and I ran into him more than once while wine tasting in the Santa Cruz mountains. I never heard Rich raise his voice, not even at the most contentious of meetings, because Rich did not have to speak loudly to be heard. The reason for this was simple: when he had something to say, whether at a board meeting or Consultation Council or anywhere else, people stopped and listened, because they recognized that this was a man who had the best interests of students at heart and was a genuinely good person. His wisdom, generosity, kindness, and knowledge will be missed, but never forgotten.
I first met Rich when we served together on the 2011 Student Success Task Force. His presence on that body was immensely important: in a situation in which faculty were outnumbered by task force members from outside the system who frequently did not even grasp the impact of the changes they wanted to recommend, Rich was unfailingly calm and reasonable but unrelentingly steadfast in expressing and maintaining faculty perspectives. Watching Rich in that environment helped to teach me how to represent faculty with dignity and without becoming overly emotional but also without compromising our values, and it had a huge impact on my development as a leader.
When I became a member of the ASCCC Executive Committee and later ASCCC president, I frequently consulted with Rich regarding union matters and perspectives. On several occasions, he checked sections of ASCCC papers and articles to ensure that what we wrote would be understood and well-received by our union colleagues. I later served with Rich on the FACCC Board of Governors, where once again his measured and reasonable approach helped me to understand an entirely new set of issues. He was unfailingly fair, professional, and collegial, and all faculty in the community college system owe him a great debt.
In this article we have both related our individual memories of working with Rich Hansen, but we do so because we know that our experiences with Rich were representative, not unique. Rich influenced, mentored, and inspired countless faculty members in his district and throughout the state over the course of his career, and his absence will be felt by a great many of us. On behalf of the ASCCC, and with tremendous sadness but great appreciation for the privilege of having known and worked with him, we offer our condolences to Rich’s colleagues at De Anza, the Foothill-De Anza district, and to his family.