MSJC says Goodbye to Dennis Anderson after 40 years

The now-retired vice president of instruction will continue involvement in the college and his longtime role as director of Ramona Pageant
DAnderson.jpgDr. Dennis Anderson is known for two passions: theater and Mt. San Jacinto College. A 40-year veteran at MSJC, he took his last bow as Vice President of Instruction at the June 28 Board of Trustees meeting. But it isn’t his final curtain call.
Retirement aside, Anderson will continue his commitment to the college both behind-the-scenes and out front. He will spend the summer volunteering with a crew of students and instructors on a film project to celebrate the college’s 50th anniversary next year. He also recently joined the board of the MSJC Foundation to help support the students and the college.
“I could never leave MSJC,” Anderson said, with several partially packed boxes on the floor and conference table in his office on the San Jacinto Campus. “I’ve put so much of my heart and passion into this place. I need to be involved in this college in one way or another for the rest of my life.”
Anderson, 65, has served MSJC since he was 24 when he was hired as a theater instructor. Over the next four decades, he would become chair of the Theater Arts Department, Dean of Academic Programs for the San Jacinto Campus and in 2008, was named Vice President of Instruction.
MSJC Superintendent/President Dr. Roger Schultz praised Anderson for his integrity, talent and dedication to the college and its students during Anderson’s 40 years of service.
“I have a great team, but life without Dennis in executive cabinet is going to take some getting used to for all of us,” Schultz said. “He has deep institutional knowledge and has led the instruction side of the house with much success. It’s extremely rare in today’s career market to find somebody who has that type of longevity and record of success with one institution. Although he’s retiring, we know we have not seen the last of him because of his commitment to the college and the community.”
As a result of state budget cuts, the college has asked Dr. Bill Vincent, Vice President of Student Services, to take on additional duties as Vice President of Instruction temporarily.
Vincent said he was pleased to have great collaboration between the student services and instruction divisions while Anderson was at the helm of instruction. In his own 35-year career, Vincent said it was rare to have that kind of teamwork between the two divisions.
During the Board meeting, trustees and others thanked Anderson for his years of service.
Board President Joan Sparkman called Anderson’s contributions to the college fantastic. “We’ll miss you terribly,” she said.
Anderson’s roots run as deep at the college as they do in the community.
Elmer and Emily Anderson moved to the San Jacinto Valley with their son Dennis in 1956. Dennis attended Hemet schools while his father served as a bus driver for the Hemet Unified School District. Years later, his mother would become the theater box office supervisor at MSJC.
Emily encouraged her son’s love of the theater when she got the family involved with the Ramona Pageant. Dennis was 9 the first time he saw the outdoor play. By the age of 10, Dennis appeared in “All My Sons” with the Ramona Players and during his years at Hemet High, drama teacher Ron Loch inspired his passion for the theater arts.
After graduating from Hemet High in 1965, Anderson said he spent some time studying at San Diego State University until he ran out of money and returned home. He attended MSJC, earning his associate’s degree in 1967. He transferred to UC Riverside, where he received a bachelor’s in theater.
Anderson continued with the Ramona Pageant and played Felipe in 1969-70.  Emily played Senora in 1975 and Elmer worked a season as a chorus man. Later, he would get his own family involved: His wife Kathi played Ramona in 1985 and 1989 and one of his daughter’s would also perform in the play. By 1995, well into his career at MSJC, Anderson became the director for the Ramona Pageant, a position he still holds.
Anderson continued his education, earning a master’s degree in drama from the University of Southern California and a doctorate in education from Pepperdine University. In 2007, Anderson completed the Management Development Program at Harvard University.
“If MSJC hadn’t been there, I’m not so sure I would have been able to finish college,” he said. “So from a personal standpoint both as a student and an employee, I am so grateful to Mt. San Jacinto for all of the opportunity it’s given me.”
When Anderson landed the job as theater instructor at MSJC, he was able to combine his love of the theater with his appreciation of education and MSJC.
As he moved from faculty member to administrator, he continued to balance his career duties with his work at the Ramona Pageant, among other community organizations, so successfully that he earned several awards. He was recognized for his community service by the cities of Hemet and San Jacinto, the California State Assembly and Senate, and the United States House of Representatives. In 2004, Anderson was awarded the Mark R. Sumner Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Outdoor Drama Movement from the Institute of Outdoor Drama at the University of North Carolina for his work as artistic director for the Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre. MSJC recognized him as the outstanding staff member in 2005.
At MSJC, Anderson and faculty members and other staff members shared a deep mutual respect. He admitted that while he was proud of his work in administration, his heart has always belonged to teaching. That was perhaps one of the keys to his success.
Richard Sisk, associate professor of English, worked with Anderson for 23 years. He called Anderson the consummate professional.
“Dennis has given us much to aspire to,” Sisk said. “His example of dedication—to the college, to its students and its staff—is one we all can emulate.  I count it among my own career highlights to be able to have worked with Dennis.  We all can appreciate his calm confidence and his ever-pleasant demeanor, as well as his vast knowledge of the arts in general and the art of teaching in particular.  His shoes won’t soon be filled.  We’ll miss you, Dennis.”
Anderson called his retirement bittersweet. He said he will miss the people he has worked with over the years. He praised the MSJC faculty, adding that he has complete confidence leaving the future of instruction in such good hands.
Still, he looks forward to the future. The days ahead are filled: traveling with his wife, playing with his four grandchildren, continuing as director for the Ramona Pageant and exploring something he hasn’t done in 20 years: Acting. Anderson is taking on a lead role in the Ramona Hillside Players production of the comedy “The Men of Mah Jongg” in September.
And, of course, he looks forward to his work with the students and the Foundation. He will help celebrate the anniversaries of his two great passions in 2013: the Ramona Pageant’s 90th anniversary and MSJC’s 50th.
“I’ve watched this college grow from just a few little buildings in a cow pasture to what it is today and where we’re going,” he said, noting future facilities like the 110,000-square- foot Cultural and Performing Arts Center on the San Jacinto Campus. “This is incredible stuff.”