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School Leaders, Elected Officials Remember Ohlone Trustee Bill McMillin

Ohlone College's Newark Center will hold a memorial for the trustee on Thursday.

Colleagues and elected officials say Ohlone Trustee William McMillin was passionate about education and a tireless advocate for Newark students and schools.

Ohlone College's Newark Center will hold a memorial service Thursday night for McMillin, who lost his fight with cancer on March 12.

Ohlone spokeswoman Patrice Birkedahl said the service starts at 6 p.m. inside the Community Conference Center, Room 2100. Birkedahl said parking fees will be suspended for the event.

“We at Ohlone College are deeply saddened by the loss of long-time trustee Bill McMillin,” Ohlone College President Gari Browning said in a statement. “Bill held the college in high regard and shared the vision of excellence that we have for Ohlone College. He wanted us to be our best and was persistent in his efforts to hold us to that level of performance. He was dedicated to his role as trustee and held the office until his death. We appreciate all he did for the college over the years.  He will be missed as a trustee and as a friend to Ohlone.”

McMillin was sworn in for another term on Dec. 8, 2010. You may watch video of that meeting here.

At the request of Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), the State Assembly adjourned Monday’s session in memory of McMillin.

According to Wieckowski’s spokesman Jeff Barbosa, Wieckowski served with McMillin on the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.

Wieckowski recognized McMillin's service to the and Ohlone College before his fellow lawmakers in Sacramento, Barbosa said 

“He said with Bill it was always about the kids,” Barbosa wrote in an e-mail message to Newark Patch. “He was very generous with his time and showed tremendous courage during his illness.”

Newark Mayor David Smith said the council members will also adjourn their March 24 meeting in honor of McMillin.

“When I think about Bill, I think of his passion for education,” Smith said. “I also see how he broadened that passion to Ohlone College. He was truly dedicated to the young people of the city of Newark. He wanted them to get the best education possible. His dedication to quality education was a thread that was woven through his career and through his being.”

According to his online biography at Ohlone College, McMillin had been dedicated to education through his work as a teacher and principal as well as an elected official. The website shows he served eight years on the Newark School Board. He also served as president of the Alameda County School Boards Association and president of the Mission Valley Regional Occupation Program.

Alameda County Board of Education President Eileen McDonald served with McMillin on the Newark School Board from 1994 to 2002.

McDonald said she has known McMillin and his family for at least 30 years. Before he was elected to the board, McDonald watched his kids after school, and their kids played together on soccer and Little League teams.  

According to McDonald, McMillin ran for school board because of an inequity at Newark Memorial that involved his son and a letter of recommendation.

“He took the activist route,” McDonald said. “He wanted to make sure what happened to his son didn’t happen to anyone else’s son. This shows his activism for kids and fairness for all kids.”

When a conversation could have led to insults and unkind words, McDonald said, McMillin went silent.

“I remember he once said that his mom told him: ‘If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all,’” said McDonald. “He was fair. He was a good man and he never spoke badly about anyone. He was a really positive, caring person. I wish I could go out of this world with people saying that about me.”

Newark School Board Vice President Ray Rodriguez said he has known McMillin for the last 20 years. He served with McMillin on the Newark School Board from 1996 to 2002 and visited him when McMillin was undergoing chemotherapy at the Stanford University medical center.

“Bill was a good guy,” Rodriguez said. “He was a great advocate for Newark kids and education. He bled Newark. Some would say he bled blue and gold, like a Cougar.”

School Board Member Janice Schaefer was elected at the same time as McMillin in 1994.

“Bill always said he was going to live to 100. Somehow you just had to admire his fortitude, regardless of how it turned out,” Schaefer said in an e-mail message to Newark Patch.

“He had his goals set on his desktop. He never veered from his path, whatever it was. He never had a bad word to say about anybody, and that didn’t mean he was a Pollyanna type, he just believed if you didn’t have something good to say, don’t. He was a good person, with high expectations for himself AND the students of Newark Unified School District.”

She added: “I will miss him.”

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that contributions be made to the Ohlone College Foundation In Memory of Bill McMillin, according to college spokeswoman Patrice Birkedahl.

Donations can be made online here or mailed to:

Ohlone College Foundation

43600 Mission Boulevard

Fremont, CA 94539

Bob Marshall March 15, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Bill was a great guy; a devout community activist; and a shining star in the educational world. He will be missed by all who knew him. My deepest condolences to his family.
Maya Marcus March 17, 2011 at 07:27 AM
Thank you for the touching article about our dad. It was wonderful to see the impact he had on the community. He told us to "strive to leave the world a better place than you found it" and it's great to see that he did. Thanks, Maya (Bill's proud daugther)
Kris Vera-Phillips March 17, 2011 at 01:14 PM
Thank you Maya. My thoughts and condolences to you and your family. He sounded like an amazing man and I'm sorry I didn't get to meet him. Will we see you at tonight's memorial service at the Newark Center?

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