Daniel Pollock, Editor-in-Chief
Administration, staff and faculty gathered to say farewell to Puyallup campus President Dr. Marty Cavalluzzi on Jan. 22 in the Arts and Allied Health Building. Hugs and laughter abounded—and tears.
Cavalluzzi jokingly said he never knew he would take part in his own eulogy.
Cavalluzzi will end his career at Pierce on Jan. 31, before taking on the president role at Olympic College. Pierce College Chancellor Michele Johnson announced that a president search committee has been formed and a new president will be in place by July 1.
In the meantime, Dr. Jean Hernandez will serve as interim president beginning Feb. 1. Hernandez recently retired from the presidency at Edmonds Community College, where she previously worked alongside Cavalluzzi.
“I know she will hit the ground running, helping us move forward on our pathways and student success work, as well as representing us in the community,” Johnson said in an email.
Cavalluzzi began at Pierce in 2013. Reflecting on his nearly five years at the college, he says one of the highlights of his time here are the door-opening opportunities he could give students; he cites two examples:
Cavalluzzi was at Men’s Wearhouse purchasing a suit when he met a Pierce student in his first quarter, an aspiring teacher. Cavalluzzi scheduled a meeting with the student and several other professors so the student could talk about what an education career looks like.
Similarly, he ran into a downcast Pierce student at Safeway. She wanted to go back to school, but didn’t have the necessary funds. Cavalluzzi gave her someone to contact and a week later, he saw her again but her demeanor was changed. The adviser Cavalluzzi suggested helped her work through her problem and she was gearing up to return the following quarter.
“It’s opening up all those doors, which is a lot of fun,” Cavalluzzi said.
Cavalluzzi saw this shared passion for student success in the Pierce faculty and administration when he applied in 2013. This dedication to students drew him to Pierce.
“Each college has its own culture,” Cavalluzzi said. “At (Pierce) you can tell people just genuinely care about students. They really want to be here.”
Like the students Cavalluzzi describes, he too was once a community college student in need of direction.
Cavalluzzi began his higher education at Orange Coast College, a community college in Southern California. At that time, Cavalluzzi says he didn’t have a direction for his life.
“I was happy; I was working at a (logging) company; I was working in restaurants; I was having a good time; but I didn’t really know where I was going,” Cavalluzzi said. “I think if you were to ask my parents, they wouldn’t think I was going far at all, or going anywhere.”
Five faculty at Orange Coast College changed Cavalluzzi’s outlook; he still remembers their names.
“One after another, they kept encouraging me, they saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Cavalluzzi said.
Inspired by these professors, Cavalluzzi eventually began teaching at Orange County Marine Institute, but not before earning a bachelor’s degree from Humboldt State University.
Cavalluzzi attended The College of William and Mary for his master’s degree and doctorate. He then worked as a faculty research assistant at Oregon State University and then at Northwest Indian College as the associate dean for science and math, after which he was dean of science and math at Seattle Central Community College.
Between these jobs, Cavalluzzi taught as an adjunct, focusing on biology, zoology, marine science and ichthyology, the branch of zoology relating to fish.
Cavalluzzi’s career turned more administration-focused after a faculty member at Oregon State University encouraged him to take the communication, people and data-analytical skills he gained in his research and teaching jobs and apply that to administration work.
“I remember tilting my head like a little dog and going ‘huh?’ ‘What’s an administrator?’” Cavalluzzi said with a laugh.
The advice came at a good time. Cavalluzzi was tired of writing grants for himself; his wife was also tired of him coming home smelling like formaldehyde and dead fish.
His first administration position was at Northwest Indian College. He was writing multimillion dollar grants within two weeks of getting the position.
“It was so much easier writing a grant for someone else,” Cavalluzzi said. “All of the sudden I realized, ‘This clicks. This is a lot of fun helping other people out, this isn’t all about me.’”
Johnson sees this same student-driven dedication in Cavalluzzi’s own work.
“He’s so committed to student success, he’s just committed to learning,” Johnson said.
Johnson admitted she wasn’t surprised when Cavalluzzi applied to Olympic. She says his new position will give him increased opportunities. At Olympic, Cavalluzzi will be the district CEO, while Johnson is the CEO at Pierce.
“I always actually thought Olympic College would be a good college for him,” Johnson said. “He’ll have the ability to expand and take on those new duties and responsibilities (a CEO position requires).”
Johnson says she has sought to prepare Cavalluzzi and Fort Steilacoom President Denise Yochum to move forward in their careers.
“I’m going to really miss Marty,” Johnson said. “He’s such a positive source of energy.”
In the email announcing Cavalluzzi’s acceptance, she calls Cavalluzzi, “an engaged, energetic and committed president of Pierce College Puyallup…known for his open, friendly, and supportive personality.”
She describes Cavalluzzi as “a true champion of (Pierce’s) mission, student success, and professional development for all employees.”
The Olympic College Board of Trustees must have also recognized these traits in Cavalluzzi; he was selected out of a pool of 96 candidates.
“To be the one that they chose, I’m honored,” Cavalluzzi said. “I keep waking up thinking, ‘did that really happen?”’
Though excited, Cavalluzzi says it will be difficult to walk away from the Pierce community.
“I’m just going down the road, but I love it here,” Cavalluzzi said.
Cavalluzzi’s Executive Assistant Christine Boiter is sad to see the president leave. Cavalluzzi hired Boiter three years ago.
“He’s been a great mentor and the best person to work with, but I’m happy for him,” said Boiter, who is both anxious and excited as the search for a new president begins.
“The unknown is kind of scary, because I’ve been spoiled for awhile, but change is always good,” Boiter said. “I’m looking forward to it, too.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost
Pollock is a Running Start student in his second year at Pierce, pursuing an AA degree. After Pierce, he plans to transfer to a 4-year university.
Beyond journalism, Pollock also writes short stories, personal essays and screenplays. He is found cooking and eating food, writing, making movies and playing piano as often as his schedule allows. He also is a latte advocate and self-proclaimed film anthropologist.
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