The Chabot-Las Positas Community College District is grieving the loss of longtime Trustee Donald "Dobie" Gelles, who died on May 2 of congestive heart failure. He was 80.
A career educator from Castro Valley, Gelles had served on the Board of Trustees since 1998, when he was first elected to represent Area 4, which includes Castro Valley and parts of Oakland. He went unchallenged in last year's election to earn another four-year term.
"On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we are deeply saddened and send our condolences to the Gelles family," Board President Edralin Maduli said in a statement Tuesday. "We will remember Dobie for his two decades of service, dedication and leadership to our students and community."
Gelles was deeply involved in education during his life and "believed deeply in community colleges and gave unlimited amounts of time to our district," Interim Chancellor Ronald Gerhard added.
District officials said they are "grateful for (Gelles') service" and called him "instrumental" in helping pass bond measures A and B to build out and renovate both Chabot and Las Positas colleges. "Dobie's commitment was first and foremost to students," Gerhard said.
Gelles' experience as a K-12 school administrator and director of the Castro Valley Adult School, a division of the Castro Valley Unified School District, also "brought a unique perspective to the board and provided his fellow board members additional perspective when reviewing policies and governing the district," Chabot-Las Positas officials said.
Just two days after Gelles' death, he posthumously received the Fulfilling the Trust Award from the Community College League of California, a previously announced award for Gelles that "recognizes the enduring dedication and service of California's community college trustees," according to the association's website.
Gelles was an armed services veteran who served three years in the military and eight years as a reservist. He also served on the Eden Hospital Community Board, with the Castro Valley Unified School District, and was president of his Rotary and Kiwanis Club chapters.
Gelles graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned his bachelor's degree in science and math before later obtaining his master's degree in counseling from California State University at Hayward. He is survived by two children and two grandchildren.
The Chabot-Las Positas board is scheduled to discuss the next steps for filling Gelles' vacancy at its regular meeting on May 21. More information will be announced soon, district officials said.
A memorial service for Gelles will be held on May 19 at 2 p.m. in Castro Valley at Transfiguration Catholic Church, 4000 E. Castro Valley Blvd. The service is open to the public and a small reception will follow afterward.