July 16, 2024
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Rush developed CSUCI into source of pride


Call him the Socrates of Camarillo.

That’s the clever phrase used by Sage Publications CEO Blaze Simqu in tribute to outgoing CSU Channel Islands President Richard Rush.

And while the line got a big laugh from the 900 people who attended Rush’s retirement dinner in Simi Valley on April 9, it is more than a well-timed quip.

With California’s economy moving forward and the CI brand well established in the region, it’s easy to understate the role that Rush played in bringing the university to life.

Handed a few students and a campus that was a former state mental hospital, Rush recruited first-rate faculty members and attracted high-quality students. He took the raw materials that Planning President J. Handel Evans gave him and fashioned them into an institution that celebrates diversity without sacrificing quality.

Socrates may have created the idea of the modern university with his dialogues, but Rush engaged in a conversation that continued on and off campus to build an academic institution that Ventura County celebrates with pride. That pride was evident at Rush’s retirement dinner at the Ronald Reagan Library & Presidential Museum.

It’s true that having the credit rating of the state of California behind you and the ability to offer state pension perks is not exactly like launching a startup in the private sector.

But in the case of CI, the state’s fiscal crisis meant stretching for every dollar and accepting a growth trajectory that was far less than plans originally envisioned.

It meant rolling with the punches when the buildings on the campus turned out to be decrepit, hard to wire for the Internet and sometimes impervious to Wi-Fi.

However, it is a happy coincidence that Rush assumed the presidency of CI in 2001 just as the Pacific Coast Business Times was celebrating its first anniversary. During the next 15 years, we worked with the university and others in the community on developing CI’s Business & Technology Partnership, advising the Martin V. Smith School of Business & Economics, sponsoring events and serving on the CI Foundation Board of Directors. Like many in our community, our experience with CI has been framed by our experience with Dick Rush.

We’ll miss his commitment, his ability to solve problems and, most of all, his gift for making us all enjoy a good laugh.

In memoriam: William ‘Tom’ Thomas

We note with sadness the passing of longtime Santa Barbara Bank & Trust executive William “Tom” Thomas, who passed away April 7 after a long fight with Parkinson’s disease.

A veteran banker, he joined SBB&T in 1994 and was the architect of many of the bank’s bold expansion moves in subsequent years. Anyone who met him recognized him as a natural leader and Thomas was a hero to SBB&T employees whose careers he nurtured.

He was an active member of the community and was a longtime chair of the United Way of Santa Barbara County. He also served on the UCSB Foundation, Fighting Back, the Family Service Agency and the Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation.

Donations can be made in his name to the Courthouse Legacy Foundation c/o Santa Barbara Foundation, 111 Chapala St., Santa Barbara CA, 93101.