Pasadena – Calling it the honor of his life to serve Pacific Oaks College & Children’s School, Dr. Ezat Parnia was inaugurated this week as the institution’s ninth president. The occasion—held on September 8 at the Pasadena City Hall Courtyard and Centennial Square and featuring Mayor Bill Bogaard, California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, Pacific Oaks Board of Trustees Chair Dorothy Farris, and other luminaries—stands as the fall capstone event for the 67-year-old fixture of the Pasadena community.
Parnia used his speaking opportunity to reflect on the alignment between Pacific Oaks’ approach to education and the needs of a nation with changing demographics. “It all starts by better understanding who we are educating,” he said. “As our classrooms further transform into more diverse student populations, to renew education we need teachers who can validate and embrace the unique identity and value of each individual. Cultured-based education, a commitment to social justice, and a transformational educational experience are on the path to this renewal. At Pacific Oaks, this is our model of education, and it works.”
Parnia framed his case with three questions. “To renew education we must be bold and ask ourselves regardless of the level of our students—preschool, elementary, secondary, and beyond— if we are helping them to answer three critical questions that are key to individual value and one’s opportunity to participate: What am I good at? Why am I good at it? And how am I going to use this talent to make a difference? If a student cannot answer these fundamental questions, it means that we have fallen short as educators.” Pacific Oaks is known for its educational philosophy of valuing the unique identity and potential of every individual while recognizing that personal growth is a life-long process.
Parnia bookended his remarks with stories of his family moving across country to join him in Pasadena and his upbringing in Iran. “I knew when I was 10 years old that I just didn’t want to come to this country, I was going to come to this country for my higher education,” he said. “And when I came of age, I left my homeland for a new one.”
Pacific Oaks’ new president began his 30-year career in higher education as a college professor at the University of Hartford and then as a dean and administrator at Cambridge College in Cambridge, Mass. More recently, Parnia also served as provost and executive vice president at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., and as CEO at Education Advisory Group LLC. He was selected by the Pacific Oaks Board of Trustees in January after a six-month national search.
Also joining him on the inauguration stage were a number of community and education leaders including Dr. Michael Horowitz, president and CEO of the nonprofit TCS Education System, of which Pacific Oaks is affiliated; representatives from Congressman Adam Schiff and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino; and academic processional representatives from colleges and universities including Stanford University, Claremont Graduate University, University of Michigan, Saybrook University, University of West Los Angeles, Pierce College, Fuller Theological Seminary, Art Center School of Design, and Pasadena City College. In the audience were community leaders Lacreta Scott, wife of Dr. Jack Scott; Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez and Deborah Sanchez; Wendy Garen, president and CEO of the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation; Alicia Procello Maddox, president of Avery Dennison Foundation; George Brumder, president of the Pasadena Educational Foundation; Michael Shanklin, CEO of Kidspace Museum; and current and former trustees, including Olin Barrett and his wife, Ann, Barbara Martin, Joseph and Marjorie Wyatt, Andrew Wilson, Jean Fleming, Maureen Carlson, Devinyl Schonfeld and her husband, Carlos, plus numerous Pacific Oaks trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, and students.
Also taking the podium was Gabriella Chapman, president of the college’s Student Government Association, and Cheryl Greer-Jarman from the faculty.
“Since Dr. Parnia set foot on campus, he has embraced the culture and spirit of Pacific Oaks as his own,” said Chapman. “His first few weeks on the job, he took the time to meet with students, visit classes, and integrate himself into the fabric of our community. Already, we are seeing proof of his dedication to our growth, and an appreciation for the founding principles that made us who we are. And for that, we are grateful.”
Added Greer-Jarman about Dr. Parnia, “During the past six months, we have been a witness. We have witnessed the brilliance of your mind as you have participated in valuing our history; impacting our present and charting our future. We have witnessed the technological advancements on our campuses: enriching the educational and research agendas for students, staff and faculty. We have witnessed you attending classes: sharing with students and learning from them. We have witnessed you canvassing the community: making connections, supporting businesses and sharing the Pacific Oaks story.”
The arrival of a new president is the latest in a series of news events for Pacific Oaks over the past year. Last fall it inaugurated its new School of Education, which was followed by a major grant from the Parsons Foundation, a partnership with the Pasadena City College, and the sale of its former campus on Westmoreland Place.
About Pacific Oaks College & Children’s School
Pacific Oaks College & Children’s School has played a crucial role in the development of early childhood education in the United States for more than half a century. Accredited in 1959, Pacific Oaks College is dedicated to the fundamental principles of inclusion, social justice, and the valuing of every human being. Pacific Oaks is well-known for its leadership in andragogy and for its ground-breaking anti-bias curriculum, which has been implemented in schools throughout the country and is often required reading in early childhood teacher training courses. An accredited nonprofit institution, Pacific Oaks College offers bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate programs in early childhood education, human development, counseling, and teacher credentialing. It is a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU). Founded in 1945, Pacific Oaks Children’s School is widely recognized today as one of the finest preschools in the nation.
In 2010, Pacific Oaks affiliated with TCS Education System, a nonprofit service organization that supports institutions each backed by an approach to education that prepares socially responsible professionals in applied fields such as education, psychology, and law.
Read President Parnia’s prepared remarks. Read the event program. View the event video.
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