Board of Trustees bids farewell to retiring members

After serving El Camino College and its Board of Trustees since 1991 and 2003, respectively, Trustee William Beverly and Trustee Mary E.Combs have announced their retirements.

During the Nov. 16 meeting, the open session began by reading letters sent to both trustees from former students and coworkers, thanking them for their small acts of kindness and wishing them well in their retirement.

Trustee Kenneth Brown was the first to share his well wishes to Beverly and Combs, recalling the lessons they taught him early on when he first joined the board.

“You [Beverly] were the first person to tell me ‘Hey, this seat is not about one particular constituent, this seat is about, and this job is about, doing right for the entire community and doing right for the entire college,’” he said.

For Combs, who served as a classified employee for five and a half years before joining the board, Brown highlighted the unique perspective Combs brought to the board, being the first classified employee of ECC ever to serve.

“For me, Mary Combs was [a] profound example of representing classified and the classified community,” Brown said.

Combs joined the board in 2003. She completed four terms after previously working at the Student Resource Center and said she had some difficulties her first year on the board, but she’s glad she stuck with it.

“I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” she said. “I wanted to bring some changes to the board, and I was breaking into the old boys club.”

Beverly has served El Camino as a board member since 1991. His peers refer to him as “a renaissance man,” someone with a great appreciation for literature, art and theater. He feels he can advise the district differently now that he isn’t a member of the Board of Trustees and looks forward to it.

“When I made the decision that I wasn’t gonna run, and I just realized this, it was a great relief,” Beverly said to the board. “I felt freed, in a way, because I didn’t have to keep my mouth shut anymore.”

Trustee Nilo Vega Michelin also gave thanks to both trustees for their years of service and the impact they’ve had on El Camino through their votes.

“If you look at El Camino in 1991 and then 2003, and then compare it to the way it is now in 2020, it’s an amazing transformation,” Michelin said to the board. “It’s a totally different place, it’s going to be helping students for another 50 years, and you two are responsible for that.”

Michelin also shared his favorite moment with Combs, recalling seeing her at the last student fashion show before the pandemic started.

Having been a student at ECC herself, Combs is active in campus events and said the fine arts department holds a special place for her. She also said she plans to continue being active at ECC and believes it’s important to encourage students in whatever they pursue.

Trustee Clifford Numark emphasized Combs and Beverly’s role in securing Compton College and its students in a partnership with ECC after losing their accreditation.

“I’m in such admiration of the courage that both of you demonstrated, both at that decision and throughout your careers of service at El Camino College,” he told the board.

Combs remembers that meeting discussing the vote to partner with the Compton lasting until 11 p.m. She said she wasn’t initially on the side of partnering with the college, but the decision ultimately became unanimous.

“I didn’t want to see a college close, and it was important to the students to not leave them hanging,” she said.

Numark went on to talk of his time working as a staff member at the state capitol while Beverly’s father, Bob Beverly, was working there as a senator. He described him as a man who was “non-political” and wanted to see the government get things done.

“When I think about, trustee Beverly, your tenure here on the El Camino board, it is very much in keeping with your dad’s legacy. And I think the institution is so much better off for it,” Numark said.

Numark also said his favorite moment working with the two trustees was during their search for President Dena Maloney. Combs echoed that sentiment, saying it provided her with opportunities.

“I had a chance to speak up,” she said. “And I was heard, and I was respected, and we respect each other.”

From attending ECC as a student to working at the Student Resource Center and ultimately serving on the board, Combs reflected on the college’s growth during her time there.

“It changed drastically. The student population coming in, all the new buildings, working with Compton,” she said. “Just an amazing amount of things happened and changed at El Camino, all for the better, I think.”

Taking the last word, Beverly thanked his peers for their kind words and reflected on his and Combs’ influence on the campus.

“[My dad] always told us, when we went camping at Lake Tahoe, that you always leave the campground [cleaner] than you found it. I think, Mary, that in our time here, I think we have accomplished that. I think we leave El Camino better than we found it, and I know that the rest of you will take it to new heights.”