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Former Mt. Hood College president dies from health complications

Robert Silverman, 64, led MHCC from 2001-2007


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: MHCC - SILVERMAN

Under the leadership of Robert Silverman, Mt. Hood Community College doubled the size of its nursing program, built a new allied health facility and survived a challenging period of budget cuts.

The former Mt. Hood Community College president died Monday, July 22, in California from health complications. He was 64.

“Dr. Silverman was a dynamic leader who served Mt. Hood Community College with enthusiasm and a commitment to our mission,” said Debra Derr, current MHCC president.

Silverman was the fifth president of MHCC, preceded by Joel Vela and interim president Bill Becker. He led the college from 2001 to 2007 before transferring to Victor Valley College in Victorville, Calif.

A native of Lynnwood , Calif., Silverman received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville in Kentucky and his master’s and doctorate degree from UCLA.

Gresham resident Mary McSwain recalled Silverman’s dedication to the 2002 bond campaign she was coordinating for the college. Silverman logged numerous evening hours manning the phones and walking neighborhoods.

“He had a great sense of humor and sarcasm, but behind that was a lovely man who was quite passionate and approachable,” McSwain said. “He was a real mensch, with many devoted friends in the five years he was here.”

During his time in Gresham, Silverman served as chairman of the Oregon Community College President’s Council, composed of 17 Oregon community college presidents; and participated in a variety of civic organizations, including Gresham Rotary, the executive board of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, Portland Leaders Round Table and the Oregon Science and Technology Partnership board.

“He was an outsider (coming from California), but he really got to know and become a part of the community,” said Susie Jones, a former MHCC instructor and president of the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival. “You always knew where you stood with him.”

Silverman accepted the position in Southern California six years ago to be closer to his two sons, Matt and Josh, and grandchildren.

“It is with mixed feelings that I will be taking on this new adventure,” Silverman told The Outlook in 2007. “It has been hard being so far away from my grandkids, and since I’m not getting any younger, I want to spend as much time with them as possible. On the other hand, it is not easy to leave my family of colleagues and friends at MHCC.”

Pam Benjamin, Silverman’s executive assistant at the time, said she was on the verge of tears at the thought of him leaving. “He’s the best boss I’ve ever had,” she had said. “He just makes working fun.”

Silverman was succeeded by interim president Gary Murph. John “Ski” Sygielski served as the sixth full-time president from 2008-2011, followed by Michael Hay from 2011-2013.

In March 2010, Silverman resigned from Victor Valley College for an undisclosed health issue.

Services for Silverman were held Friday, July 26. Cards may be sent to the family in care of Josh Silverman, 829 Dartshire Way, Sunnyvale, Calif., 94087.

In lieu of gifts and flowers, the family asks for donations to a hospice of the donor’s choice in memory of Silverman.