Estéban’s exit brings praise and tears
Manuel Estàban likened his May 15 going-away party to a series of eulogies—with the happy difference being that he’s still here to enjoy it.
“It’s nice to hear it while you’re alive,” Estàban said.
It was an event befitting a great president, complete with tears and a This Is Your Life-style video retrospective including photos of Estàban as a little boy and with various visiting Nobel laureates.
At the party held in the BMU Auditorium, the 10-year president was lauded by colleagues and friends as “a born leader,” “open and forthright,” “genuine” and “dedicated and skillful.”
“Prior to Manuel arriving in town, the university clearly was an entity in itself,” said Chico City Manager Tom Lando, who presented him with a resolution honoring him signed by the City Council.
The plaques and commendations stacked up alongside Estàban and his wife, Gloria, as they listened to the praise being heaped upon him. Estàban occasionally dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief and choked up when called upon to give his own short speech.
The outgoing chairman of the Academic Senate, Jim Postma, credited Estàban with getting entities on campus, including unions, to work together with the university administration. Estàban, he said, “set a tone of respect, support and concern.” He then presented Estàban with a grateful resolution, secretly kept out of senate minutes so it would be a surprise, and confirmed professor emeritus status upon him.
A.S. President Jimmy Reed, in his last day in office, called Estàban “a friend, a mentor and a role model” and thanked him for supporting the A.S. and students at large.
A scholarship fund has been set up in the name of the Estàbans.
When Estàban came to town in 1993, he made immediate waves with an offhand complaint about his salary (he earned less than he’d make in private industry, but a heck of a lot more than most Chicoans) and the fact that he didn’t want to live in the rundown university mansion, taking an $18,000-a-year housing allowance instead. That was one of few missteps in a predominantly positive tenure that included a handful of harassment lawsuits against staff and an ill-advised entrapment drug bust when a narc was recruited to live in the dorms. But on May 15, no one was talking about his mid-1990s spat with a professor, or how he didn’t buck CSU brass on questionable directives involving the budget or the Common Management System.
In typical Estàban fashion, when it came his turn to speak, the now-former president deflected the praise to the university community as a whole. He even let Interim President Scott McNall wear the dark “power suit,” as Estàban called it, while he dressed in less-formal brown.
“I’m very uncomfortable in situations like this,” he said. “They’ve been 10 great years.” But, he went on, “this is not a university that is led by one individual. It’s a university that’s made up by all of you.”
Estàban will stick around for a bit, moving from his spacious Kendall Hall office to more modest digs in O’Connell Hall.