Longtime COC board member dies at age 72

Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees Vice President Michele Jenkins thanks crews responsible for building a new parking structure on campus during a ceremony marking its completion in 2019. She died Tuesday at age 72. Austin Dave/The Signal

Michele Jenkins, a longtime education advocate in the Santa Clarita Valley, died Monday. She was 72. 

Having served on the College of the Canyons governing board since 1984, Jenkins was a leader at the college during a tremendous period of growth, including the addition of its Canyon Country campus, its University Center and the hiring of longtime Chancellor Dianne Van Hook. 

“I owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Michele Jenkins,” Van Hook, who was hired by a group that included Jenkins in 1988, said in a statement Thursday. “I am convinced that her presence on the board is the reason why I am here at College of the Canyons. She had the courage to hire a female in a time in Santa Clarita when that wasn’t popular … She believed in the potential of people in situations, she believed that relationships matter, she invested her time and energy to make sure she contributed to the lives of the people with whom she cared about and the places with which she associated, and she put her actions behind her words, and she always did so with a sense of fun and integrity.” 

Joan MacGregor, a fellow COC board member of Jenkins’, enjoyed a lengthy friendship with Jenkins that formed when the two met in 1984 at a meeting of the SCV Trustees Association, which is a group of local education leaders who get together and discuss what’s going on at local campuses. 

Late COC board member Michele Jenkins, second from right, stands in between board members Mike Berger and Joan MacGregor at the groundbreaking of the Science Center at the College of the Canyons Canyon Country Campus on Wednesday, Jan, 24, 2018. Courtesy photo

“We both hit it off,” MacGregor said. “We were a few women among mainly men out here, so it was kind of a unique situation. And of course that has changed dramatically over the years.”  

Throughout their friendship, MacGregor admired her friend’s care and concern for students, she said Thursday, mentioning everything from the scholarships Jenkins helped create to the vineyards she helped seed at the college, to even the smaller gestures, like attending a softball game or a musical performance, and supporting the curriculum. 

A Hart High School and COC alum, as well, Jenkins had been a fixture since her family moved to the area in 1964. She went on to be the first in her family to graduate from college, and then transferred with her longtime husband, Greg Jenkins, to UCLA. 

When reached for comment Thursday, he asked The Signal to contact COC. 

She later earned her master’s degree in counseling and both she and her husband went on to earn a spot in COC’s Hall of Fame in 2000, when both were awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award. 

Michele Jenkins served six terms as board president, five as vice president and seven as board clerk, according to information provided by COC. 

College of the Canyons Alumni and California Community College Trustees Board member Michele Jenkins wears 1960s attire in keeping with the COC 50th anniversary celebration during the Repurposed Chancellor’s Circle dinner held at the Institute of Culinary Education at COC in Valencia on Saturday, October 26, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

In 1994, she was elected to the California Community College Trustees board of directors, which she would be a member of for 11 years, serving as president in 2004 and 2005. 

In addition to managing her husband’s local medical practice, the Doctor’s Office, Jenkins was involved in a number of groups, including a role in founding the local chapter for the League of Women Voters, MacGregor said, and a founding member of the SCV branch of the American Association of University Women. 

“Michele’s generosity knew no bounds,” according to a written statement issued Thursday from Eric Harnish, vice president of public information, advocacy and external relations for COC. “She contributed the stipend she received as a board member to the COC Foundation to support numerous college campaigns, programs and scholarships. And, she was passionate about encouraging people to pursue an education — so much so that she would pay for students’ books to help alleviate any financial stress associated with college. She was the voice of the COC students that made their lives better.” 

MacGregor noted the college would probably host a celebration of life next month. No service details were available at this time.  

Anyone who would like further information about the college’s plans to memorialize Jenkins can reach COC’s Chancellor’s Office at 661-362-3400. 

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