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FEATURE STORY
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Mildred García, continued ...Published: September 01, 2012

CSUF's lively, colorful campus
A family born of tough times
García’s parents brought their five children to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico shortly before her birth. They settled in Brooklyn, where both parents became factory workers and raised their large family in a housing tenement. Education was a priority for the Garcías. But to them that meant getting a high school education. Mildred García was the only one to make it through college. Her father died when she was 12, but her mother, Lucia – who died a few years ago – carried on as head of the family, working long hours in the factory and encouraging her youngest daughter’s college dreams. García proudly calls her mother “my hero.”
   
“I had to work multiple jobs to have enough money to pay for college,” she says. “When I would get home, my mother would have my dinner waiting for me on a radiator to stay warm.”
   
It was her mother’s strength, she says, that drove her to eventually get a doctorate. García’s goal was to become 
a teacher.
   
“All I ever wanted to do was teach,” García says. With a wave of an arm in her spacious office, she adds. “All this came later.”
   
She taught business at a community college in New York for five years. When she was asked to be an assistant to the president at another community college, she first turned it down
   
“I didn’t spend all that time preparing to teach just to be somebody’s assistant,” she says. But she took the job when she learned it would lead to more important duties.
   
From there, her career in administration took off. She became the college’s dean of students then kept moving up through the ranks. She finally moved west, to Arizona State, where she eventually became vice provost for academic affairs. But then an executive headhunter convinced her to return east, as president of Berkeley College of New York. But her work in national education circles – especially Hispanic affairs – brought her much attention, and a chance to move back west, to the presidency at Cal State Dominguez Hills in 2007.
   
It was Milton Gordon, the outgoing president at Cal State Fullerton, who was retiring after 22 years, who told her she would be a perfect fit at the university.


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