RCC associate instructor dies

By Anthony Guillen

By Anthony Guillen

Riverside Community College geology instructor and adventurer Jim M. Mehegan died of a heart attack while on a whitewater-kayaking trip July 29.

Mehegan was a popular instructor at the Riverside Campus. He often took field trips to geological destinations that included the San Andreas Fault and Mammoth Lakes. He was slated to travel to Italy as part of the Study Abroad program this fall and was planning to tour some of the region’s volcano sites with students.

RCC President Salvatore Rotella, who sometimes joined Mehegan on his field trips with students, said that Mehegan always welcomed challenges.

“He was like a gazelle,” Rotella said. “He would take off up mountains and it would be tough to keep up. I would say to him ‘Jim, I was not the first to get there, but I was not the last either.’ He loved the challenge to get up a hill.”

Phyllis Hilton, RCC instructional department specialist, said that Mehegan work tediously to have command over the facts he delivered to students.

“He was a great instructor,” she said. “He did everything he could to make sure things were done the right way. He will be missed by everybody. I am going to miss him, I do miss him.”

Mehegan was also very rigid with the rules. Rotella recalled a time when even he crossed Mehegan’s line.

“One of the trips I was the only one to violate the rules. When we sat down for dinner, I had a beer. Jim said ‘Mr. Rotella-you’re the president, but nobody breaks my rules,'” Rotella said.

Mehegan was just elected vice president of the RCC chapter of the California’s Teachers Association. Newly elected CTA chapter President Karin Skiba said that Mehegan encouraged her to believe in herself and to run for CTA president.

“Before he left to go on his kayaking trip I couldn’t believe that he was leaving. I told him to stay and then asked him, ‘You are coming back, right?’ He just looked at me and grinned,” she said.

Skiba said that his knowledge of the curriculum he taught, his experience and his fairness made him an asset to the college.

“He would argue with you and state his opinion in a very strong way, but he would do so and you could still be friendly with him,” Skiba said.

Mehegan received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from UC Riverside and earned his doctorate from Dalhousie University in Canada. His teaching resume includes stints at Dalhousie and Cal State San Bernardino before coming to RCC in 1996.

He is survived by his wife, Colleen and his three sisters, Pat, Elizabeth and Alana Wiles. A memorial service will be hosted by the college on Sept. 16 in the A.G. Paul Quadrangle at 4 p.m. Faculty and students are encouraged to bring photos and other mementoes to be placed on display.