By Cheetara Piry
The Riverside City College community remembers Joe Anguiano as a passionate, proud Chicano and a devoted family man.
Anguiano, an English instructor, died Jan. 7.
Anguiano received his master’s degree in Latin American and Chicano literature at Cal State Fullerton and bachelor’s degree in journalism at Cal State Los Angeles, going on to work for The Los Angeles Times.
He started working as a part of the Puente Project at RCC in 1998.
RCC English instructor Steven Garcia served on Anguiano’s hiring committee. He remembered being impressed with Anguiano’s authenticity and involvement with Santa Ana College, which has a historically high demographic of Hispanic students.
“This is the kind of teacher we need for Puente, for these young first-generation college students who need that person to really go to bat for them and instruct them well for writing at a UC level,” Garcia recalled saying when Anguiano was hired at RCC.
Patricia Avila, an RCC counseling instructor who met Anguiano when he was a Puente Project mentor at Fullerton College, called Anguiano one of the hardest-working people she has ever met. Anguiano would rarely take time off, often teaching multiple classes during the winter and summer terms, she said.
Avila also remembers him as a great father and a family man. When she had just given birth and had to bring her daughter along to a conference at UCLA, Avila trusted Anguiano to hold her child as she attended to students.
“She went right with him,” Avila said. “It was very evident to me that Mr. Anguiano valued family above all else.”
Oliver Thompson, an RCC criminal justice instructor, shared a hallway with Anguiano in the A.G. Paul Quadrangle. Anguiano was often the first person Thompson would see in the morning, carrying an English muffin and a hot drink from McDonald’s.
Thompson said being an African American who experienced segregation in the South and Anguiano being a Chicano from East Los Angeles who experienced similar discrimination allowed them to relate to each other.
“We developed quite a friendship,” he said as emotion filled his voice. “We shared those experiences.”
Thompson and Anguiano also worked together to reach minority students.
Alicia Garcia, 29, is one of those students. She met Anguiano at RCC in 2018 after a 10 year hiatus from studying. When Garcia enrolled at RCC, she only intended to graduate with an associate degree. With Anguiano’s guidance, she set her goals higher.
“After I took his courses, transferring to a university was inevitable,” Garcia said. “He taught me how to push myself. He set the bar really high and I exceeded that bar.”
She laments that Anguiano will not be able to attend her RCC graduation this summer.
Anguiano’s colleagues and students said his courses were challenging due to his commitment to ensuring students became the best writers they could be. He sat on the Writing and Reading Center Advisory Council and was involved with the Diversity and Equity Committee alongside Kristi Woods, RCC dean of Instruction for Humanities, Social Sciences and World Languages.
“You know where he stood and what he was about,” Woods said. “The most significant marker of someone’s passion or devotion is that you know it. There’s no secret.”
To Woods, Anguiano’s passing presents a realization that RCC community members should be appreciated while still here and never taken for granted.
“We need to recognize and acknowledge those who are doing good work in the trenches, who are fierce and fearless advocates and recognize them now,” she said.
Anguiano is survived by his wife, son and two daughters.