Daniels, 81, immaculate mentor dies
Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 1, 2012 03:03
"Joy is the fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow." — Helen Keller, author
Many current students at Contra Costa College were not alive when former counseling department chairperson B. Wayne Daniels retired in 1992.
Even fewer on campus know the 36-year CCC employee and 2005 Hall of Fame inductee's first name was Bobby.
But for those who knew Daniels, his flawless fashion and perfect pronunciation, his legacy continues.
"Going to (CCC) saved my life," said Gloria Gideon, who worked with, and for, Daniels at CCC and the Neighborhood House of North Richmond. "Being around people like Wayne made all the difference for me."
Daniels, 81, died Feb. 15 in his Berkeley home after suffering a stroke. His church, the McGee Avenue Baptist Church, hosted his funeral Saturday.
Stephanie Huie, who worked with Senior Helpers, an in-home care service, said Daniels also had Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Baji Daniels (no relation) came to CCC as an English professor in the late 1960s and took away the impression Wayne Daniels always tried to project.
"He personified my image of what a college professor is," she said. "His attire was impeccable, as was his speech."
Wayne Daniels wore thick glasses to correct for his far-sightedness and a suit and tie each day to distinguish himself from, and set an example for, students.
He drove a small, boxy MG sports sedan, a British car that was in his collection of classic cars.
And he spoke clearly, directly and eloquently, with an almost British accent, despite growing up in the South.
"He was a well-dressed, articulate individual," former Governing Board trustee Tony Gordon said.
He remembered him as, "The Arkansas-native who spoke with an English accent."
Daniels was the youngest of William Henry and Willie Floyd Daniels' 11 children, born June 9, 1930 in Pine Bluff, Ark.
He spent the first 21 years of his life in Pine Bluff, 45 miles south of Little Rock. In 1947 he was Merrill High School's valedictorian. Then he headed to Arkansas AM&N (now the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff) on a full scholarship and graduated with honors in May 1951.
In 1953, Daniels earned a master's degree in sociology from UC Berkeley and then served two years in the Army before returning to the East Bay.
He taught at Berkeley's Willard Junior High School for a year before being hired as a part-time sociology professor at CCC in 1956.
In 1960 he began working at the college full-time as a professor and counselor.
Dr. Gordon met Daniels in 1964 when Gordon arrived as an automotive services instructor, but worked alongside Daniels from 1970-80 as a counselor and preceded him as department chairperson.
"He was the first black counselor in (1960) and the first to work with the foreign students," Gordon said. "He was really committed to the job."
Daniels also took on the task of making sure students progressed and continued their education after CCC.
He co-founded the Career Center with fellow counselor Lillian Cole while nurturing and expanding the Transfer Center.
"It would be a fitting tribute if the Transfer/Career Center became the Wayne Daniels Transfer/Career Center," CCC psychology professor Steve Greer said.
Greer began working with Daniels in 1970 as a counselor and stayed in touch with Daniels.. He found out years after they met at CCC that the two were cousins, sharing a grandfather, and went to the same family reunion.
"After almost 20 years (of retirement) I'd still call him for information and direction," Greer said.
Former CCC director of Admissions and Records Jeanette Moore said Daniels helped her get a job on campus when she was a freshman in 1973.
She worked her way up in the Admissions and Records Office, from "the lowest position up to the highest," retiring in 2004 as dean of enrollment services.
"When I think about my 32 years working at the college and I think about my experience and those people instrumental in my beginning, Bobby Wayne Daniels was one of the top five individuals who helped me become who I am today," she said.
Daniels helped those off campus as well.
In the late 1960s he became the head of the Neighborhood House of North Richmond's Board of Directors and took the organization in a new, community-led direction.
He also became a mentor to Gideon, a UC Berkeley student on a work-studies program at NHNR in the mid-60s.
The NHNR was founded in 1954 by Quakers, a religious group which supports pacifism, to address the needs of, and give support to, local residents.
"When Wayne came to the North Richmond, he didn't quite agree with the direction the Neighborhood House was going," Gideon said. "Wayne felt the people who lived in North Richmond needed to have a greater role in what's going on at the Neighborhood House. He was a pretty controversial figure."