The year Ann Gross started teaching parti-time at NVC, in 1988, British ski jumper Eddie the Eagle was soaring through the air at the Calgary Olympics, and Cher won the Oscar for best actress in Moonstruck.
In the ensuing 32 years (she started full-time in 1994), Ann built a career and reputation based on integrity, honesty, professionalism, an excellent work ethic, teamwork and dedication, the Board of Trustees noted in a resolution during its May 14, 2020, virtual meeting. Earlier in the year, Ann had announced her intention to retire at the end of the spring quarter, a bittersweet move for Ann and for the broad and deep family she had made among her colleagues and coworkers.
“You have been a true force and someone who always puts students first,” Interim Asst. Superintendent and Vice President of Academic Affairs Faye Smyle said in introducing Ann at the Board meeting. “On a personal note, Ann, you have always been a mentor, confidant and a wonderful colleague to me, always there to lend an ear, or support and advice on an issue.”
María Villagómez, senior dean of language arts, library and social sciences, read the resolution aloud, demonstrating how Ann’s influence can be seen throughout the college, from the Speech Communication program to the Faculty Association, Academic Senate, Diversity Task Force, Inclusivity Committee and more. In 2008, she received the McPherson Distinguished Teaching Award, given to outstanding faculty with a commitment to excellence in education. Ann said that she was “quite honored” by that recognition, in particular.
“It has truly been an honor to work at Napa Valley College for over three decades,” Ann wrote in a farewell email to the NVC faculty and staff. “When I think of how far the college has come in serving our students, I am amazed at the individual efforts and collective progress that we have made. We have much to be proud of, not the least of which is the dedication that everyone is demonstrating right now through these trying [COVID-19] times. I … am saddened by the thought that I won’t be back in fall, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to dive into the new year with all of you. That is easily the hardest part of retiring.”
The Board of Trustees presented Ann with faculty emeritus status, in recognition of her distinguished and honorable service and College President Ron Kraft, noted, “There are people who leave the institution and people who are the institution. You can feel a little history leaving with Ann’s departure.”
In true Ann fashion, her farewell statement to her NVC family was both hopeful and affectionate.
“I am not sure what the future holds but am looking forward to whatever new adventures await me. Travelling and taking classes may be on hold for now, but I am certain that more good times are around the corner, and that I will be back on campus to participate in any number of activities in the years to come,” she wrote. “Take care. Stay safe. Stay strong. Don’t forget to be grateful and laugh. I’m sending you lots of love, today and always.”
In Ann’s words: “I love folding origami cranes. A few years ago, one of our beloved administrators, Judie Walter-Burke, was quite ill, so I rallied the college to fold 1,000 origami cranes for her. In Japanese culture, it is said that this will help the person recover (unfortunately, in Judie’s case that did not play out). I showed college staff how to fold the cranes, and then gave people bags of paper to take home and fold. I understand that Judie had them all over her house, and she took great comfort in seeing them and knowing how much people cared for her.”