Edward C. Ortell, who served on the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees for more than 50 years, passed away on Oct. 16, 2021, at the age of 82, the school announced Monday.
Ortell was first elected to the board of trustees in 1969 to represent Trustee Area 3, which includes Duarte and portions of Azusa, Monrovia, Arcadia, Covina and Irwindale. In 2020, he was honored for being the longest‐serving community college trustee in the state of California.
“The board extends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Ortell,” Dr. Patricia A. Rasmussen, president of the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “For more than 50 years, Dr. Ortell has advocated on behalf of all community colleges and was instrumental in helping promote significant initiatives at Citrus College. I served alongside Dr. Ortell since 2007, and I will always remember him for his passion, devotion and commitment. This loss is enormous, and we will all miss him tremendously.”
Prior to Ortell’s election, the Citrus Junior College District expanded to include students from Claremont, Duarte and Monrovia. Soon after he took office, the district was renamed the Citrus Community College District to reflect the college’s evolving role.
As a trustee, Ortell held all board offices, including more than 10 terms as board president. He also served on other boards and associations, including the California Community College Trustees Board, the California Master Plan for Education Task Force and the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association.
During his tenure at Citrus College, Ortell helped oversee the expansion of student services, an increase in the rates of students transferring to four‐year colleges and universities, the introduction of new vocational education programs, and the construction of many new buildings, such as the Haugh Performing Arts Center.
“Our Citrus College community is deeply saddened by the passing of Trustee Edward C. Ortell,” said Dr. Greg Schulz, superintendent/president of Citrus College, in a statement. “He was a visionary leader who expertly helped the college navigate five decades of change and innovation with passion and enthusiasm. A community college graduate himself, Dr. Ortell was a tireless champion of higher education and fiercely believed in the transformative power of community colleges. His loss is not only felt at Citrus College, but throughout the San Gabriel Valley. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Dr. Ortell’s family during this extraordinarily difficult time.”
A professor emeritus of business and computer technology at Pasadena City College, Ortell also authored two college textbooks on mathematics and received several National Science Foundation grants. He was also the former executive director of the Pasadena Education Association. His long list of accomplishments and accolades also include the CBS anchor Ralph Story Service Award, the Community College Association We Honor Ours Award and the Duarte Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Civic Service Award.
Upon receiving the Community College League of California Fulfilling the Trust award for the third time in April 2020, he reflected on his many years of service:
“Receiving this recognition from the Community College League of California is very humbling. It is definitely an honor to be among those whose service to the state and its students is being celebrated,” Ortell remarked in 2020. “I am very appreciative of the support that the citizens of Duarte have shown me throughout the past 50 years, and I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with my fellow board members, as well as with Citrus College faculty, staff and administrators.”