Human rights activist Marina Schuster speaks for Bhutto-Ispahani lecture series.
In 24 years, Eric Bishop made his mark on La Verne as a student, teacher and mentor.
In his roles as advisor, professor, director and dean, one principle has been paramount for Eric Bishop: students always come first.
Bishop has been known to say he had 1,500 children that he enjoyed caring for – a reference to his commitment to students at the University of La Verne.
“Many have graduated and left me, but I always seem to adopt more,” he has said.
When he left his full-time job at the University of La Verne in 2007, Bishop had been at the university for 22 of the previous 24 years in one capacity or another. His roles included: student, faculty member, and above all, mentor and respected member of the La Verne family. Countless people had come to rely on the man they knew as “EB.”
“I used to joke with people that I had served in every category at La Verne: as a classified staff member, a faculty member and an administrator. It was hard leaving,” Bishop, now Dean of Chaffey College District’s Fontana campus, said.
He said he found it particularly difficult to leave the students. And students also found it tough to say goodbye to their champion and friend.
The timing was right, however, and Bishop couldn’t pass up such an opportunity. He said he was fortunate to land at an institution that “mimics and mirrors the same values at ULV.”
His contributions to La Verne have earned him respect from students, faculty and staff. In 2008, he was named the Distinguished Alumni Award Winner for Service to Alma Mater. That prompted formation of an “EB Fan Club” on Facebook, where students, alumni and colleagues left him notes of congratulations and spoke of his impact.
“You are what ULV is all about… family, dedication, excellence,” one former student wrote.
In his current role with Chaffey, Bishop is the chief operating officer for the Fontana campus and is responsible for completing campus strategic, growth and enrollment plans. He has held that position for a year. Clearly, a new group of students is benefitting from Bishop’s commitment.
“There is an expectation of working toward students’ success and caring what’s best for students,” he said. “That is talked about openly.” That made the transition easier, he said.
Bishop, who grew up in Los Angeles, happened onto La Verne. It was obviously serendipity.
“I had two cousins going to La Verne College so it was the absolute place I didn’t want to go,” he said with a laugh. But through a variety of circumstances, he ended up applying.
“It felt like it was home. It really felt like it was the place I was supposed to be. I don’t know any other place that has given me the opportunity to be me and to be the full person I tried to become.”
Bishop quickly began making his mark. As resident assistant, he offered guidance to students who lived in the residence halls. During those undergraduate years, he was secretary and president of the Black Students Union, kept stats for the men’s basketball team for four years and was a three-year spotlight weekend leader.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1988 and began working in La Verne’s Communications Department. After a short stint away from campus, he returned in 1994 with a master’s degree and began work as a faculty member, teaching journalism and mass communications while advising for the Campus Times.
He moved into administration in 2001, first working as Director of Academic Advising and later as Associate Dean of Academic Support and Retention Services. He worked in administration for six years.
Earlier this year, Bishop, who earned a doctorate in organizational leadership, was chosen to speak at La Verne’s commencement ceremonies.
Bishop said he was flattered to be asked to deliver a commencement speech. He said he was honored to have the opportunity to address college graduates and future educators and hoped to offer words of wisdom and encouragement.
Simon Bouie, who graduated from La Verne in 1999, has said Bishop would do anything in his power to help someone.
“He is a reflection of what one can argue is the most intriguing thing about a La Verne education – the opportunity for a student to not only learn from, but to become engaged in the lives of their instructors and establish true, lasting friendships,” Bouie said.
Bishop believes he is merely doing his job as an educator.
“I’ve had a lot of students who have thanked me for believing in them and for working with them,” Bishop said.
He keeps in mind his mother’s advice. She told him that there is an opportunity in trying different things, even if they don’t work out. She also instilled in him how important relationships are to growth and success.
Bishop said he didn’t know what career path he wanted to pursue growing up. “I never thought education would be a path. It was something I stumbled onto just because I loved working with students.” He said he’s still debating his ultimate goal.
The beauty and meaning in what he’s doing now — and has been doing — is obvious.
“We provide access to higher education for everyone,” he said of working at Chaffey College. “Our doors are open for everyone who wants to attend. It gives people the opportunity to change their lives and their careers and that’s the thing I love the most.”