Richard Cleland, former Fresno City College business manager, dies

The Fresno BeeApril 21, 2014 

Richard Cleland.

COURTESY PHOTO — Special to The Bee

Retired Fresno City College business manager Richard Cleland woke up whistling before he left for his job.

The former welding instructor who became dean of boys and then head of the college business office was passionate about his work and a great leader, said those he employed.

"He was one of a kind. A good man," said Tom Driscoll, who worked for Mr. Cleland for two decades and retired in 2006 as manager of construction services for the State Center Community College District.

Mr. Cleland died Thursday in his Fresno home with his wife, Jan, by his side. He was 85.

Hired to teach welding at Fresno City College in 1959, Mr. Cleland took over as dean of boys in 1964, a disciplinary job that involved chaperoning a lot of school dances, Mrs. Cleland said.

But her husband, an Army veteran who enlisted right after World War II with twin brother Harold, also counseled Fresno City College students who were facing the Vietnam draft, Mrs. Cleland said. He talked to a lot of the boys about staying in school and studying "or you're going to be in the service," she said.

Many remember Mr. Cleland as campus business manager, a job he held at Fresno City College for 23 years, from 1973 to 1996. In that position, he oversaw the police department, cafeteria, bookstore, custodial grounds and the business office, among others.

"When he retired, it took three people to take his place," Mrs. Cleland said.

Mr. Cleland knew almost everyone on campus -- "he lived and breathed Fresno City College," said Brian Speece, now associate vice chancellor for business and operations for the State Center Community College District. Speece worked 11 years for Mr. Cleland, who hired him in 1985 as plant facilities manager.

"He was just a great guy to work for," Speece said. "He just always wanted to encourage you to grow in your job."

As campus business manager, Mr. Cleland oversaw several building projects, including a bookstore remodel and the library addition.

He also was involved in the 1990 makeover of Eueless Park, the home of the Fresno City College baseball team.

Mr. Cleland, a Fresno State graduate who played a season for the Bulldogs, was at heart loyal to Fresno City College.

"His loyalty was to the City College Rams," Speece said. "He was a Ram at heart, through and through."

Family and friends said Mr. Cleland was competitive.

Many of his lunch hours at Fresno City College were spent playing competitive badminton with faculty and staff, said Mrs. Cleland, who worked in the college's admissions and records office for 30 years. "We paired up as mixed doubles," she said. We worked pretty well together, but of course, if we lost it was my fault."

After retirement, Mr. Cleland played lawn bowling, which he recently had to give up as his health began to fail. He was good to have on the team, said friend and fellow lawn bowler Cecil Opper. "He was a just a good man to have on your side."

Athletics came natural to Mr. Cleland. He and twin, Harold, both played baseball and football at Yreka High School, where they graduated in 1946.

The brothers, two of nine children, did everything together while growing up on the family dairy farm, from milking cows to riding bareback on a black horse, named Mike.

"I was number six and he was number seven," Harold Cleland said. "I was 15 minutes older than him."

They both enlisted in the Army, in 1946 and returning from military service Japan, they attended Modesto Junior College and were on the football team. They transferred to what was then Fresno State College and played on the Bulldog team.

Earning bachelors and masters degrees at Fresno State, they found teaching careers in industrial arts. Richard taught at a high school in Los Gatos and at Fort Miller Middle School in Fresno before his move to to Fresno City College. Harold taught woodworking and metal working in Redding.The brothers moved into school administrative positions -- Richard at Fresno City College and Harold as an assistant high school principal.

Harold Cleland said his brother's death "is a loss to me. I'm adjusting to it, but I'm going to miss him."

Mr. Cleland's children remember summers spent at Santa Cruz and fishing and boating with their father who was "one of a kind," said daughter Suzanne Cleland.

Her father was a "very strong-minded dad," she said. "He taught us each to be our own person and he taught us to be individuals." He also "taught us to get along with everyone and he thought everyone was equal and we could be whatever we wanted to be," she said.

Mr. Cleland had achieved a dream by working at Fresno City College, she said.

"Every morning, he'd get up at the crack of dawn," she said. "He'd be whistling. He just loved going to work."

Richard Leroy Cleland

Richard Leroy Cleland

Born: Aug. 2, 1928

Died: April 17, 2014

Career: Retired dean of men and campus business manager at Fresno City College.

Survivors: spouse Jan Cleland; children Debra Nelson, Suzanne Cleland, Scott Cleland; brothers Harold Cleland, Ronald Cleland; granddaughter Destiny Cleland; one great-granddaughter and numerous nieces and nephews.

Services: A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Chapel of the Light in Fresno.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6310, or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.

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