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Fresnans gather to say goodbye to City College president Cantú

• Cantú had more than 27 years of administrative and teaching experience in the State Center Community College District.

• His funeral Mass packed St. John’s Cathedral in downtown Fresno.

• Rev. Salvador Gonzalez said Cantú “reached out to see the potential on all people.”

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They came from everywhere. There were students, current and former. Teachers. Athletes. Coaches. Administrators. Educators. Bureaucrats. Even average people paying their respects.

In one way or another, it seems Fresno City College President Tony Cantú touched many lives. Many of those people packed St. John’s Cathedral on Friday afternoon for his funeral Mass.

They filled every pew. In the rear it was standing room only. People lined the cathedral’s side.

“To do the work that Tony did, reach out and see the potential in the people he touched, the students, that meant that God saw the potential in him first and he opened his heart and his ears to a God wanting him to rule his life and he did it,” the Rev. Salvador Gonzalez said during the service. “He reached out to see the potential on all people ... and made every effort to awaken that in anybody he met.”

Cantú, 64, a longtime professor and administrator who became the school’s leader in 2012, died unexpectedly last weekend. The cause of death is still pending. After the Mass, State Center Community College District Trustee Richard Caglia could only shake his head at the enormity of the loss for both Fresno City and the district.

Several of Caglia’s fellow trustees joined him at the service, among them Eric Payne, John Leal, Miguel Arias and Ronald Nishinaka. Also in attendance were Fresno State President Joseph Castro, longtime civic peace activist and former Fresno State social work professor Sudarshan Kapoor and Fresno County Administrator John Navarrette. Members of the City College soccer team handed out remembrance cards before the service.

It all reflected on Cantú’s standing in the community, several attendees said.

Early in Cantú’s career, he worked as a professor and department chairman at Fresno City. When college President Cynthia Azari resigned in 2011, Cantú was tapped as interim president and later applied for the job. Cantú — who wasn’t married and didn’t have children — assumed the president post after serving in a string of administrative roles at Fresno City and Reedley College. He was the dean of instruction at Reedley for two years and served as dean of humanities and vice president of instruction at Fresno City.

In total, Cantú had more than 27 years of administrative and teaching experience in the State Center Community College District. In death, his family established a scholarship in his name.

“It’s a rude awakening for all of us that life is short,” Gonzalez said. These are times, he said, to reflect on the seeds God gives people to plant in others, which he said Cantú did so well.

“How am I reaching out to find the potential in others, to awaken that seed in them so they can get the root they need to give,” he said. “What am I doing with the precious gift of life that God has given me. Those are all questions that we really need to ponder.”

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