Bakersfield College mourns the loss of Jack Hernandez


Rip file footage

Jack Hernandez in 2017.

Nick Covello, Editor-in-chief

Jack Hernandez, a retired Bakersfield College professor and administrator who was a mainstay at the college for over 40 years, died at the age of 84 on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Hernandez joined BC as a faculty member in 1961, where he served as a professor of English and Philosophy. Eventually, in 1989, he was made the Chair of the philosophy department where he was awarded the Shirley Trembly award in 1996 for his love and advocacy for students at the college.

In addition to his role as a professor, Hernandez also served as Dean of Students and the Vice Chancellor for the Kern Community College District before ultimately becoming the first Director for the Levan Center in 2007, a position which he held for a decade before retiring in 2017.

“I came to BC as a student in 1993, and I took one of Jack’s classes without really knowing who Jack was,” said Reggie Williams, current BC professor of Philosophy and director of the Levan Center. “I completely fell in love with the class to the point where I quickly started to consider philosophy as a major. I took two more of Jack’s classes after that, and we kept in contact when I attended CSUB. I think at that point it was safe to say we became friends.”

When Williams eventually applied for a job as a philosophy professor at BC, Hernandez was on the hiring committee as the department chair. He then worked under Hernandez for two years until he retired from teaching and moved on to become Director of the Levan Center, a position which Williams would eventually take over when Hernandez retired in 2017.

“It was a humungous honor [to take over as Director] and I didn’t consider myself to be the obvious choice,” Williams said, “I was incredibly honored, flattered, and humbled to take over from him, and we kept in touch the entire time. He did such a good job at letting me ‘have my wings,’ but he also was always there for support.”

Upon his retirement, Hernandez would go to Dagny’s Coffee Company and sit in a window seat every morning as he wrote poetry, his favorite part of his morning routine according to an email sent out from the BC Archivist Jerry Ludeke. Hernandez loved poetry, and wrote up until his last days, even writing five poems in the hospital the day before he died.

With over 40 years of service to Bakersfield College, Hernandez valued the connection between campus and community, something that Williams takes in his approach as Director of the Levan Center today.

“He loved this place as a faculty member, an administrator, and as a community member. He really did an amazing job showing how somebody could be a professor and understand things on a very technical and theoretical level, but also show its relevance in the real world,” Williams said.