Deanna Walston was hired as Ohlone’s Vice President of Business Services in 1996 and retired in 2007, after 11 years of dedicated and accomplished service. She came to Ohlone with significant financial management experience in the Oakland Public Schools and the Mission – West Valley Community College District. Her experience, knowledge and skill, along with her inclusive management and leadership style, would have a significant and lasting positive impact on the Ohlone Community College District.
When Deanna arrived at Ohlone the district was in great need for financial leadership. Cost overruns and delays in the construction of the Smith Center, along with other issues, were depleting the districts reserves and put it on a financial watch list by the state. Deanna hit the ground running and used her extensive state school financing experience to negotiate assistance from the state for the Smith Center work.
During her tenure at Ohlone, Dean instituted important financial controls and budget planning approaches, including both short term and longer term perspectives, which were instrumental is bringing stability to the district’s financial health. While bring fiscal stability back to the District, Deanna was highly regarded for inclusive leadership style. This was particularly evident in the improved relationships with the collective bargaining groups. She was honest and trustworthy in negotiations and was always looking for win-win agreements. When Deanna retired in 2007 the district was is sound fiscal shape, a large part of which was due to her leadership.
Deanna helped secure state funding for several significant construction projects and provided outstanding oversight of them. The first was the Site Safety Project on the Fremont Campus that involved building a loop road connecting Witherly Lane and Anza Road, as well as widening the upper Quad and building two turnaround roads on the north and south sides of the lower campus. These improvements give emergency vehicles better access in case of a fire or other disaster.
The next project was the Instructional Computer Center, since named Hyman Hall, a major two-story instructional facility on the lower Fremont campus. Deanna led the overall management of the project, which came in on time and on budget. She also led the obtaining of funding and the construction of the Child Development Center, also on the lower campus, also on time and on budget. Both of these facilities have provided positive and valuable teaching and learning environments for faculty and students over the years.
The strong project management and fiscal stewardship Deanna helped demonstrate on these state-funded projects positioned the District well to promote and pass the Measure A bond measure in 2001 that provided $150 million to construct the Newark Campus, the Student Services Building on the Fremont Campus, and a variety of facilities improvements on the Fremont Campus. Deanna oversaw the construction process for the Newark Campus and it was well near completion at the time of her retirement. Also at the time of her retirement, the Student Services Building had planned and put out for construction bids. These projects that Deanna helped plan and manage have been used by thousands of students. Again, the strong project management and fiscal stewardship on these projects set the stage for the district to make a strong case for the Measure G bond measure passed a few years after Deanna’s retirement.
In Deanna’s undergraduate work she was actually preparing to become a teacher. Although a career in finance beckoned, she did spend most of her professional life working for schools and colleges. She never lost sight of the teaching and learning goals of the institutions she served, and Ohlone was particularly fortunate to have her commitment to the educational mission of the college.
At Ohlone, Deanna was universally respected for her competent financial and project management leadership. Moreover, she was highly regarded for her professional, ethical and humane approach to her work. When the faculty held their annual party to celebrate the retirees in their ranks, they insisted that Deanna be included in the ceremonies. This was a very concrete recognition of her contributions to the academic work of the college.