Touro Administrator About to Enroll in New Course

By Sarah Rohrs, Vallejo Times Herald
Posted: 02/19/2012 3:28 PM

Two years after Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed, Donald Haight found himself in the unlikely position of pioneer.

The last Touro University administrator with ties to the school's San Francisco roots, Haight is retiring in June with fond memories and gratitude.

Haight, 66, is both dean of student services and director of admissions -- and has worked for Touro 14 years, including those when the school moved onto Mare Island as its first tenants following its closure.

He is leaving to spend more time with his family, particularly his grandson.

"I'm so blessed to spend the last part of my career here with people I have such respect for,"he said.

He's also well known on campus for his love of all things sports, particularly basketball.

His last Touro basketball game will be Feb. 23, the annual "Big Game," a traditional campus rivalry game between the Touro California and Touro Nevada teams.

As he prepares to retire, Haight said he entered college admissions via an amusing fluke, and has never wanted to do anything else.

While attending University of San Francisco, he misread a help wanted ad. The "recreationist" job he wanted to check out was really a "receptionist" position.

Though he wanted a job in sports, he applied anyway and was hired in the school's admissions department.

"It's amazing how our lives can turn completely around on something like that," he said, adding later he nearly went to Milipitas to coach sports and teach high school English but decided to stick with college admissions.

By starting out on the bottom floor, Haight said he learned all aspects of getting students into and through the door -- recruitment, admissions, registration and financial assistance.

In another kind of "ground floor" position, Haight helped Touro expand in Vallejo, and open with a freshmen class of 83 in 1999 for the College of Osteopathic Medicine. Touro now has 1,400 students enrolled in four different colleges.

It wasn't easy at first.

As the current Lander Hall was being renovated into medical classrooms and facilities, Touro's students first met in the ballroom of the Farragut Inn while administrators met in one of the former officer's quarters on Walnut Avenue.

"The weeds had taken over everything and the buildings were a wreck. Nobody was around.

I expected a zombie" to come walking along at any time, Haight said, showing his joking nature and love of movies.

Later, Haight worked to expand the Vallejo campus with the colleges of education, pharmacy, physician assistant studies and public health.

He said he feels good leaving, knowing the school is in good hands under current Provost Marilyn Hopkins and its leadership has stabilized after experiencing seven provosts in 14 years.

Prior to his time with Touro, he worked for the University of Northern California as vice president of student affairs.

"What makes a good job is not the job itself. It's the people," he said.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6832.

Don Haight