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Riverside City College names Wolde-Ab Isaac as new president

Eritrea-born Wolde-Ab Isaac overcame poverty to become the first in his family to attend college. (Credit: Kurt Miller/Staff Photographer)

By David Downey

A local board has awarded the task of leading Riverside City College to an East African-born man with an extensive educational background and a plan for boosting college participation in Inland Southern California.

Wolde-Ab Isaac, 70, of Riverside was named RCC’s 11th president late Tuesday by the Riverside Community College District board of trustees in a 5-0 vote. Isaac had presided over the nearly century-old, culturally diverse campus of more than 18,000 students on an interim basis since August 2013.

California’s seventh-oldest community college, RCC will celebrate its 100th birthday in March 2016. Isaac will make $205,000 a year.

“Interim is never ever guaranteed a position,” board President Virginia Blumenthal said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

But during a nationwide search for a college president, she said Isaac stood out.

“He’s a living example of what education can do,” Blumenthal said. “And that’s what he wants to bring to our community.”

Isaac has helped develop programs aimed at accelerating student achievement by prioritizing classes for those pursuing specific fields of study.

“We have one of the lowest college-going rates in the nation, and we are trying to increase that,” Blumenthal said.

According to the California Postsecondary Education Commission’s website, about 35 percent of Riverside County residents go to college, and about 29 percent of San Bernardino County residents do. That compares with a statewide average of more than 40 percent and a rate of 48 percent in Orange County.

“He is a terrific leader,” Blumenthal said of Isaac. “He knows how to build a consensus.”

Michael L. Burke, district chancellor, said in a statement: “I have the utmost trust in him.”

One of seven children, Isaac was born in the East African country of Eritrea in a family living in poverty. His father completed only the third grade.

“And my mother never attended school at all,” he said.

However, encouraged by his parents, Isaac excelled in school.

“I was always getting prizes,” Isaac said. He became the first member of his family to attend college.

Isaac said he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie University in 1968. Over the next four years, the Fulbright scholar secured a master’s degree and a doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the University of Michigan.

He initially sought to become a doctor. During his childhood, his mother was “not very healthy.” And he said he was impressed by the doctors who helped her.

“They were heroes to me,” Isaac said.

But his medical pursuit didn’t last long.

“I didn’t like working with dead animals or cadavers,” he said. “And so I moved on to chemistry.”
Isaac said he focused his training and earlier employment on developing medicines.

Isaac was hired by the Riverside Community College District in 2006 to serve as dean of health science programs at Moreno Valley College. Under his leadership, district officials said, the campus developed and expanded programs in dental hygiene, physician assisting, emergency medical assisting and dental assisting.

“He did an extremely good job at Moreno Valley College,” Blumenthal said. “He has always been a team player.”

Before accepting the interim-president assignment, Isaac was vice president of academic affairs at RCC for a year and a half.

“I fell in love with the college,” Isaac said. “It is a great college. It has a really rich tradition.”


Previous jobs: Assistant professor, Haile Selassie University, 1972-75; associate professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, University of Ife, Nigeria, 1976-82; senior research clinical scientist at AstraZeneca, 1982-93; Eritrea government secretary of human resources, 1993-2000; president of the University of Asmara in Eritrea, 1993-2006; first hired by Riverside Community College District in 2006 as dean of Health Science Programs at Moreno Valley College; vice president for academic affairs, RCC, January 2012-July 2013

Residence/Family: Riverside, three sons (two live with him)

Author: 25 scientific papers published in professional journals

Source: Riverside Community College District
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Riverside City College names Wolde-Ab Isaac as new president Reviewed by Admin on 9:17 AM Rating: 5


  1. EriRecognizesArmenianGenocideApril 24, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    Very cool. Riverside County is only 20 mins. north from where I live. I'll be sure to stop by his office and shake this great scholar's hand :-)

  2. Then get back to Eritrea your country needs you it is at war with Ethiopia

  3. congratulation to our contryman dr. Wolde ab Isak

  4. Ghebrehiwet GhebremedhinApril 24, 2015 at 3:50 PM

    I would like to congratulate Dr. Wolde-Ab, He really deserves more than that. We Eritreans remember him as one who has done magnificent and unforgettable achievements for the motherland - Eritrea. He has done all his best as chairman of E:R.A.during the struggle for liberation. as chairman of the referendum committee in Scandinavia and then as president of the University of Asmara. History will rermember him!


  6. Forget the war;He is too old to fight.How did he run away? He is lucky he did not end up in the meditranean like most eritrean run aways.

  7. It seems the college doesn't yet know, the association of this dull, half baked educator with the marderous regime of Isaias and his direct involvement with death of 3 university of Asmara students in the hands of the war lord Wuchu in the year 2001.
    We have evidence that clearly show Weldeab's involvement in the decision to bunish the students of the university of Asmara to Gelaalo then to wia. Which resulted in the deaths of multiple students and permanent decapitation of many others. This is the time the butcher should face justice not promotion.

  8. History will also remember him as a murderer who ordered the bunishment of his own students to very inhospitable place and a kleptocrat who defraud the University of Asmara of it's hard earned funds.

  9. Weldeab is a megalomaniac, all he cares about is himself. You ever heard about his first wife and her suicide and suicide note?. Weldeab had used University of Asmara as a conduit to earn the attention of Dictator Isaias.
    For whatever reason, all Weldeab wanted was to be an ambassador to Sweden.( I guess he would have served the nation better in that position if his intent was genuine) however, he was unwilling to do the minimum sacrifice expected of him, if he were to become an Ambassador. He was asked to renounce his Swedish citizenship but he was unwilling. I believe DIA knew that.

  10. This guy is 70 years old to fly. He can teach flying though.

  11. Maybe PIA will extend national service upto 75 years old

  12. Heard PIA is upping the national service age to 75 years old so he should return home

  13. He is only one year older than PIA but is not as vain and does not color his hair or mustache

  14. I congratulate him for his role but no one will forget his role in the 2001 Asmara university students protest. He just obeyed what ever the dictator told him to do, and didnt stand up for his students. He will be remembered as coward who chose career instead of the well being of his students. He is co-responsible for the death of 3 Asmara university students at that time.

  15. jelousy at its best

  16. You cannot make it without Eritrean spices !No creativity at all poor agaminos LOL LOL

  17. Issa was "president of the University of Asmara in Eritrea, 1993-2006", because of the mad dog IA , instead of serving his own country, he in exile. Guess how many scholars are like Isac in exile ? too many and ask yourself why are they in exile ? you will find the answer.

  18. 350 and 22 by issApril 25, 2015 at 7:22 AM

    what country????

  19. Get this Agame Shhiite out of here. Mr. Webmaster please delete it. This belongs at tigrayonline or aigamforum. Not on Eritrean website.

  20. You are the real agame. If you were real Eritrea. In support of PIA you would be in Eritrea supporting the cause you fake coward woyane

  21. Go back and eat your McDonalds burger in USA fool

  22. Not outside of Eritrea like you fool


  24. Great things through conscripted labor? Isaias should be paced in prison immediately for treason

  25. You should be able. To congratulate him cuz like Madote you are in California or USA

  26. Yes condradulations to an American or old EriTrean defector numb nuts

  27. ኣሌክ - Alec youApril 26, 2015 at 2:39 AM

    WTF--> is this qomal-Agame. is this supposed to be something?...u Agame people are weird.

  28. ኣሌክ - Alec youApril 26, 2015 at 2:42 AM

    STFU Agame's boy---->just keep on barking---Woof,Woof ruff, bow-wow....

  29. ኣሌክ - Alec youApril 26, 2015 at 2:42 AM

    This Agame are going LOCO...

  30. ኣሌክ - Alec youApril 26, 2015 at 2:44 AM


  31. Fact is that you are a fake and a coward. Real Eritreans are either inside Eritrea or in opposition abroad; there is no in between for if you support PIA and are not in Eritrea there is no way around it, you are a fake, coward and hypocrite. You boys only know how to utter words like TPLF, agame and woyane while watchIng the PFDJ destroy everything that our fighters have sacrificed for. You want to be like men that have seen war and performed service for Eritrea but you can only pretend. Maybe that is why you have posted over 1,400 comments on the web, maybe you feel guilty in being a coward while thousands of our brothers and sisters are writting away in some 800 prisons across Eritrea. You guys are really really a sad lot and have nothing whatsoever in common with most real Eritreans. Since 2001 we have lost a generation of Eritrean youth and you must be one of them.

  32. ኣሌክ - Alec youApril 26, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    Qomal-Agam----Woof,Woof ruff, bow-wow

  33. Boy go home leave your pasta house in Italy fanged queer agame


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