Woodland Community College Foundation honors Jim Lawson at the 2016 Founders’ Day Dinner as one of the original
pioneers and enduring figures of the college. When Jim Lawson left Yuba College in 1975 with Director Gene Hickey
to help open the first Woodland Community College campus there was no way of knowing what the future held. With
Hickey, Jim hired what would be the first cohort of instructors, twelve in all, including Jim.
Before landing in Woodland, though, Jim finished his studies at Providence College for his undergraduate degree
and later attended UC Davis getting his graduate degree in theater and thereafter going to Minneapolis’ Guthrie
Theater to begin his professional career. But in Minneapolis he wanted a change and took his opportunity to get
out of the cold. In 1968 Yuba College hired him as theater teacher by phone, sight unseen. He must have made a
During his tenure, students flocked to Jim because of his good sense of humor, approachability, and his great
teaching style. Jim was very attuned to the needs of his students and relished the fact that no two classes were
ever the same, despite the same subject matter. Because Jim had latitude over his curriculum, he often explored
his passion of critical thinking with his students. Fellow Founders’ Day award winner and colleague Frank Rodgers
remembers, “Students just loved Jim. He had many repeat students and generational students because they enjoyed
the way he engaged with them and that he brought the best out in them.”
Frank Rodgers also remembers Jim as a steady presence during those first years. “Jim was our go-to for all of our
information on the inner workings of the administration and how things worked at the district. Jim was our leader
and he was our comfort zone. We knew we could count on Jim.”
When asked his favorite memory of Woodland Community College Jim reminisced about his time at the College Street
campus. For Jim, those were the golden years when all of the staff and faculty spent much of their time in cramped
quarters known as “The Cave” with everyone sharing one bathroom. The camaraderie was contagious and the staff was
very bonded as a result. Jim remembers how bittersweet it was to leave that building. He knew the campus needed to
grow to accommodate the growing and diverse student body, but he loved the building and what it represented.
Despite his studious nature, those that know Jim also know his great sense of humor. His wife Sunny, also a Founders’
Day award winner, talked about the first time she met Jim. They were in a faculty meeting and she saw this man across
the room. He tripped and fumbled his papers in front of the staff. She felt embarrassed for him. Unbeknownst to her,
that was his way to break the ice with the rest of the staff and start the meeting.
Nowadays Jim enjoys the simpler things in life, like spending time on his boat, tying fishing flies, wood lathing,
and spending time with his wife Sunny and their family. Despite his physical absence from the campus, his presence
is felt throughout the hallways, with a generation of newer professors that followed in his footsteps.