After 15 years of working at Fullerton College, the director of Disability Support Services and the Veteran’s Resource Center Paul McKinley is retiring.
On Tuesday, September 22, a group of FC faculty members hosted a going-away party for McKinley, themed “What would Paul do?”
The event was filled with colleagues, students and friends alike.
Those who worked with him described him as genuine, unafraid to do what he truly thinks is right, a champion, family man, visionary and friend.
“He’s a great guy, just very passionate about his program, about Fullerton College, and really cares about what he’s doing,” said Vice President of Administration Richard Storti, who has known McKinley for about three years. “He cares about the students and puts students first over everything.”
Prior to teaching at FC one of McKinley’s jobs was in the city of Norco, working with K-3 children who had gone through abuse, either sexually or physically.
The children he worked with there were severely disturbed emotionally due to the trauma they had experienced.
McKinley talked about a child he met while working there, who had no parents and was “a lost soul” as he described it.
“I had to take him to little league…be his dad basically,” he said. “We’re still in contact, 30 years later, we’re in contact. That’s why I do it”
At FC he continued to impact student’s lives and be impacted himself.
McKinley spoke about a blind student he has worked with, who despite her disability, is an arts major and works with ceramics.
One of his students, who is also blind, was once asked if she would choose to have sight were she given the option, and she said, “No, this is who I am. It’s what I know.”
McKinley said that it is the students who change the instructors’ lives.
McKinley also spoke of a highlight working in the DSS, which is a telepresence robot. The telepresence allows a student that has a “brilliant mind in a dilapidated body,” as he said, to be able to attend his classes from home.
McKinley found the means to get $9000 in order buy the telepresence about a year and a half ago, and he compared this student’s brilliance to that of Stephen Hawking.
With this resource, the student is able to “wake up” the telepresence, attend class, listen and participate, all from his laptop at home. He can even raise his “hand” to ask a question by turning lights on the telepresence..
“He had calculus [his] first semester and he was the top student in the class,” said McKinley. “That is why I do what I do […] I just changed his whole life, to me that’s an honor.”
McKinley, who has a severe visual processing deficit that makes it difficult to read, said that his strategy was always, “try harder.” So when he was in college he would read his textbooks, record himself and later go back and listen to them whenever and wherever he could.
“I could have easily just gave in [and said] ‘I can’t read so I’m not going to be successful,’” said McKinley.
McKinley related to one of the students he worked with at FC, who has a similar visual processing deficit that makes reading very difficult.
He described her self-esteem as being extremely low. When he first met her, she graduated from Katella High School, yet was reading at a fourth-grade level and had never received a grade higher than a D (except for P.E.).
After earning her trust, McKinley introduced her to a program called Kurzweil, which allowed her to put all her books on a CD so she could listen instead.
“I can still remember the day that she walked in with her transcript […] with her first A,” said McKinley. “Long story short, she now has her Masters Degree from Cal State Fullerton. She never would have done it if it weren’t for this office.”
These experiences have all had an incredible impact on McKinley, and he said that those will be the things that he remembers.
“It’s the tears that are my reward,” he said, “the tears of joy.”
After 15 years of serving FC, Paul McKinley is certain that the team he leaves behind will take care of the department and continue to move it forward.
“My team here is the most amazing department on campus. They just give their heart and soul into serving students with disabilities, and then they are very passionate about Fullerton College as a whole,” said McKinley.
During his retirement, he plans on spending more time with his wife, Elli, and their two adopted children, Joey and Chris, in their La Quinta home.
“We’re not big travelers. We’re kind of home bodies,” he said. “I have a lot of things I want to do around the house.”
McKinley also plans on spending time with his grandchildren and visiting his son David who lives in the Philippines as well. When they’re not doing any of those things, he and his wife Elli plan to volunteer more in the community and give back.
Though McKinley may be leaving FC, his legacy and his impact on Disability Support Services will continue for many years.