Leonard Lahtinen, who has dedicated his life to serving the North Orange County Community College District, was celebrated Thursday, May 18 with a tree planted in his honor.
Lahtinen, labeled “Mr. Anaheim” and the longest running trustee in the NOCCCD, was honored for his incredible 26 years of service.
He was encouraged by a demographic study released in 1999 on this area of Anaheim which showed a need for educational services.
Lahtinen shared his experience as he put the city of Anaheim on the map for California community colleges.
“In 2001, this vacant Martin Luther hospital building was listed for sale. The location was perfect. Did I mention I’m a Lutheran?” Lahtinen said jokingly.
“The move was reconsidered and the NOCCCD offices were moved into this renovated building,” continued Lahtinen.
Lahtinen gave a speech expressing his gratitude for being honored, sharing his humor with his lighthearted jokes.
He has gained lifelong colleagues over his long career in the district.
Charlie Petrilla, longtime friend who first met Lahtinen while both were teaching at Kennedy High School, expressed his happiness and appreciation for the tree-planting.
“This is a great idea: a tree that will last forever. It’s in a great location. It’s fantastic Leonard is being honored for his life-long dedication,” said Petrilla.
“Lahtinen retired a year ago, and ever since we have wanted to honor his 26 years of service as a trustee,” said Kai Stearns Moore, District Director of Public Affairs.
“He has always been present at functions with students, staff and faculty to cheer us on,” Valentina Purtell, Provost of the School of Continuing Education, explained, “We know just like the roots in this tree, his legacy will continue to grow.”
“We hope that this tree is a small token of the honor [Leonard] has done for North Orange County,” District Chancellor Cheryl Marshall expressed, “We hope that for generations to come we will be inspired and encouraged by [his] hard work and sacrifice.”
“This tree may be for me, for my services to the NOCCCD. May it grow beautiful for all to see that only God can make a tree.” concluded Lahtinen.