District international program coordinator to retire

After 22 years of economy flights, keeping district afloat Ilich leaves ‘hipster’ legacy


Christian Urrutia / The Advocate

District Director of International Education Aleks Illich explains the process for applying for the Study Abroad Program to prospective students in a conference room in the Student Services Center on May 4.

By Lorenzo Morotti, Editor-in-Chief

Twenty-two years of countless flights around the world in search of bringing more international students to the Contra Costa Community College District is likely to make one never want to set foot on another airplane.

Director of the International Education Program Aleks Ilich said, now that he is retiring at the end of the 2015 spring semester, he is glad he will never have to again.

“I don’t know how many thousands of miles (Ilich) has flown to keep the International Education Program at the district up and running,” former Senior Dean of Research and Planning Tim Clow said. “Most of us can’t last on a multiple-hour economy flight, but he was able to make a lifestyle out of it, and that is amazing.”

Chancellor Helen Benjamin said the district hired Ilich in 1993 when it decided to expand the program, and since then he has increased the number of students in the program from 300 to more than 2,500.

Dr. Benjamin said through his marketing and outreach efforts he has been instrumental in making the district one of the top California community college destinations for international students.

“We are now currently reviewing the job responsibilities and are moving forward to fill this important position,” she said.

District Director of Communication Relations Tim Leong said it takes a special kind of person to be interested in doing this job because of all the travel, but that he is confident the district will be able to find someone who fits the description.

Clow said it is going to be hard to find someone who is willing to spend as much time in an airplane as Ilich has during his tenure with the district.

“There are people out there who enjoy flying and making international connections,” he said. “But it’s not easy. I don’t know how he kept his family life together.”

Ilich said one thing a lot of people have been asking him now that he is retiring is, “’What are you going to do with your free time now? Travel the world?’

“And I just laugh and tell them the last thing I want to do is fly on a U.S. airline.

“But I may take a road trip with my new Nicaraguan family and show them the states.”

He said he would rather use his retirement to work on creating music from his home at 34th Street and Garvin Avenue in Richmond, California, where he has lived for 34 years.

Leong said he and Ilich used to perform together at holiday parties.

“He plays guitar and I play bass,” he said. “He is more of a self-taught musician and plays a lot of music that he listened to growing up. His favorite musician is Elvis.

“He has a routine where he plays Elvis tunes and gets the costume on and does his thing. This is not the (Ilich) that you see walking around campus.”

Clow said while Ilich was an adjunct English as a second language professor at Contra Costa College he used to play in a band with former college president McKinley Williams and current administration of justice department Chairperson Rick Ramos.

He said the three would be seen walking around campus together, but Ilich stood out as the “hipster” of the three.

Ilich said his stepchildren are currently working toward getting their associate degrees at CCC, which is where he first started working in the district as an adjunct ESL professor in 1986.

“I am a creative person. I love teaching, and I miss being in a class. But it’s not what I am best at,” he said.

“I like to create.”