‘Advocate’ coach finds gratitude in public affairs

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

The former men’s soccer coach, United Faculty vice president,and kinesiology professor is retiring after 18 years of challenging people at Contra Costa College to meet their own expectations of success.

“Rudy (Zeller) was a terrific advocate for faculty and students before, during and after we worked together,” UF President Jeffery Michels said. “He is a passionate person who is committed to students whether it is during a soccer game, in a classroom or the political area.

“He always has an overwhelming amount of work so I’m glad he found a way to retire,” Michels said. “We worked closely for seven years and we learned a lot together — but now he’s back into politics—(Zeller) is a progressive Bernie Sander supporter.”

At the college retirement ceremony at the Knox Center on May 6, Zeller, 66, gave a special thanks to Michels who was not the audience.

“(Michels) is definitely one of my biggest mentors. He has given me ideas about how to get involved at the crossroad of education in politics,” he said. “We, as educators, have to educate politicians about what we want to have happen in this country.”

Zeller said he is using his extra time to jump back into his advocacy work for social justice.

“I’m supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, working as a convener to help the delegates elect more delegates to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in June for the short term,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do in the long term, but I may go coach a professional team in South America. I don’t know.”

Solano Community College Athletic Director Erik Visser was an assistant coach alongside Zeller at the University of San Francisco in the early 1990s before he was hired at CCC in 1998.

“I am not surprised Zeller is supporting Sanders,” Visser laughed, “Some people fabricate stories or act a certain way, but Zeller’s convictions are pure and he is passionate about them. What you see is what you get.”

Zeller said to increase voter registration he plans to set up a table on campus before the June 7 California primary.

Zeller already solicited the Associated Student Union in March to get members to help with the process, while supporting Sanders.

A former soccer player under Zeller, Alto Ayhan, said he was reunited with his old Comet coach at a Democratic super delegate committee meeting in Richmond.

“(Zeller) helped convince the delegates of District 11 to support Sanders,” Ayhan said. “After the meeting we caught up and I found out he used to be politically active in the 1960s and 70s, but never talked about it on the field. But now I know 15 years later.”

Zeller said Sanders has stoked his passion for politics. He is reminded of the early 1970s when he dropped out of Brown University, a freshman out of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and drove across the country to Oakland, protesting the Vietnam War along the way.

“There was a two- or three-year time in my life that I followed the anti-war movement across the country,” he said. “I would get on the phone and organize at college campuses in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Then I would set up stands and bring out my socialist and communist literature and start talking to people.”

Zeller said he will miss the people at the college, but feels pride in knowing that he helped students realize that they are capable of reaching goals they never thought possible.

“Success is about developing an aptitude,” Zeller said. “If you want to get good at anything, get serious about understanding what it requires from you and then put in the effort.”