Unwavering business professor dies

By Christian Urrutia, Web Editor

Commitment and dedication are common characteristics of a revered professor.  Stephen Schaefer embodied those traits.

Schaefer, a former Contra Costa College business professor, died on Oct. 13.

His cause of death has not yet been determined.

He was teaching as an adjunct professor up until the end of the spring 2016 semester after his retirement as a full-time faculty member in 2004.

Schaefer’s niece, Christina Shaefer, said, “He was always a giver, and was never one to take.”

She said his cause of death is still pending and it could be another 60 days until the reason is disclosed.

Fellow emeritus professor Jean Knox said, “The remarkable thing about Steve is that he mentored many of his students into their ongoing business careers and he inspired many of them. He was available as a mentor throughout his tenure (at Contra Costa College).”

Knox, who taught English at the college, said what’s significant about Schaefer is that he established a scholarship within the college Foundation.

Schaefer was a long-time board member of the Foundation, an on-campus group overseeing scholarships and donations to CCC that support various programs.

The Schaefer Scholarship is a $1,000 award available for students transferring to a CSU or UC.

Students must have a 2.8 GPA, be enrolled as a full-time student for the previous spring semester, must have business listed as their major and perform volunteer work or community service in order to be eligible.

Journalism department Chairperson Paul DeBolt said, “He was really involved with his students in many different ways — a very hands-on teacher and helped his kids transfer to four-year universities.

“He (tended to) follow up with students, was proactive with them and helped them prepare for careers (in business).”

Joseph De Torres, current business and real estate professor, said, “It’s always valuable for students to have someone as their mentor, and every time I saw him he was recommending and suggesting things to his students.

“He had his own way of coaching, which made him a valuable asset to our department,” De Torres said.

Knox said Schaefer had been teaching at CCC since the 1970s.

Christina Schaefer said her uncle was influential as a professor and was always willing to go the extra mile, and while not necessarily giving free handouts, for those who showed drive and interest he did everything he could.

“I lived in L.A., and he lived in Point Richmond, but he would fly my brother and I up to the (Bay Area) and we would help with his scholarship (applicant paperwork). He did a lot of outside tasks for students,” Schaefer said.

DeBolt said, “He felt like contributing to community colleges was just as important as donors giving to big name universities like Yale or Harvard.”

Retired fine and media arts professor John Diestler recalled an anecdote about Schaefer when Schaefer was still working as a full-time faculty member.

“I saw him outside LA Building and it was toward the end of semester and I asked him if he was ready for the last week and he said, ‘Well I still have another week here, these students aren’t ready to graduate yet.’

“In one way I was shocked and I was like how dare you. But his students respected him enough to where they believed him when he said they weren’t ready, and that they don’t know enough, yet but he was willing to stay.”

Diestler said, “It was so bizarre. He flatly said they‘re not ready to graduate yet.”

Diestler said Schaefer had a definite student following and for good reason.

“He certainly loved his students,” he said.

Knox said Schaefer was always exuberant and seemed pleased with the opportunity to teach when she saw him in-between classes while she was still teaching at the college during the early 1980s.

“I took (one of his) accounting class(es) once and I discovered it was another language for me. But I managed to pass all right. I saw how well he laid out the material and I felt he tried to give confidence to his students that you could cover everything you need to know about it (through Steve’s expertise).”

Schaefer said her uncle was a cultured individual and was into the arts, but his academic prowess was nonetheless impressive.

“I was an finance major and he wrote some of the study guides I ended up using in some of my college courses.

“I was proud that I knew who wrote the (study guides),” Schaefer said.

An on-campus memorial service is planned for Schaefer at the Aqua Terra Grill on Nov. 29 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Schaefer is survived by brothers William and Scott Schaefer, niece Christina, nephew Daniel Schaefer and Scott’s daughter Jenny.