By Kyle R. Cotton
The college community came to remember the life of David Mrizek, vice president of college services, Tuesday in the mall after his death March 20 from mantle cell lymphoma.
He was 69.
Mrizek was a highly visible faculty member and administrator at this college since joining the speech faculty in 1974.
He moved to the administration as the budget officer in 1995 and was named a vice president in 2007.
Mrizek was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma in 2006, but went into remission in 2007.
He relapsed in May 2015 but went into remission again in October.
President Robert Vela wrote in an email Monday to college employees, “It is with great sadness that I must inform the college community of the passing of one of SAC’s beloved and devoted leaders.”
At the remembrance ceremony Tuesday during his opening statement Vela almost broke down into tears.
“I’ve had a difficult time keeping it together since I heard the news,” Vela said. “I’ve leaned on David so much over the years, I don’t know what I will do without him.”
“SAC is really a special place, and it’s people like David who really care that make it so special,” Vela said.
Fine arts Chair Jeff Hunt, in an interview Monday, recalled Mrizek was faculty-centered when he was chair of the theater and speech department.
“He always tried to see the faculty’s point of view whenever there was a discussion,” he said.
Hunt said Mrizek was a strong advocate for the speech team, which he coached for five years.
“He was an excellent public speaker and his students really admired him for that,” Hunt said.
Hunt used to call Mrizek the ‘voice of San Antonio College’ because he was the voice on the college’s answering machine explaining options for callers.
Hunt said Mrizek’s dream job was vice president of college services because he got the opportunity to help shape the future of this college.
Mrizek continued to teach a night class so he could stay engaged with students.
When he was diagnosed in 2007, he had to give up that class for health reasons.
“You could tell it hurt for him to give up that class,” Hunt said. “To have fought cancer like this over 10 years really shows the character of David Mrizek.”
Mrizek was an avid biker, as he closed his emails, “I’d rather be biking.”
Hunt said he used to ride his bicycle to campus and rode miles on the weekend.
Mrizek also helped produce plays at this college in the 1980s.
“It was always fun to have David in attendance at a production,” Hunt said. “He had this laugh; it wasn’t boisterous, but rather it was almost like an embarrassed giggle that almost made the rest of us laugh that much harder.”
Mrizek wasn’t afraid to tackle difficult issues such as strategic planning and budget shortfalls.
“I remember, and this was 15-20 years ago, he would make staff think about strategic planning and trying to budget appropriately,” Hunt said. “I would bring this up to some of my colleagues in other departments, and they wouldn’t know what I was talking about.”
During the remembrance ceremony, Hunt discussed how thankful he was for giving him advice while letting him find his own way.
“I would always ask him for advice, and I appreciated that he would always let me find my own way, even though sometimes I just wanted him to tell me what he would do,” Hunt said.
Others agree his death is a loss to the college.
Martha Castro, administrative assistant to the vice president of college services, in an interview Monday said, “This is a great loss not just for our division but for the entire college.”
Theater Instructor Charles Falcon said Monday, “I will always be indebted to him for the support he has given, both to me and to our department. It is often said that the measure of a person is not in their wealth, in their accomplishments or in their degrees; the true measure of a person is in what they do for others and the way they impact lives positively. Mr. Mrizek was that kind of person, a true gentleman and humanitarian.”
Former President Robert Zeigler in an interview Monday said he considered Mrizek a dear friend and someone who was passionate about what he does.
“If you walk around SAC and look at the building and renovations around the campus, he was a big part of that.”
Zeigler noted particularly Tobin Lofts and Scobee Education Center as two successful projects Mrizek was heavily involved.
“He was one of those guys you could just trust with anything,” Zeigler said. “He was always compassionate and understanding. He was absolutely just a wonderful person.”
Mrizek frequently gave historical tours around the campus during Employee Development Day. “He knew everything about the campus,” Zeigler said.
“He could tell you about underground caverns around the campus, why a building was there or named a certain way.”
“I treasure his friendship, and his death leaves a big void in my life,” Zeigler said.
During the ceremony, Zeigler said, “His spirit will live on throughout all the buildings he helped establish and the people who cared for him.”
Dr. Conrad Krueger, dean of arts and sciences, used to go fishing with both Zeigler and Mrizek, but was short on words given the recent loss.
“He loved to fish, but sometimes I think he just enjoyed being out on the boat under the stars,” Krueger said in an interview Monday.
Vela, who has been in contact with Mrizek’s family to get updates as they deal with their loss, said Tuesday night the ceremony is planned for sometime in early April.
He will be cremated.
Vela said he will provide the information as it becomes available.