The Bronco family will celebrate the life and accomplishments of Kevin Colaner, associate vice president for student services, at a virtual memorial service.
Colaner died unexpectedly in early May. Cal Poly Pomona will hold a memorial service on Thursday, May 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. via Zoom.
Colaner, a beloved longtime student affairs administrator, began working at Cal Poly Pomona in 2008.
In addition to the memorial service honoring Colaner, the Division of Student Affairs intends to establish the Kevin Colaner Memorial Scholarship, which will keep his legacy alive by supporting the many students to be aided in his honor.
“This is a devastating loss for our campus community and especially the students he has enthusiastically served throughout his career,” University President Soraya M. Coley and Megan M. Stang, administrator in charge of student affairs, wrote in a joint statement. “Kevin has brought dynamic energy, creativity, leadership and a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion. His leadership has seen us through countless challenges, transitions and complex situations.”
Colaner was respected for his ability to build bridges, willingness to be a mentor and sense of humor.
Stang said he was “one of a kind.”
“He had a vast knowledge of the inner workings of our campus,” Stang said. “One of my favorite things was presenting with him. He was always an expert on the topic, but he was so funny. He made it funny for the people presenting with him, too. He really drew people in. He was really fun and so energetic. He was such an advocate for students. He was an idea guy, and he worked hard to make things better.”
Tracee Passeggi, director of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and one of the organizers of the memorial service, said that she and Colaner started working on campus around the same time.
Passeggi, who previously served as the associate director of athletics, said that when she was considering a career change, it was Colaner who offered encouragement and mentoring. Almost seven years ago, the position of interim director of the DRC needed to be filled, and Colaner helped convince Passeggi that she could make the change. Colaner was her direct supervisor for nearly five years.
“Kevin really knew and could identify that I had all of these transferrable skills,” she said. “He said, ‘Once you have transferrable skills, you can adapt.’ So, I felt very fortunate Kevin was able to see that. That was one of his gifts.”
Colaner, an avid collector of Mr. Potato Head toys and colorful bowties, could take a good joke as well as he could deliver one.
Passeggi recalled that Colaner once mentioned taking ice skating lessons when he was in his 30s. So, for his 50th birthday, Passeggi and other co-workers came up with a surprise for him.
“We took a photo of his head and superimposed it on photos of ice skaters, laminated them and put them all over his office,” she said. “It was a good surprise. He said, ‘Do you know how hard it was to get my desk cleaned’ and that he had to take a conference call looking at 50 ice skaters.”
Amber Vasquez-Nodal, a student assistant in the Office of Student Success, worked with Colaner through a program on campus he started called the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators Undergraduate Fellowship Program. Colaner encouraged Vasquez-Nodal to apply to become a fellow, she said.
“As a fellow, I have grown personally as well as professionally and would not be in this position without the help of Dr. Colaner,” she said. “Dr. Colaner has not only had a positive impact on students, but faculty and staff as well. He was a mentor to me and various people on campus. He was truly dedicated to helping any individual accomplish their goals and be successful.”
Before his tenure at Cal Poly Pomona, Colaner served as the assistant dean for enrollment management and student services at the Rossier School of Education and the executive director for recruiting and admissions at the School of Policy, Planning, and Development at USC.
He also previously worked at Cal State Fullerton, where he was instrumental in revising the Honors Program, establishing the Honors and Scholars Center and serving as one of the founders of the heralded Guardian Scholars Program.
Colaner, who was active in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, a master’s in college student personnel services from Miami University in Ohio and a doctorate in education from USC.
The virtual memorial service is open to all. For Zoom access, visit https://cpp.zoom.us/j/96566736429?status=success and use the password ktc.
Visit the Kevin Colaner Memorial Scholarship page to donate. Those who wish to mail in their contributions can send a check payable to the Cal Poly Pomona Philanthropic Foundation to Cal Poly Pomona Gift Processing, Attention: Student Affairs/Honor of Dr. Colaner, P.O. Box 3121, Pomona, CA 91769.