Key contributor, donator to college passes away at age 93

Andrea Ellickson and Andrea Ellickson

In the inner courtyard of the MacDougall Administration Building rests a plaque dedicated to Helen Pedotti. Some may not even know the courtyard is there, or know the influence the late Helen Pedotti had on the Santa Barbara City College of today.

But, just as this courtyard is tucked into the center of Administration, Pedotti’s contributions are tucked into the heart of City College’s infrastructure.

On the night of Jan. 24, Helen Pedotti, a great philanthropist and leader, passed away. She was 93.

“This is very saddening for us as a college,” said President Dr. Andreea Serban. “She was one of the pillars.”

Looking back over the decades, Pedotti continually supported City College’s mission to provide educational opportunities for all people. In 1980, she played a key role in helping the college obtain the Schott Center for the Continuing Education Program.

Beginning in 1984, Pedotti became a board member of the Foundation, which raises funds for the many programs and scholarships that benefit students. Pursuing her excellent leadership ability, she served as President of the Foundation from 1989 to 1992.

In her lifetime, she donated more than $1.25 million to City College.

In the late 1950s, Pedotti was the first woman to be elected head of the Santa Barbara Democratic Party Central Committee.

“She was a very independent woman, a precursor of the gender equity movement,” Serban said.

She recalled Pedotti’s warm congratulations when Serban took on the position as the first woman president in the history of City College.

True to the boulders by her plaque, Pedotti had the strength to lead “with compassion, intelligence, and a strong social conscience,” according to Dr. Peter MacDougall, a former school president.

Working with her closely since 1981, MacDougall witnessed the “tremendous passion and clarity” she possessed when discussing the mission of the college to potential donors.

“Even at the age of 91, her interest never stopped,” Serban said. “She requested the minutes and agendas every month and read every word.”

At the 25th anniversary of the Foundation in 2001, Pedotti said, “The more I discovered what this institution does for the community as a whole, the more excited I became about giving time and energy and whatever I could to it. I don’t think I’ve ever participated in an organization that gave me as sure a sense that what we were doing was really accomplishing a lot for a lot of people in an enduring way.”

“In most other countries, people never get another chance. There needs to be a place where people can come back,” MacDougall said. “Helen had a belief in human beings and their ability to turn their lives around.”

Her final gift was given to those with the least likelihood of a second chance-prisoners.

The Helen Pedotti Inmate Learning Center is a testament to how involved she was, her caring and generosity,” said Drew Sugars, Public Information Officer at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. “She was dedicated to giving inmates the opportunity to continue with their lives, rather than come back to jail.”

According to Serban, “The Pedotti family suggests that those wishing to make a donation in memory and honor of Helen direct their gift to the Foundation for City College to support the Pedotti Family Inmate Program.”

The memorial is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 21 on campus.

Pedotti, while looking at the ocean and the students weaving between houses of learning, once said, “There’s nothing else quite like it. It’s really the American Dream.”

The same holds true about Helen Pedotti.

“She was truly unique,” Serban said.