Schools & Education

Gavilan president wins distinguished administrator award

The retiring Steven Kinsella was recognized following 24 years of service in California Community Colleges

Each year, the Association for California Community College Administrators (ACCCA) honors exceptional administrators at its annual conference. The most prestigious of those awards is the Harry Buttimer Distinguished Administrator Award.

This year’s recipient, Dr. Steven Kinsella, has served as the superintendent/president of Gavilan Joint Community College District since January 2003. He has been in the California Community College system since 1991 and held many positions including chief business officer at Gavilan College, vice president of administrative services at Monterey Peninsula College and later the vice chancellor of the West Valley – Mission Community College District.

Both a former Marine and licensed CPA in California, Kinsella brought saw the college through a successful bond measure, the groundbreaking for a new campus, and two successful accreditation cycles, while maintaining financial stability and funding retiree health benefits.

Kinsella said he identifies with many community college students, having entered the Marine Corps directly out of high school, and is an example of perseverance and working one's way up. He was assigned to a bookkeeping military occupational specialty with the Marines, which led him to his first three units of college credit. While in military service, he earned his bachelor of arts degree at Hawaii Pacific University and went on to earn his MBA and become an instructor at a community college. He sat for the CPA exam and licensure in California. He made the transition to civilian life as an auditor at NBC while remaining with the Marine Corps as a reservist. During the first Gulf War in 1990, Kinsella and his unit were deployed in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for five months. As commander for his unit, he served six months of active duty.

Kinsella has led Gavilan College through many changes and significant moments in the life of the college and community. During his tenure, the college developed a Veterans Resource Center, to help new student-veterans make the transition from military to civilian and campus life.

He championed the successful passage of the Measure E Bond in 2004, and saw through the many projects it facilitated, from renovation of instructional facilities, to infrastructure and technology upgrades. The bond also provided for the purchases of land for future new campuses in Coyote Valley and San Benito County. In November 2015, Kinsella joined trustees and elected officials in the groundbreaking for the new site in Coyote Valley. His fiscal leadership brought the college through the Great Recession with no staff layoffs.  

Kinsella also currently serves as the chair for the Accrediting Commission.

“It is an honor to be included in a group with Bob [Deegan] and many others who have enjoyed this recognition," Kinsella said. "The past award recipients are all honorable and respected leaders. I am not sure how I fit in with that group but I’ll try to live up to the expectations they have all established over their careers.

"For the ACCCA Board of Directors and members of ACCCA, I would like to acknowledge your leadership and courage in helping retain our current accreditation peer group. As administrators you are the heart and soul of any college. It is your responsibility to tell people things they do not want to hear and continue to work collaboratively while making improvements that meet the needs of today’s students. Your voice is critical to the continued success of California Community Colleges. Please continue to speak up to protect your peer group."

He continued, "For my colleagues at the Gavilan College who participated in my nomination, all I can say at this time is thank you. It has been a pleasure working with you all over the past 13 years. As my career comes to an end I want to say whole heartedly that the past 24 years has been an absolute thrill. I wish you all the best in your careers.”

Begun in 1975, the Buttimer is ACCCA’s oldest and most prestigious award. Named for the late Harry Buttimer, the award symbolizes the qualities for which he was known – integrity; principle; compassion; strength in leadership; contributions to colleagues and the profession; and contributions to the college district and community.For more information about past Buttimer honorees and other ACCCA awards, visit

– From a Press Release by the Association for California Community College Administrators


Jan Bernstein Chargin has been the Director of Public Information for Gavilan College since 2001.