Mourners and friends of the late Selmer “Sam” Wake, a longtime Santa Barbara City College employee, gathered on Sunday in the Turnpike Drive Adult Education center that bears his name to share stories of his life and praise his achievements.
Attendees, led by Santa Barbara singer Rebecca Wave, sang hymns and songs cherished by Wake and his late wife. Members of the SBCC community and companions of Wake spoke before the crowd with heartfelt anecdotes and testimonies of his love for his family and his dedication to Adult Education.
Maryellen Kelley, who worked with Wake for over 37 years and is now director of the Adult Education’s Omega Program for elderly students, attributed a tenacious but caring attitude to her longtime colleague and friend. Quoting Yeats, Kelley said that Wake felt, “Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire.”
Much was said of Wake’s commitment to raising funds for SBCC, especially in the oft-neglected Adult Education department. Hal Thorton worked with Wake as a board member of Foundation For SBCC, but was also one of Adult Ed.’s success stories. “I was Sam’s Exhibit A of what Adult Ed. could do,” he added. Both coming from the same hardscrabble Midwestern background, Thorton said he and Wake had an understanding of the world and an appreciation for education unique to those who had struggled through the Depression. “Sam was a bulldog, no question”, he said of his friend.
Many spoke of his reputation as a motivator and mentor. Pat Snyder, current president of Santa Barbara Citizens’ Continuing Education Advisory Council, spoke of her relationship with Wake and the support he gave her when she became the leader of the council he started more than 50 years ago. Relating how involved and generous Wake was, even after his supposed retirement, she said, “He was driven by a desire to leave a legacy for these programs.”
President Emeritus of SBCC, John Romo, and others delivered their eulogies over a videotaped message. Romo spoke of Wake as an essential figure in the development and advancement of Adult Ed. in Santa Barbara. He called Wake “an institution in the life of SBCC.” Peter Macdougall, also President Emeritus of SBCC, spoke of Wake’s efforts to secure the West Campus of SBCC as well as Wake’s role in making SBCC adult education program one of the best in the country. “His enthusiasm for life was at the base of his Adult Education programs,” said MacDougall.
Also present at the ceremony was Sam Wake’s son, Don Wake. When asked how he would like SBCC to remember his father he paused and said, “They’ll never forget him.”