Happy new year and welcome back to Orange Coast College for the start of 2020. It is true that the spring is a time of renewal and hope as we shake off the cold of winter and dedicate ourselves to a new year with renewed enthusiasm.

However, that hope and enthusiasm was tested this semester as we endured the loss of one of our own Pirate family members.

As many of you know, OCC’s Assistant Professor and head baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their 13-year-old daughter, Alyssa, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas on Jan. 26.

As our campus community is in mourning for the lives lost, it is difficult to make sense of this tragedy.

 In his 27 years as a coach, teacher, colleague, mentor and friend, Altobelli, or admiringly known as Coach Alto, touched many lives at OCC.

He was instrumental in creating opportunities for his players, both in earning scholarships and transferring to the four-year level and, for some, to careers playing baseball professionally.

He was a giant in the baseball world — he not only amassed more than 700 wins and four state championships at Coast, he also coached in the Cape Cod League over several summers and was an assistant coach on the USA National Collegiate Team in 2016.

I was fortunate to meet Coach Alto this past fall semester, and he enthusiastically shared with me his passion for his work and a commitment to students.

Coach Alto’s dedication and drive were evident to everyone who met him, and he embodied OCC’s culture of caring and high standards of excellence.

As we navigate the coming weeks, I want to encourage you to support one another in this time of grief, and to be mindful of your feelings — if you need to talk to someone, counselors are available at OCC’s Student Health Center.

I also want to encourage you to attend an OCC baseball game if your schedule permits, to support your fellow Pirates who lost not only a coach, but a mentor and friend.

Wishing you a successful semester.

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