Susan Dodd

Susan Dodd, who started her three-decades-plus career at Gavilan College as the first female full-time staff member in the Department of Kinesiology & Athletics, died on Feb. 1. She was 74 years old. 

“Susan’s dedication to Gavilan College and its students spanned almost five decades, leaving a permanent mark on our institution and the lives of countless individuals,” says a statement from Gavilan College about Dodd’s death. 

Dodd, a longtime Gilroy resident, joined Gavilan in 1976, pioneering a path for women’s sports at a pivotal moment in Title IX history, says the statement from the Gilroy-based college that serves all of South Valley. Her leadership as a coach and Athletic Director paved the way for generations of female athletes and inspired many young women to pursue their dreams. 

In 1979, Dodd was one of two females in California overseeing an athletic department in the California Community College system, according to Gavilan Superintendent/President Pedro Avila. She served in the position over various stints through 2000, and recently held the role on an interim basis.

Dodd was not only a visionary leader; she coached tennis, volleyball, basketball, softball and football. She served as the Department Chair for Kinesiology and Athletics for 19 years, according to Gavilan. 

Her legacy will be felt for years to come in the college’s curriculum development, state compliance efforts and the creation of programs like Gavilan’s Personal Trainer Certification and AA-T Kinesiology degree, says the statement from Gavilan College. 

At one time during her career, Dodd secured a national grant to renovate Gavilan’s tennis courts. In 2013, those courts were named the Susan Dodd Tennis Complex. 

Longtime Gavilan College leader and faculty member Susan Dodd is pictured with the college’s superintendent and president, Dr. Pedro Avila. Contributed photo

In 2022, a new pedestrian bridge on the Gilroy campus was named in her honor as the Susan Dodd Crossing. Dodd had made a substantial monetary donation to complete the bridge. 

“Susan Dodd is a legend here at Gavilan,” Avila said at the September 2022 celebration of the bridge dedication. “I could tell right away that not only did she know a lot of history that she was willing to share with me, but I could tell that she’s been very dedicated to this institution.”

Other notable recognitions for Dodd during her career at Gavilan include 2012 Gavilan College Employee of the Month (August); 2007 SCOPE General Physical Educator of the Year; 2006-07 Gavilan College Full-time Faculty of the Year; 1997-98 Gavilan College Full-time Faculty of the Year; 1997 Courageous Leader Award (selected by Gavilan Board); 1986 Women of Achievement Award (selected by Santa Clara County). 

Returning to the college in 2021 as interim Athletic Director, Dodd transitioned the role to Jamie Adams and remained a “dedicated mentor and supporter,” according to Gavilan College. Her passion for Gavilan College continued through her volunteer work at games and her recent generous donation of $120,000 to the college’s athletics department.

Dodd will be inducted into the California Community College Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame in March, Gavilan College said. 

“Susan’s legacy is woven into the very fabric of Gavilan College, embodied in the empowered women athletes, the thriving academic programs, and the spirit of community she fostered,” says the statement from Gavilan College. “We remember her not only for her accomplishments but also for her kindness, compassion, and firm belief in the potential of every student.

“Our hearts go out to her family and friends during this difficult time. We will continue to honor her memory by upholding the values she championed and striving to embody the spirit of excellence and dedication she instilled in our college.”

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