City College San Francisco The Guardsman

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Journalism Department
Journalism Department
Journalism Department

Volume 143, Issue #2



Dr. Mark Robinson, Ph.D., holds a City College basketball, a symbol of change and growth in his life.


Stark walls surround newly appointed City College Vice Chancellor of Student Development, Mark D. Robinson, Ph.D, but no indication of the towering six-foot, five-inch African American’s character. As he sits in his tidy, administrative work area, he reaches under his desk to reveal a bright red and white City College basketball: a spherical symbol of the change and growth in his life.

As an academically problematic teenager growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Robinson attended three high schools before graduating in 1985.

"I had terrible grades and was in and out of, as we like to call them, 'little discrepancies,'" Robinson said. "So, I had to go to night school my senior year in order to graduate."

At his third school, Simi Valley High, the basketball coach approached him and offered Robinson a spot on the team. Although he was a recreational player, Robinson had never joined a school team before and decided to play.

"I went out for the team, played and enjoyed it," Robinson said. "It was a different atmosphere. The first two high schools I went to were all black and Latino while Simi Valley was all white. So, Simi Valley was kind of a reality check."

Upon graduation, Robinson was offered an athletic scholarship to Pepperdine University but was unable to attend because of his poor grades. One of the school’s basketball coaches suggested that he go to City College for his first two years, play basketball, and then transfer to Pepperdine as a junior.

"When I came to San Francisco, I went with the basketball team to China. I loved it!” Robinson said. “I didn't know it at the time, but that was the beginning for me. As an 18-year old kid who was used to just hanging out in the neighborhood, spending two-to-three weeks in another country, playing basketball and seeing the Great Wall was cool."

Upon returning to San Francisco, the talk of the team was focused on an approaching, recruiting visit from infamous Indiana University coach, Bobby Knight, with whom Robinson was unfamiliar. The swearing, chair-throwing, media-loathing coach successfully recruited Robinson.

"The games were packed to 17,000 people and sold out every night," Robinson said. "I had practice every single day, but it was more than just basketball. Knight told us to bring our books out onto the court. He would say a lot of cuss words, but he talked to us about experiences, life and jobs."

Robinson received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in General Studies and a Masters in Counseling and Guidance from Indiana University. He then moved to Britain on contract to play for the Manchester Giants. During his 10 years in the United Kingdom he earned a Ph.D from the Faculty of Education at the Victorian University of Manchester, a post-graduate degree in education at the Bolton Institute, and became the CEO of a sports union, The Basketball Players Association.

His decision to move back to the U.S. was set in concrete when he was scheduled to visit San Francisco for a visit: Sept. 11, 2001.

"My brother called me while I was on the plane, ready to take off, and said, ‘Don’t get on the plane; we’re being attacked,’” Robinson said. “Suddenly, everyone’s cell phones started ringing and the airport was in mass panic. I have never seen anything like it in my life; it was like a movie. People were running everywhere, and all of the televisions were being turned off because the same footage of the towers in New York was playing over and over again.”

Once Robinson returned to San Francisco, he found a job as a counselor at City College. From there, he moved on to become an athletic counselor, associate dean of students, dean of student affairs, and finally to his current post as vice chancellor of student development.

"My friends who I went to high school with always told me that I was going to be in school forever. They got their jobs, made a little money and were happy. All the while, I was in my sweats with no car, taking the bus, eating Ding Dongs and Top Ramen. It was hard; school is hard, but it’s even harder later on if you don’t get an education. That’s a guarantee.”

Although he has earned numerous degrees, none are displayed in Robinson’s office.

“If you want to see my transcripts,” he said, “Just ask. I’ll show them to you.”

The only comfort Robinson needs at work is the symbol from his playing days at City College --the red and white basketball kept under his office desk.

"When you go from a community college to a university," Robinson said, “what you proved at your previous school, you have to prove all over again. It's just like starting a new job. The people who hired you in the first place only did so because of what you did at another job. So, if you want to step up the ladder, you have to show improvement on a much higher level."