Dr. John (Jack) Bedell, a longtime professor who leveraged his signature charm, wit and humor to build relationships and find consensus during his 16 years on the Orange County Board of Education, has died. He was 78.
A beloved and highly respected faculty member at Cal State Fullerton for more than 40 years, Bedell served as a professor of sociology and chaired the department for several years. Remarkably, he served as chair of three other CSUF departments during his career — child and adolescent development, electrical engineering and anthropology.
In 2003, he was appointed to a seat on the Orange County Board of Education representing Trustee Area 4 — the area includes Fullerton, Buena Park, La Habra, Placentia and parts of Anaheim — following the death of board member Joanne Stanton.
His priorities on the board included ensuring schools were safe, improving classroom technology, enhancing college readiness, promoting educational choice and protecting the rights of parents. Yet his greatest legacy may be the relationships he built with parents, educators, students and other stakeholders.
Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares said Bedell strongly advocated for students enrolled in OCDE’s alternative education program and spoke at numerous graduation services. He said the trustee always had a heart for underrepresented students.
“Jack was a gentleman in every sense of the word, possessing unending reserves of humor, charisma and wisdom that enabled him to connect deeply with people and to find common ground on key issues,” Mijares said. “His warmth, dignity and self-deprecating one-liners were universally disarming, but people loved him because he invested himself so fully in every personal interaction.”
“Anyone who spent more than a few minutes with Jack felt not just heard; they believed they had forged a meaningful friendship, and they were right,” the county superintendent said.
After four full terms on the board, Bedell decided not to seek re-election in 2020.
Legacy will shine eternally
According to a tribute published by Cal State Fullerton, Bedell joined the CSUF faculty in 1969 following a cross-country drive from Cleveland, Ohio in a ’65 Mustang. He was accompanied on the trip by his wife, their 5-week-old daughter and a half-dozen Siamese cats.
In addition to teaching sociology, his many roles included acting associate vice president for Academic Affairs and acting associate vice chancellor, responsible for financial aid, admissions, extended education, international programs and education equity programs.
He also held leadership positions with the Academic Senate/Faculty Council and the Statewide Academic Senate of the California State University System. Following his retirement from the university, he continued to serve on CSUF’s Emeriti Executive Committee, taking on the role of president.
“There is no finer personification of what we ask of all faculty, staff and students — to cast off their comfort zones and go all-in on the Titan experience — than Jack Bedell,” said CSUF President Fram Virjee. “His 40 years of stellar service in countless academic and leadership roles aside, where else are you going to find a professor emeritus of sociology willing to forgo retirement to serve as the chair of electrical engineering?”
“He will be dearly missed,” Virjee said, “but his legacy will shine eternally through the hearts and minds of generations of Titans.”
Bedell also served as president and member of the Fullerton School District Board of Education, an officer on the Board of Directors for the Fullerton Civic Light Opera, president and member of the Church Council of St. Paul Lutheran Church, and secretary and treasurer of the California County Board of Education.
Along with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Franklin and Marshall College, he earned his doctorate in sociology from Case Western Reserve University in 1969.
Bedell died on April 7, 2021. He is survived by his wife Sue, daughter Robyn, son John and four grandchildren.