The Inland Empire community mourns the loss of Dr. Ernest F. Garcia, who passed away on April 6, 2023.
A lifelong educator, advocate, and patron of the arts, Dr. Garcia leaves behind an indelible legacy of service and inspiration. His life’s work touched countless lives, and his dedication to education and the arts will be remembered for generations to come.
Dr. Garcia began his journey in education as a young boy in South Colton and remained passionate about learning and teaching throughout his life. He was a pioneering force in the Rialto Unified School District (RUSD), where he introduced foreign language and Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) programs. As the first Latino namesake in the Rialto Unified School District (Dr. Ernest Garcia Elementary School), his influence is still felt today.
Syeda Jafri, Rialto Unified School District communication media services agent, said, “Dr. Ernest Garcia spent a majority of his selfless life as an education and child advocate. He never forgot his humble beginning in Colton.” She went on to describe him as an “icon of a man” whose legacy of excellence will continue in the RUSD.
Gloria Macias Harrison, Inland Empire Community News publisher emeritus, described Dr. Garcia as “a true Mexican American renaissance man.” She highlighted his various roles as a mentor, teacher, artist, and futurist. She also reminisced about the impact he had on her own life, saying, “He taught us what was important in the classroom and how we could engage our students. It was probably the best training that I have ever received.”
Dr. Garcia’s educational career began with an associate’s degree from San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC), where he majored in Spanish. His college career was interrupted by the Korean War, during which he served in the U.S. Air Force.
After completing his service, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Science from the University of California, Riverside, a master’s degree in School Administration and Curriculum from the University of Redlands, and a doctorate in Instructional Technology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Garcia went on to teach in Barstow Unified School District (where he became a vice principal at 26 years old), RUSD, and Redlands Unified School District, and eventually teaching at Cal State San Bernardino, and served as dean of the College of Education before retiring in 1990.
Throughout his career, Dr. Garcia held various positions in education, including teacher, administrator, and professor. He served as a RUSD trustee and was inducted into SBVC’s Hall of Fame in 1997.
Jorge Oswald Heredia, Garcia Center for the Arts Executive Director, expressed the community’s sadness and gratitude for Dr. Garcia’s contributions, saying, “We are saddened by the passing of our founder Ernie Garcia. He was passionate about promoting the arts in San Bernardino, and we are forever indebted to his work.”
The San Bernardino Garcia Center for the Arts is named for Dr. Ernest Garcia and his wife, Dr. Dorothy “Dottie” Garcia. The couple lived in San Bernardino and remained active in their community.
In July 2020, Dr. Garcia retired as executive director from the Garcia Center for the Arts. Reflecting on his time at the center, he said, “After five years, I have chosen to retire, and I want to say thank you to the community. Although I am retiring from the Garcia Center, I am not going to stop creating. I have three art projects waiting for me to tend to in my garage right now and the Garcia Center will also continue to flourish.”
As the community remembers Dr. Ernest F. Garcia, they celebrate a life dedicated to advocacy, education, and the arts. His passion and achievements continue to inspire those whose lives he touched, and his legacy will live on for generations to come.