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College leaders vote to rename business center after Ben Duran

Ben Duran, Merced College President Emeritus
Ben Duran, Merced College President Emeritus

In tribute to a storied career that helped shape the fabric of higher education in the Central Valley, the Merced Community College District Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to rename Merced College’s Business Resource Center after President Emeritus Ben Duran.

Established in 2008, during Duran’s tenure as president, the Business Resource Center revitalized and enhanced relationships between the college and the business community, leading to partnerships that have created countless opportunities for local students and workers to gain valuable skills, knowledge and training to advance their careers.

Located in downtown Merced, the center offers programs and services for businesses and employers looking for job training opportunities for their employees, as well as community education classes for adult learners. It will now be named the Dr. Benjamin T. Duran Business Resource Center.

“Dr. Duran has been a driving force for the growth of Merced College and the evolution of our region for decades,” President Chris Vitelli said. “The work he did to unite the college with the local business community has created countless opportunities for local students who might never have pursued higher education otherwise. Dr. Duran’s impact on this region is truly immeasurable, and we are proud to recognize him in this way.”

The son of migrant farmworkers in Le Grand, Duran built a distinguished life and career devoted to education. He served for nearly 14 years as Merced College’s president before retiring in 2012, and is now executive director of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium (CVHEC), an organization that brings together community college and university CEOs to collaborate on higher education issues in the Central Valley of California.

During Duran’s time as president, Merced College’s student enrollment increased by thousands, and the district passed vital bond measures that led to new and renovated buildings at both the Merced and Los Banos campuses, including the Business Resource Center.

“This honor, from my perspective, is a recognition of the many others who worked side-by-side with me over all those years to make Merced College and the region better,” Duran said. “The existence of the Business Resource Center is a testament to the importance of community colleges not only to students, but to the business community. We were able to elevate the interactions between businesses and the college to the point where it truly became a partnership.”

After being approached by the college regarding the naming of the Business Resource Center, Duran and his wife, former Merced City School District Superintendent Dr. RoseMary Parga Duran, decided to make a substantial gift to Merced College to provide support to students who experience unexpected challenges on their educational pathways to a better life.

Ben and RoseMary Duran will be recognized by the Merced College Foundation at Merced College’s annual State of the College event, scheduled for April 25, 2024, at the Business Resource Center.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I’d like to express our admiration for Dr. Duran’s remarkable legacy and our gratitude for the support of the Duran family,” Trustee John Pedrozo said. “Dr. Duran’s contributions have left an indelible mark on Merced College, and it’s our honor to name the Business Resource Center after him in recognition of his transformative role in the educational journey of our community.”

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