In his distinguished 14-year tenure as president of Merced College, Ben Duran led the construction of many of the college’s current buildings, creating much-needed space during a time of significant growth in student interest and enrollment.

One of the key facilities established under Duran’s leadership is the Business Resource Center, where the college connects with the business community and hosts workforce training programs that have benefited countless students and local companies. On Thursday, the college unveiled the building’s new name — the Dr. Benjamin T. Duran Business Resource Center — as part of the annual State of the College event.

For Duran, the son of farmworkers who understood and emphasized the importance of education, the recognition honors a legacy of leadership in delivering education and support to others.

“Dr. Duran was so instrumental in setting the foundation for what we have here at Merced College,” President Chris Vitelli said. “He was not only a leader and pioneer here in our local community, but throughout the state and even our country, inspiring people to give community colleges the attention they deserve for serving their communities.

“He has served as an advocate for workforce and economic development. And probably the most special thing about Ben is that he is an inspiration for students like him who came from very humble beginnings and pursued education for a better future.”

As part of the event, Duran and his wife, RoseMary Parga Duran, were presented with the President’s Medallion, which recognizes Merced College’s greatest supporters. In receiving the award, Duran shared the stories of several Merced College students who overcame challenges and persevered on their way to great success.

“The last story I want to share with you is about a little girl who grew up in Planada, and she’s standing here on the stage next to me,” Duran said. “RoseMary Parga went to Merced College, went on to Fresno State, went on to get her master’s at Stanislaus State, got her doctorate, and became the superintendent of the largest school district in Merced County.

“These are stories that any of our colleagues could talk about, in terms of what we do when we do public education and higher education here in the Central Valley. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why RoseMary does what she does.”

In his annual State of the College address, Vitelli touted the many innovations that are revolutionizing how the college educates and supports students. Among them:

  • student support resources and programs like TimelyCare, which provides free mental health and medical care, and the RSVP program for sexual violence prevention;
  • innovations in teaching and learning, including the Dreamscape Learn virtual reality technology, the AgTEC Innovation Center, competency-based education, and more;
  • new and expanded career and transfer partnerships and programs;
  • employee engagement initiatives like the President’s Leadership Academy and Well-Being Initiative;
  • expanded capacity in nursing programs, new programs at the Los Banos Campus, and other developments outlined in the college’s new Educational Master Plan.

“Merced College is doing tremendous things, and it’s not just because of our leaders or our board or our alumni,” Vitelli said. “It’s because collectively, we invest in our community college. Our four-year partners, the other community colleges in the area, our nonprofits, our K-12 partners, the organizations that are helping remove barriers for our students — all of us. We invest in a mighty way, and it shows in everything we do.

“We are laser-focused on being one of the most innovative community colleges in the country. We’re going to embrace the best technology and the most innovative practices. Together, collectively, we have accomplished great things, and I am confident that the best is yet to come for the Merced Community College District.”