Tom Hanks

HAYWARD | There was always an urban legend that Tom Hanks never bothered to pick up his diploma from Chabot College. It’s likely not true.

In a New York Times opinion piece, Hanks gives a loving ode to his junior college alma mater, Hayward’s Chabot College.

The impetus for the piece is to support President Obama’s proposal to offer up to nine million Americans free access to a community college education.

Hanks, who graduated from Skyline High in Oakland, credits his time at Chabot for inspiring what later would become one of the most honored careers in motion picture history.

For thousands of commuting students, Chabot was our Columbia, Annapolis, even our Sorbonne, offering courses in physics, stenography, auto mechanics, certified public accounting, foreign languages, journalism — name the art or science, the subject or trade, and it was probably in the catalog. The college had a nursing program that churned out graduates, sports teams that funneled athletes to big-time programs, and parking for a few thousand cars — all free but for the effort and the cost of used textbooks.

I, too, share Hanks’ sentiment for the school sometimes called, “Hesperian High.”

Admittedly, upon graduating from high school, being “forced” to attend Chabot College is a common lament. However, like Hanks, I have always credited the school with teaching me more about who I am and what I wanted to do more than other institution.

I learned to fear Bill Johnson’s red pen as he edited my stories for the Chabot Spectator. The late journalism instructor was tough, but I later understood his only intention was to teach, not to denigrate. Today, when Robert Gammon edits my work the East Bay Express, I trust he has my back. I learned that from the late Bill Johnson.

And yes, I also learned to drink beer at Chabot College.