Publish Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2019 16:30:00 -0800

Photo of David Avila

David Avila is not a “high profile kind of guy.” 

So when he was named Crafton Hills College’s 2019 Outstanding Alumni, the longtime volunteer asked himself, “Why me?”

“I’m honored and happy about it. But I’ve done things in my life everyone else has,” Avila said last week. “I’m a retired firefighter. People call us heroes but we are doing what we are paid to do. And that’s how I look at what I’m doing now. I’m here to do a service to the people. I’m a public servant and I’m honored to be.”

Avila feels he was put on this earth to give back, and he has done so in many ways. Currently, the longtime Yucaipa resident serves on the city council as its Mayor Pro Tem and is also heavily involved in Rotary, Knights of Columbus, and the Yucaipa Valley Historical Society. That only scratches the surface.

Avila graduated from Cal State Fullerton before enrolling in the Fire Academy at Crafton Hills College as a member of Academy Class No. 3. He completed the program in 1983 and spent decades in the fire service in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties before retiring as battalion chief for the Riverside County Fire Department in 2011.

Although retired, the “lively” 66-year-old continues to be active in Yucaipa on the council and through several volunteer service-oriented projects. Much of the work is done within miles of Crafton which he speaks of fondly when looking back at his time on campus.

CHC officials like Michelle Riggs have noticed Avila’s passion for college and his commitment to the community as well. “When the committee informed me that David Avila was selected as this year’s recipient, I was thrilled to notify him,” said the development director for the CHC Foundation, “As Mayor Pro Tem for the city of Yucaipa and a leader in our community, we are honored to have Mr. Avila as our 2019 Outstanding Alumni.”

Although Avila is a busy guy, he enjoys spending his free time with his longtime love, Ellen Benefiel, and their blended family. He is also a fan of encouraging others to never stop learning and to keep moving forward.

“The education and training that you have comes into play often and you should always share these experiences and knowledge with others who need it,” he said. “Become a teacher but keep learning new things - even if the task is simple.”