His success stories are many. They are tales of people earning college degrees who didn't think they could because they are deaf or use a wheelchair.
One has cerebral palsy, a form of paralysis that left the student in special education classes throughout childhood.
"That student didn't think they could be successful, and now they're getting a bachelor's from Chico State," said Bob Williams, retiring Disability Services counselor at Modesto Junior College.
Through 33 years guiding disabled students, Williams has changed many lives. He has worked with military veterans, blind students, those with severe depression, quadriplegics or students simply recovering from surgeries. He also has pushed administrators and instructors to get students into classes or make accommodations for tests and instruction.
Never miss a local story.
"The goal is not to give them an unfair advantage, just to even the playing field, help them overcome the effects of their disability," said Williams, 68, a Wisconsin native.
About 25 students were using Disability Services when Williams started in the center. It now serves 1,000 each school year. Disability can mean anything from a hearing impairment to a learning disadvantage to psychological issues and include recovering substance abuse addicts as well.
The program is critical because it helps instructors provide the types of services that are required by law, said Derek Waring, dean of counseling and student services, who works with Williams.
Vietnam-era veteran Raymond Gibson is taking classes at MJC and hopes to become a history teacher. He injured himself jumping out of an airplane in Vietnam and said Wil- liams is a cheerleader and compass for many students.
"He's always there. He goes the extra mile. I was out of school for 25 or 30 years; I had anxiety about the whole thing," said Gibson, 50. "Bob told me, 'You can do this. Keep your head up, drive on.' "
Williams has a personal connection. His father had severe rheumatoid arthritis that led to bad blood circulation in his legs and the amputation of both limbs. Williams took on the role of helping his dad connect with disability services.
It wouldn't have taken much of an excuse for Williams to stay, Waring said, but MJC administrators and students said he deserves to retire.
Williams has been married for 45 years. His wife teaches music. They have two grown sons and five grandchildren.
For decades, Williams has been involved with the Valley Mountain Regional Center, the Disabilities Resource Agency for Independent Living, and the Christian Berets, a religious group that offers camping excursions for disabled people.
Williams retired this month. Working at a community college and with disabled students was his niche, where he feels at home. He started out as a teacher and counselor at junior high and high schools, but said the student discipline was too demanding and paperwork too tedious.
"Community college students don't have to be here. For the most part, they want to be here. That makes all the difference in the world as far as their attitude," Williams said.
Disability Services student Maureen Reynolds first met Williams when she was recovering from a leg injury. He encouraged her to take a telecourse. Reynolds has since graduated from MJC and California State University, Stanislaus, and completed two years of graduate school. She's another of his success stories.
"Bob works with the most vulnerable population, molding them with encouragement and the tools needed to go through college," Reynolds said. "He helps disabled students reach goals that most people would consider impossible for them."
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.