In Memoriam: Chris Silva (1964-2017)

Chris Silva, St. Francis PresidentChris Silva, an exceptional friend to SRJC, died in June 2017. Here are remembrances of him by members of the SRJC community. 

More about Chris is available on this link from the Press Democrat

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Peg Saragina, Instructor, Business Administration & Director of International Programs:

In 1993, as the Department Chair of Business Office Technology, I hired Chris Silva to teach the Legal Research and Legal Writing courses. At that time Chris was an attorney at Clement, Fitzpatrick & Kenworthy. I can’t remember how we found Chris, but after hearing from others that he was a tenacious person all of his life and enjoyed exploring new possibilities, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris approached me to teach for SRJC. Regardless, it was one of the best decisions I made. Chris was young, enthusiastic, and personable. He maintained high standards and his students worked hard to meet his expectations, all while ensuring his lessons were practical, relative, and fun. The cases he had the students research were interesting and helped engage them in those evening classes. These students were working adults, mostly legal secretaries. Even after a full day’s work, they still looked forward to Chris’s class – they absolutely loved him.

Chris taught his last class for SRJC in 1997, and I didn’t see him again until 18 years later on February 8, 2015, when SRJC held its First Annual Wine Classic. Chris was standing at the entrance next to our president, Dr. Frank Chong. He saw me first, called my name, and immediately reached out to give me a big hug and kiss on the cheek. Then he turned to Dr. Chong and in a very sincere and caring way said, “Peg gave me my first job at SRJC, and I really enjoyed teaching here.” He flashed that big smile of his, and I was reminded then that not only was he a good instructor, he was easy to like. It was that persona he displayed to his students every night he greeted them in class.

Chris made a positive impact on his students and contributed to the continuing success of many legal secretaries. I feel fortunate to have known Chris for even a short while and sad that I will not see him at the next SRJC Wine Classic. But I know I will see him on the other side and am sure he will again flash that beautiful smile and greet me with a big hug.


Brad Davis, Associate Dean, Workforce Development:

When I first met Chris Silva, it was in the Starbucks down from the college—a small group of us (whom Chris would refer to as “scrappy”) were meeting for the first time to talk about planning the first ever SRJC Wine Classic. He walked through the door, commanded the room without saying anything, walked over to me and reached out his hand and smiled, saying “You must be Brad Davis. Some of my staff took a wine class from you and they had nothing but great things to say, so thank you!” It was sincere, it was honest, and from that first handshake I was a fan and he was a friend. After our meeting was over, I thought to myself that this man has amazing energy, positive vibes, and knows how to get things done. And he did. SRJC’s 3rd Annual Wine Classic event came off without a hitch, and all due to this crazy idea of his about a community wine tasting on campus to benefit culinary, wine, and hospitality scholarships and programs on campus. He was a force, yet he wasn’t forceful. It’s cliché, but Chris was a dynamic individual—all who have worked with him no doubt would agree.

The SRJC Wine Classic Committee presented Chris with an award at the June 2016 SRJC Board of Trustees Meeting—the wording on the plaque sums up Chris perfectly: “For Innovative Conception of the First Annual SRJC Wine Classic and Tenacious Devotion Ensuring its Success and Continuation for Future Generations to Enjoy.”

And that is what Chris was all about—tenacious devotion in everything he believed in. Saying he will be sorely missed is an understatement. Not only is his untimely death a blow to his family, it’s a blow to the community as well. 


Audrey Le Baudour, SRJC Wine Classic, Celebrate CTE, CCI Program Coordinator, Adjunct Faculty, Business Administration

Chris had the unique gift of making each person that he came in contact with, both professionally and personally feel as if they were his very special friend. 


Dr. Kevin Sea, Wine Studies Program Coordinator & Faculty

All of us at the JC have heavy hearts at the loss of Chris. It is hard to fathom that he is no longer with us. What a tremendous contribution he made to the wine program, to SRJC, and to the industry. He will be deeply missed.


Kim Stare Wallace, Wine Studies Advisory Board Member; President, Dry Creek Vineyard

I was deeply saddened to hear the news—and shocked as I was not aware that he was so gravely ill. Chris was an amazing man—charismatic, charming, full of energy, inspiring, intelligent, etc. We used to text each other from across the country whenever we would see each other’s wine on a wine list. It always put a smile on my face. I still remember that first day when I came to a SRJC Wine Studies Advisory Board meeting and he had the idea for the Wine Classic. His enthusiasm made me want to get on board immediately. He was just that way—and made me want to be more like him. I have the utmost respect for his work, his contributions, and his passionate approach to life.


Neil Foster, Wine Studies Advisory Board Member; President, M.A. Silva USA

Such lovely words shared by all of you and many others. I cannot begin to say just how sad I feel by the loss of this great man. He did, indeed, on many occasions make me feel I wanted to be so much better than I am, he had the gift, the genuine love for life and people. He was so humble and so inspiring, a man with such enthusiasm. He was a one of a kind gentleman who will be greatly missed. God bless you, Chris.


Beth Costa, Wine Studies Advisory Board Member; Executive Director, Wine Road, Sonoma County

My only connection with Chris was through the SRJC Advisory Board, but he left a lasting impression with his overwhelming enthusiasm. His genuine love for Sonoma County, SRJC, the wine industry and life could not be curbed. He set an amazing example for how we should be interacting with those around us and our community at large.


Dr. Thomas Atkin, Wine Studies Advisory Board Member; Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management, Wine Business Program, Sonoma State University

Although a lot of Chris’ energy went into SRJC, he was also willing to help out Sonoma State. We set up a tour of St. Francis one Fall semester for my Winery Operations class but it happened to be late in the day during crush. To my amazement, after the whole crew had left for the day, the owner stayed late to give them an informational tour along with the royal treatment as guests at St. Francis. I have always appreciated that he went above and beyond for us.


William “Bill” Traverso, Wine Studies Advisory Board Member; Wine Retail Consultant, Professional Wine Judge

Chris was a one-of-a-kind person. He was very charismatic, smart, enthusiastic, fun and best of all, very kind. He would always like to joke with me and others that all he learned about the skills of selling wine was from taking my class at SRJC. But as we all know this is a relationship business and Chris was a natural in fostering strong relationships which led to his success. He will be truly missed.


Donna Bernheim, Wine Studies Advisory Board Member; Club Cutrer Concierge, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards

I will miss his ever-ready smile and enthusiasm. 


Ellen Maremont Silver, Director of Communications & Marketing

The first time I met Chris was at the class that was going to be involved with putting on our first Wine Classic. He was such a dynamic presenter: funny, articulate and utterly compelling. Over the next few years, I learned that beyond his public figure, he was an extremely generous and appreciative person. I am so grateful I got to know him.