(Editor’s note: Napa Valley College is turning 75 this year, spurring alumni to come forward with their stories about how the college played a pivotal role in their lives. This is the story of Napa chiropractor Ron Williams, one of Napa’s longtime healers, who credits the local college for helping him establish his lifelong career).
Ron Williams didn’t realize how much he didn’t learn in high school until he started taking classes at Napa Valley College in the early 1970s.
“I had been a C student, the class clown, just having fun, seeing the girls, driving the hot rods – but I hadn’t learned how to learn in high school,” said Williams, 61, who has been serving the Napa community as a chiropractor for three decades.
After graduating from St. Patrick’s High School in Vallejo, he found full-time work at a San Rafael tire shop. His father, a chiropractor, “loved to help people,” and got his son to think about his future.
“How long do you want to be in the tire business?” his father asked. “Until you’re 40? As long as you knees and back hold up?”
Williams started taking evening classes at NVC. He’d leave Vallejo at 6 a.m, then leave the San Rafael tire shop at 6 p.m. to get to the college by 7 p.m. Taking one or two classes per night, he earned his AA degree in about five years.
“At NVC I made it my journey to learn how to learn,” he said. “When you stay standing in the batter’s box, you get hits.”
“The teachers all wanted me to succeed. What they want to do every day is help students tune in, turn on and succeed. You know you mean something to them because there is full-eye-contact intensity.”
He remembers biology professor Barbara Klemenock as a fundamental and pivotal person in his life, and he remains indebted to chemistry professor Richard Bieraugel for allowing him to enroll in Organic Chemistry II without first taking Chem I.
“I read a chapter a day for nine days and took the tests in the back of each chapter,” to prove that he was determined to succeed.
“I walked around the campus, reading aloud to myself, and practicing teaching classes to myself. I did push-ups as a reward and had a 3.95 grade point average by the time I graduated NVC with my AA,” he said.
He spent the next four years at Life Chiropractic College West in San Lorenzo, earning a full-ride scholarship by working as the school’s custodian.
He set up a chiropractic business in Napa that has grown steadily for the past 30 years.
“When customers ask me how I did it, I tell them I went to Napa Valley College. It was small when I attended in the 1970s, not as large as it is now. But the college still hires good-quality people. The instructors are compassionate. They take the time to make sure you understand,” said Williams, whose wife, Mary, is a psychiatric technician instructor at NVC.
“They are not there for the money. When you ask them, ‘why do you do what you do?’ they say they have a calling.”
“I think youngsters who are right out of high school should not take a time out – you can’t reach your goal if you’re sitting on your butt. But if you have skin in the game by taking one or two classes a day at NVC, you’ll eventually run out of classes.”
Williams said his patients sometimes ask him how he achieved success.
“I tell them to try Napa Valley College – they have been polishing that stone for 75 years.”