Sunday, November 29, 2009

Instructor retires, remembers kindness

Media Credit: photo courtesy of CSM Cosmetology
Robert Ratto

Sharon Ho
Issue date: 9/28/09

CSM cosmetology instructor Robert Benjamin Ratto retired last May after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2008.

Although Ratto is "greatly enjoying retired life at the moment," he still vividly recalls the outpouring of kindness he received from the people of CSM.

Born in Oakland in 1945, Ratto, an alumni of California State University, decided to study barbering and cosmetology at a beauty school with a friend.

After working many years "behind the chair," he decided to lay down his scissors and teach.

Ratto's career as an instructor lasted more than 30 years. He first taught cosmetology at public schools in Oakland, moving to Skyline College in 1999. A year later, he transferred to CSM and stayed for 10 years.

"I wasn't really happy where I worked before," he said. "My best years of teaching were most definitely at CSM and Skyline."

Ratto was unable to teach for six months because of the cancer. Suzanne Russell, CSM's cosmetology coordinator, worked with the American Federation of Teachers, the teachers' union, to ensure Ratto suffered no financial loss for not teaching a full year.

"Dan Kaplan, executive secretary for AFT at CSM, was superb," said Ratto. "He sent me personalized (get-well-soon) cards and even before (my cancer), sent birthday cards every year," said Ratto.

"(Ratto) has been my colleague for many years now," said Russell. "While it was unfortunate cancer happened to him, it is wonderful to see him successfully overcoming it."

Ratto was touched by the care and concern shown him by CSM personnel, including former CSM President Dr. Shirley J. Kelley, former CSM Vice President Patricia Griffin, cosmetology colleagues and staff.They visited him in the hospital with flowers and plants and often phoned him to make sure he was doing well.

"Many of them donated hours of their time to help me out," Ratto said. "They were great people, just simply marvelous and the nicest people I know."

Ratto is remembered fondly by his students.

"He was a very nice and great teacher who made sure clients respected the students," said Noemi Anaya, a cosmetology student who took Ratto's classes.

"CSM felt like home to me," said Ratto. "It gave me a sense of fulfillment to see graduates come back to tell me that they couldn't have done it if I had not been there for them."

"It is even more emotionally moving for me how the people at CSM showed they truly cared," Ratto said.

"I cannot tell you enough how good they were to me," he said. "I only have the nicest things to say [about them]."

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