John Cordova

John Cordova is a former South Mountain Community College president, and the founding president of Paradise Valley Community College.

2001. Dr. John Cordova
Image provided by South Mountain Community College

Born and raised in Tolleson, Arizona, Dr. John Cordova learned the value of hard work at an early age. During his time working in the fields, he began to develop skills and life lessons that would guide him into his future. His aspirations to be successful drove Dr. John Cordova to continue his journey in education. Throughout his journey, Dr. John Cordova accomplished many remarkable achievements, contributing to the community was one of his greatest accomplishments.

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Cordova was raised doing labor work, and he remembers that, much like most Hispanics at the time, he worked in the fields. Since he was eleven years old, he worked in the fields, picking cotton, harvesting foods such as garlic and tomatoes. He did this to help support his family. Through this rough home environment John learned that “Money doesn’t grow on trees and you have to work for everything.” He worked alongside Don Pedro, a grown man who John considered to be one of his biggest mentors and teachers in his life. He believes that Don Pedro and the fields are where he gained his work ethic and do things right. Since John was so occupied with the fields, school, and his home life he never was able to play little league baseball which he says is his biggest regret to date, although through this he picked up music in school.

John got interested in music in middle school where he met his music teacher who helped John out with a lot in his life. When John went to high school, so did the music teacher. “Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says John when talking about the music teacher.

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Growing up, John faced ridicule for having big dreams to go to college, from even his closest “friends.” This criticism and perceptions that were put on John did not discourage him, these words and doubts were motivators for John. “There will always be that voice in my head telling me ‘Who do you think you are?’ and I still hear that voice even now sometimes.” John believes that these people, and the doubtful voice in his head are the reasons he stayed in school when he wanted to leave. He wanted to prove these people wrong. Even though there were not a lot of Hispanics in college at the time, John said he never felt racism, because he was so focused on himself. He recalled later that there probably was a little racism, but it never bothered him. John went to school to become a teacher, he wanted to become a teacher because his music teacher was such a big influence on him and he wanted to be able to help others the way his teacher did for him.

John started off at Phoenix College and achieved his associate degree, and shortly after he transferred to attended Arizona State University. He achieved his bachelors and decided to stay and earn his master’s degree. Then, he decided to continue on for his doctorate.

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While in school for his doctorate, John went back to Phoenix College to become a counselor. After graduating with his PhD, Dr. Cordova became the Vice President of Student Affairs at Phoenix College. Cordova felt that everyone around him now wanted him to succeed and he felt very pleased about that. In 1987, Cordova became the founding President of Paradise Valley Community College. He claimed the experience of creating a college from the ground up was the scariest thing that he ever did. After spending seven years at Paradise Valley Community College, the Maricopa Community College District made the surprising move to swap administrations at two of its colleges. PVCC Founding President Cordova switched places with SMCC Founding President, Dr. Raul Cardenas in 1992.

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NarratorJohn Cordova
Place of OriginTolleson, Arizona
Place of Residence
RoleFormer President of South Mountain Community College and Founding President of Paradise Valley Community College
Years Active in South Phoenix1992 –
Recording Duration1:03:52
DateFall 2019
LocationSouth Mountain Community Library
Interviewed ByStudent Researchers: Javier Campos & Hector Chavira
Story Written ByStudent Writers: Noah Bachman, Jorge Gomez, &Victor Utrilla Herrera, Spring 2020