Coach Jim Colberts career at City College spanned more than two decades. He passed away on Sept. 18 from an aggressive form of brain cancer. Official Facebook image.
Coach Jim Colbert’s career at City College spanned more than two decades. He passed away on Sept. 18 from an aggressive form of brain cancer. Official Facebook image.

Life of beloved coach and teacher to be commemorated Oct. 6

The City College community will celebrate the life of Coach Jim Colbert on Oct. 6. The long-time and respected coach passed away from an aggressive form of brain cancer.

The coach, who died on Sept. 18, will be remembered for his more than two decades of service to students and his profound impact on the Athletics Department.

“Colbert started his career at City College in 1990 as the football team’s offensive coordinator and running backs’ coach, while also teaching strength and conditioning classes,” said Kathy McGinnis, City College’s Dean of Health, Exercise and Athletics.

After the football program was moved to Mesa College, he continued his coaching, first at Mesa and then to nationally ranked Grossmont College, all the while continuing his full-time commitment to City.

Colbert, who came into the Athletics Department as a black belt in martial arts, saw the importance of self-defense classes. In the mid-’90s and with the help of McGinnis, he pushed for and received funding to implement the martial arts classes that City College carries today.

“His mere presence when he entered the room was that of complete respect, just of that of an actual Sansei from a martial arts dojo,” McGinnis said. “His dedication was to the success of the martial arts classes, from his defensive-minded martial arts philosophy to full student accountability.”

“Colbert helped recruit one of his old martial arts students, Andi Milburn (a graduate from Cal State Long Beach and their current assistant athletics director),” McGinnis added. “Jim encouraged Andi to get her degree so she can eventually take Colbert’s place in the martial arts classes once he retired from full-time teaching.”

His martial arts demonstrations in front of Gorton Quad brought acclaim as well as media attention to the new self-defense program.

He was instrumental in the development of a new martial arts classroom as well, from the layout of the design to the weekly cleaning of equipment and supplies used by his students.

Athletics Academic Counselor Jennifer Aase looked to Colbert for support during some of her challenging times.

“As a single mother, it has been a struggle but Jim would always make time to be there for me as a shoulder to lean on,” Aase said. “He is my knight in shining armor.”

“He really didn’t need to say much, he just had a silent power around him,” Aase added. “Truly an inspirational person, and coworker, and I will always be grateful to him.”

Students may remember the “Food Around the World” portion of Colbert’s health classes. He encouraged his students through the sharing of their native food, being particularly mindful of the challenges Muslim women faced while attending college.

Sandra Galindo, one of his former student workers, recalls how he encouraged her.

“Coach and I tried our best to synchronize our schedules so that I can work more on my tumbling skills through his advanced martial arts classes,” Galindo said. “Every time we ran into each other, he shared his kind words of encouragement for my writings and I truly appreciate his kindness.”

An event to celebrate the life of coach Jim Colbert will be held in P-101 on Sunday, Oct. 6, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The family requests that those in attendance wear what they would have worn in Colbert’s classes.

(To protect their privacy, his family has requested that no personal information about the coach be released.)

Students and staff members can send their well wishes at a drop box in the Harry West Gym Reception Area.

According to Kathy McGinnis, there will also be a scholarship set up in his honor. Visit for more information.

Anyone in need of grief counseling can contact City College Mental Health Services at 619-388-3539.

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    Roxann AubreyOct 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Very sadden by this news, Coach Colbert was an exceptional man and I will never forget him. I am very thankful for the time my husband and I shared with him in his classes, including a one on one interview I had with him before he retired. He will be greatly missed!! :'(

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Life of beloved coach and teacher to be commemorated Oct. 6