Obituary for Jesus Gilberto "Jess" Nieto
Jesus “Jess” Gilberto Nieto passed away on September 21st in Bakersfield, California at the age of 69. He is survived by his wife Peggy, his daughter Alyssa, his son Diego, his daughter-in-law Jenny, his son-in-law Jason, his grandchildren Tomas, Presley, Kaitlyn and Liam, his brother Louis, and his cousin Alex.
Jess was born in Deming, New Mexico on September 23, 1947. At the age of 13, he moved with his parents, Gilberto and Guadalupe (Parra) Nieto to Bakersfield. Over the next decade, Jess developed a fierce love of learning, and he went on to earn a Ph. D. in Education from the University of Southern California. These formative experiences motivated Jess to dedicate his professional life to civil rights and educational attainment, particularly for underserved populations. Classes he taught at Bakersfield College, California State University, Bakersfield, California State University, Long Beach, and University of San Diego (among others) reflected these values.
In addition to being an educator, Jess was also an author, administrator, businessman, philanthropist, and activist. He was the first Latino Dean of Delano College and he started the Chicano Cultural Center and Chicano Studies Program at Bakersfield College. He fought for the desegregation of the Bakersfield City School District. Later, he organized scholarship and mentorship programs for local college students. He participated in the UFW-sponsored grape boycotts and advocated for the repeal of Proposition 187. He also helped thousands of Kern County residents become citizens of the United States.
Whether professional or personal, Jess’s life was a blend of passion, dedication and compassion. His most trusted and loving moments were spent with Peggy, as they raised a family and enjoyed a loving marriage that lasted just shy of 47 years. His proudest moments were when his kids, either by birth or scholarship, graduated from college, and preferably with a graduate degree. His happiest moments were spent hiking with students or running and biking with friends and family. His most joyous moments were spent with his children and grandchildren, during which time Jess was a supportive father and doting abuelo.
Jess will be sorely missed. His legacy will live on in his family, the institutions he shaped, and the lives he touched.
In lieu of flowers, please support Heritage of America’s scholarship program. Donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/jess-nieto-memorial-scholarship