November 18, 2020
By William Ink, Staff Writer
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” – Shannon Adler
The Peralta Community College District lost a community pillar with the death of Guy Forkner on October 22, 2020, following his battle with cancer at the age of 82.
Forkner served as instructor and chair of the business, economics, computer information systems and real estate departments at Merritt College from 2002 to 2020. He was also co-chair of the Merritt resource development task force and co-founder/advisor of the Merritt real estate forum.
Forkner is estimated to have instructed over 15,000 students in his career and has garnered universal respect and admiration from students, faculty, administrators, peers and colleagues alike.
Ronald Grant, a mentor and boss at Merritt to the late instructor, prides himself on hiring and training Forkner in 2002.
“After we created the real estate forum, Guy played an integral role in its development and growth,” said Grant. The forum now boasts over 600 members and, along with the real estate program at Merritt, is responsible for the cultivation of a large number of real estate entrepreneurs, developers, brokers and agents across the state.
Georgia W. Richardson, a real estate broker associate at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, told The Citizen that Forkner was always in the moment. “One of the things I loved most about Guy was he was always present, not distracted, not far off somewhere,” she said. Richardson, a longtime speaker and coordinator for the Merritt Real Estate Forum, echoed a sentiment shared by many. “Guy put a lot of his personal time developing ways to bring real estate industry [skills], real-life experiences and information to his students. I am privileged to [have had] him as a mentor and friend!”
Manford Forkner was born on February 5th, 1938, and grew up in Riverside, California. He attended Stanford University for one year before transferring to San Jose State in 1956 to follow the path paved for him by his father and grandfather and enter the real estate business.
Forkner graduated from San Jose State in 1960 with a bachelor of applied science in business management with a real estate focus and a bachelor of science in business and real estate.
With his father’s help, Forkner purchased his first home at the age of 19, renting rooms out to pay the mortgage. Within a few years, he was the owner of multiple homes. He never looked back.
From 1965 to 1978, Forkner was director of real estate and economic development for the City of Oakland, where he worked on developing commercial and industrial properties. Forkner then served as president of Builder’s Credit Inc. from 1978 to 2002 before setting his sights on education. He spent 24 years as a counselor and consultant to hundreds of commercial businesses, investors, financial institutions, developers, governmental agencies, community economic and nonprofit corporations. His work with them encompassed a wide range of industrial, retail, commercial, office buildings, medical facilities and multi-residential projects as well as job development.
In 2002, Forkner turned his attention to teaching full time at Merritt, where he could pass along the knowledge and wisdom that culminated from a long career in real estate.
A quote by Doris Kearns Goodwin, passed on in class by Mr. Forkner, encapsulates his business philosophy: “Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.”
While the scope of his acumen and experience may have provided Forkner with the foundation to be an excellent leader, it was his ethics, his principles, his dedication and his humanity that made Guy Forkner a beacon of light, according to those who knew him best.
“Guy made an indelible impact on everyone who met him by his generosity of spirit, his vast business knowledge, and his quick wit,” said Sara Martinez Osaba, a student, caretaker and friend of Forkner’s. “This was a second career he undertook and he said he didn’t realize how much he would love it. Teaching became his passion. His motivation every day was to pass on to as many students as possible his vast knowledge and experience in the real estate world so that they could succeed.”
Forkner never stopped learning and moving forward. Carl Ogden, instructor and co-chair of the real estate department at Merritt, was a peer, confidant and friend of Forkner’s who maintained a correspondence with him through the years.
Ogden remarked: “It’s amazing how quickly he [adapted] to new things. He’s just got started using LinkedIn not that long ago and he [had] already mastered it. He reached the 30,000 connection limit in record time!”
This comment, left on Forkner’s LinkedIn page by Mike Ferketich, epitomizes Forkner: “I have been in communication with Guy for over a year and have to say that he has one of the most impressive profiles on Linkedin I have ever seen. He has more “99+” Featured Skills and Endorsements than anyone else I have seen [50 and counting]. His business background had both breadth and depth and was complemented by his various community and volunteer activities. He is a gifted instructor who led a successful team of faculty and staff at Merritt College.”
Forkner was set to return to Merritt for his 18th year of teaching. He had a full class schedule and was looking forward to a new year with new and returning students equipped with his sunny disposition. Unfortunately, after only a month of spring term, his illness returned and he was forced to fill in his classes with some old reliable friends, Ronald Grant and Carl Ogden.
Forkner’s hope was that he would get treatment and return as he had previously. He would never make it back for instruction at Merritt. He was cremated on Monday, November 2, 2020.
According to a few sources close to Forkner, there remained an unfinished piece of business: securing his replacements, therefore his legacy, in the departments he loved and presided over for 18 years.
Forkner took pride in his judgment of character and his sustained success gave his opinion a great deal of credence. However, he was facing resistance from administrators possessing the authority to make those decisions and his fear was that his wishes would not be honored, according to those familiar with Forkner and the situation.
Forkner hoped to recover enough to assert his influence at Merritt once more before the end, but didn’t quite make it.
He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Bella Forkner, with whom he shared a loving and devoted relationship.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A note from the writer of this article:
I was only fortunate enough to have classes with Mr. Forkner for the first month of Spring 2020. Despite the brevity of my experience he had a profound impact on me.
He represented himself, during a period he must have been ailing, with the same energy, enthusiasm and focus that has been exemplified in all that I’ve discovered from every available source. The testimonials are endless.
He was truly a bright light, our northern star, and I felt the sense of loss from the moment I found out he wouldn’t likely be returning for spring term and again upon finding out about his passing.
While looking through his LinkedIn profile, I scrolled down just far enough to find a video he had reposted. He posted it five months ago during a time he must have been thinking heavily about his mortality. Despite that, his heart was filled with love and his ears were filled with this wonderful music which he proceeded to send back out for everyone’s pleasure and inspiration this last Father’s Day. It brought a tear to my eye when I heard it. I will forever associate this song with him.
REST IN PEACE GUY FORKNER!
-William Ink, Staff Writer
There is a movement to have the real estate program at Merritt renamed the “Guy Forkner Real Estate Program” and a fundraising campaign to have a bench with a plaque bearing the name Manford “Guy” Forkner as well as continuing his efforts to see to it that all his students have textbooks. Interested parties can contact:
Sara Osaba, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Telephone: 802-363-1901
Corrections: In our initial publishing of this article, we mistakenly wrote Georgia W. Richardson’s name as “Georgia W. Robertson” in the body and in a caption. We also erroneously credited the third photo of the article to Carina Duran, when in fact it came from Georgia W. Richardson. Lastly, Guy Forkner was cremated on Monday November 2, 2020 and not on Monday October 26th, 2020, as had been previously reported.