Photos from the Vault

Remembering Gil Asa, Paso Robles educator

Gil Asa, long time educator was honored with the placement of his name on the Paso Robles high school gym.
Gil Asa, long time educator was honored with the placement of his name on the Paso Robles high school gym.

Here's part two of stories about gyms named for local teachers. The previous story was about Atascadero's Bud Ewing. The story by Dennis Howard Taylor was published in the Telegram-Tribune on April 2, 1987:

North County gyms honor a pair of local legends

Asa still is the No. 1 Bearcat fan

PASO ROBLES — Sitting squarely in the middle of the Paso Robles High School campus in the gym — home to Bearcat basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams.

During the year, thousands of fans and students move through the six-year-old facility. To the right of the entrance is a rock sculpture crafted by local artist David Venturini. It is inscribed:

Gil Asa


His love, dedication and pride keep him in our hearts always and the Number 1 Bearcat

The gym was named after a man who, by most accounts, did much for the school and community in the more than two decades he taught coached and, more importantly, counseled students at Paso Robles.

"He has affected a lot of people in the community for years," said Paso Robles athletic director Scott Larson. "There was a groundswell of support to name the gym after him because of all he has done."

Asa began his teaching career at Templeton in 1952. From 1957 through his retirement in 1983, Asa taught driver's education, world geography and physical education at Paso Robles. The aspect Asa is best remembered for — counseling — came later.

It began after then-Paso Robles principal Art Keller read an article about some school counselors who left the campus to visit homes, extending their counseling services. At the time, that approach was in limited use, but Keller saw potential and asked Asa if he would be interested in trying.

He was.

The idea was to work one-on-one with students and parents to get to the root causes of problems that were blocking academic performance. Asa knew that to reach the student and communicate successfully, he would have to do it in a comfortable setting.

"I wanted to put the students in an atmosphere where they would be free to say what they wanted to say," Asa said. "Part of that was finding a non-threatening atmosphere where they would be comfortable."

That approach worked and students began to open up. Asa said that the conversations became very personal.

After first talking with the student, Asa would talk to the parents either early in the morning at their home or work or sometimes even later at night. Asa found most parents were receptive. Even the ones that weren't understood that the school was trying to help.

"I was available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," Asa said. "I never put a restriction on my availability."

Sometimes, the problems were simple — the lack of clothes and shoes or medical attention. To solve those problems, Asa turned to the business community.

"I often went out to the businesses for clothes, shoes and necessities like that," he said. "I would ask for their help, and it was always there."

Sometimes the problems were more difficult. The hardest thing Asa ever had to do in his career was to take three children away from their parents — a process that involved legal proceedings. Of the three children, one graduated from Cal Poly.

Perhaps the biggest reason for his counseling success was the personal touch. "When I talk to someone, they're the most important person on earth."

"I always wanted them to solve their problems themselves," Asa said. "Sometimes, I would tell them that someday you're going to be a parent, and ask them what they would do in this situation. And I always told them that I was never better than they were and I was only trying to help them with their life."

In addition to his responsibilities as a counselor, Asa was also a coach. During his career, he led the Bearcat football, basketball, baseball and golf teams.

He also had some players go on to star in college and the professional ranks — Don Parrish played football for the Rams, St. Louis and Denver, while Rusty Kuntz played baseball for Cuesta College, the Chicago White Sox and world champion Detroit Tigers.

Asa's retirement is permanent, but he is still called on to do some counseling work for the school.

"I don't feel at ease yet with retirement," he said. "I still feel there are things I can be doing to help."

The city of Paso Robles declared a Gil Asa day when he retired in the spring of 1982, and he was named Roblan of the Year in 1997.

He died at age 78 in December 1999. His memorial was held at the Gil Asa gym.