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ALUMNI STORIES: Stephen L. Plett

Stephen L. Plett

Half a Century

Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

Late in the fall of 1963: Fullerton College was 50, and I was a 7-year old boy living in Overland Park, Kansas, wondering why my dad had to drive to the Kansas City International Airport during a big snow storm. But when he got back, I was very excited to hear him say that we would be moving to California — right by Disneyland! Dr. Lynn Sheller, the President of Fullerton Junior College, had been conducting interviews to expand the faculty and offered my dad, Harold K. Plett, a position in the Life Sciences Division. So when school finished next June, we packed up a little U-Haul trailer and put a mattress in the back of our station wagon: the four of us kids fell asleep, and with mom and dad trading off driving, 26 hours later we arrive in West Fullerton. Dad started his career of 32 years full-time (followed by 15 years as an adjunct) instructing Biology, Zoology, and counseling Pre-Med students, and I started the third grade.

Early spring of 1965, the FJC Faculty Wives sponsored a bonnet/hat contest and Easter Egg Hunt, so I stepped onto campus for the first time and enjoyed it thoroughly. Over the next several years, Dad would occasionally take us kids to
"big school" and we would tour his labs, watch informative movies, and see where he worked. At home, I watched him grade papers and prepare for classes — but he always had time to talk, teach, and/or play with me, be my Little League coach, Scoutmaster, and church youth group advisor. I admired him greatly: his work ethic and his availability for the family, and I thought even then, that I might like to be a college professor. As a high school student, I progressed beyond Troy's course offerings, so I enrolled at FJC under the Bridge Program and took two semesters of Calculus and General Chemistry 1A.

September 1974 found me as a full-time student at Fullerton Junior College, taking courses from instructors with great minds who all had a passion for teaching: Stan Goering and Gene Gustafson in Chemistry, Hans Rau and Erv Klippenstein in Physics, and Al Carter in Mathematics. In addition to classwork, I recorded HW papers for two math faculty, and worked in the Tutoring Center. By the end of spring 1975, I had earned 58 units with a 4.0 GPA, and was selected as a Man of Distinction. I had grown very comfortable at Fullerton College (the name had officially changed by the time I got my A.A.), but it was time to move on…

After finishing a B.A. in Math at CSU Fullerton, and then a Master’s Degree at UC Riverside, I was ready. Sending applications to 21 Community Colleges all over Southern California, I was asked to interview at only six. After the interviews, but before any notifications, I prayed "Lord, I’ll teach in Blythe — if only I can get hired." My prayer was answered after five "No"s: a one-year full-time sabbatical replacement position at Fullerton College was offered to me. It was like a dream come true. I worked very hard that whole year, expecting to be going somewhere else, but Al Carter decided to retire and essentially I ended up with his position: as a new full-time tenure-track Mathematics Instructor, teaching mostly Computer Programming during my second year.

For the next 15 years, I became more and more a part of the FC family: serving on committees, improving my craft, making friends, with Dad in the next building over as one of many highly-respected colleagues. But even after Dad "retired", these last 15 years have still been a shared experience with him teaching here at FC as an adjunct and encouraging new faculty members. Now I am in my 33rd year full-time and still really love my job, my colleagues, and my students — and I thank my Dad for being a role model and an encouragement.

I have a home of my own in Placentia with my wife and 3 adult children, my older "home" up the hill behind campus where Dad and Mom live, and then also this school — with all the 50 years of memories, the great people that I have worked with and taught, and the opportunities to learn and grow: Fullerton College is truly my other "home".