Fullerton College Centennial


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My Story

Humanities and Fine Arts 1962-2009

I first came to Fullerton Junior College in the summer of 1962 when, shiny Masters Degree tucked under arm, I applied for a sudden opening in the English Department. (I had, of course, been to FJC a few times before when as a Santa Ana College kid, I ventured with similarly noisy fellows to Fullerton when our Dons played the much-feared Hornets.) Applying for a teaching position in those antediluvian times meant surviving one interview with President Lynn Sheller, formidable literary scholar; campus ruler. Fresh from my Masters orals, I was eager to discuss literature with anyone, stopping strangers on the street to talk Keats. And here was a man who actually wanted to. So I was hired and without ever having taught a day in my life, was dropped into my very first classroom, into an experience so exhilarating — such an incredible rush — that I never really got over it. The thrill of teaching, with the privilege of getting to know young people, of getting into their heads and they into mine, never diminished over a span of 47 years.

Commanding memory to speak about those 47 years yields a trove of people I respected and adored. First, Bill Smith, Chairman of Humanities (Chairs antedated Deans.), who saw I was mad for Theater of the Absurd and Beat poetry and suggested I teach Contemporary Literature, which I did by day and by night for five years. It was in my Contemporary Lit class that I met Kathleen, this enchanting girl with whom I will celebrate our 45th anniversary this summer. Bill Smith it was who later guided me and a few other English teachers to create and offer the first reading courses within the English Department. After a few years the Reading Department itself evolved with remedial and ultimately college-level reading courses taught by Shirley Bernard, Mary Wortham, Phyllis Sanderson, Bill Heckman, Marilyn Ediss, and me. We were a family — better than a family because we all got along.

A venerable Music Department tradition, now extinct, allowed for one section of Music Appreciation to be taught by a Humanities instructor with requisite knowledge and interest. As my immersion in classical music, opera especially, had been since childhood total and now in adulthood maniacal, I aspired to be heir to that tradition. I approached Ken Helvey, Fine Arts Chairman, also an opera buff, who put me to teaching Music Appreciation immediately. My syllabus always included two operas that the San Francisco Opera was currently presenting. Then filling three school vans with students, we would head for San Francisco on a Friday, pile into a hotel near the Opera House, get in standing-room line for the Saturday night performance, and then stand again for the Sunday matinee, after which drive back and be fresh for school Monday morning. The students loved the experience. For me it was bliss.

Out of this came the Opera Class, encouraged by Terry Blackley, who succeeded Ken Helvey as Fine Arts Dean, and by Bob Jensen, who succeeded Terry. All three Deans gave the class their unstinting support and, when needed, protection. I started the class in 1978, and it continued until I retired in 2009. There was such good fellowship and friendship among the Opera Class members, a group of people who love opera and crave companionship with fellow opera-lovers. Field trips for the Opera Class found the group in (of course) San Francisco, in Seattle for the Ring Cycle, in San Diego for the Verdi Festival, in Santa Fe, and then, when the LA Opera finally materialized, in LA. During the 80's we ventured further -- to New York for Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall performances. Subsequently, Spring Break tours to the New York opera scene became a nearly annual event. Summer trips were to the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, Verona, Budapest, Prague, other wondrous places.

It was Gary Krinke, FC Theater Arts Professor, extraordinary director, and good friend who got me into acting by telling me he needed me for the wayward father in "The Philadelphia Story." Instinct told me, and it proved true many times since, that when Gary Krinke has a project in mind for you, one's only possible answer is yes. I did the show, caught the acting bug, and went on to do dozens more shows at the college and at Stages, the off-campus unofficial auxiliary of FC Theater Arts. The fun of all this was intense.

So for me, for a half century, Fullerton (Junior) College was career, inspiration, safe place, thrill ride. I join the Fullerton community in congratulating its glorious college on reaching its first Centennial.