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I started teaching at Fullerton College in the fall of 1964. I believe there were over 80 new teachers hired at Fullerton that year. Many of us were recruited from the Midwest by Dr. Lynn Sheller. It was a very exciting time to start ones career in education, and we were very happy to start at Fullerton College. We heard rumors that Fullerton College was rated one of the top ten Community Colleges in the country. None of us every saw that list but we believed we were on it!
After finding an apartment I went up to look at the campus. As I was walking across the quad a man in suit and tie called out, “Hi there, Mr. Ibsen.” He introduced himself as Dr. Otto Roemich, Vice President of Instruction. I thought, “Wow, this guy memorized the names and faces from our files of over 80 new teachers to be able to do that.” The orientation sessions were very clear in establishing some of the values of the school. I still remember Dr. Roemich saying, “We do not use sarcasm to control our students.” I would later remember those words as I was half way through just such a comment to a student and stopped myself in time. We were told that it would be a good thing to not live too far from the college, that we were a part of this community that supported us and we were expected to belong to some community organization. And our wives were expected to participate in the Faculty Wives Association. And not only were men expected to wear suits in the classroom but dark suits were preferred. I doubt that an administrator today would even consider suggesting those things. And of course we often gripped or complained. But we were a very proud group and had a strong school spirit.
In 1964 Cal State, Fullerton and UCI were just getting started and had small enrollments. We had a huge enrollment as the district started plans for building Cypress College. We had some very good students at Fullerton and summer classes were filled with students from many of the best universities in the country.
There are certainly a number of ways to evaluate the late 1960s, but it was an exciting time to teach in the Social Sciences. We started celebrating earth day (also Lenin’s birthday, as my students pointed out), the civil rights movement was on many minds, and of course the war in Vietnam was becoming very controversial. The proper role of educational institutions and the best way to teach often preoccupied our thinking. As teachers at a community college we of course were concerned about good job skills. But we were also concerned about free and responsible citizens and the future of our society. Many of us had a role as an advisor to one group or another. We were sometimes asked to serve as chaperones at a school dance. I was asked to serve as advisor to the Radical Student Union and that role provided some interesting moments. When the RSU had a cookie sale to raise money I knew it was pretty much over! For the most part our students were pretty responsible
We had a strong college president in Dr. Sheller and he was not afraid to mingle with the students. We had a “world class” football team under Hal Sherbeck. There were conflicts here and there (especially between the campus and district) but the divisions were never, to my knowledge, between transfer and vocational programs, as was often the case at other community colleges. I think most of us were left with many positive memories of our relationship with students during those early years of our careers.
" It was a very exciting time to start ones career in education, and we were very happy to start at Fullerton College."