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John T. Walker was born in Chicago and moved to Whittier, CA, as a ten-year old. He graduated from Whittier High School in 1956 and received a full academic scholarship to Dartmouth College where he majored in German Language and Literature. One of the most formative experiences in John’s life was to study at the University of Freiburg in southeastern Germany for a semester, fully sponsored by Dartmouth. He stayed with a host family with whom he had contacts through the fourth generation.
In 1963, after completing his MA in German at the University of Southern California, John was hired at Fullerton College by its then-President, Dr. H. Lynn Sheller, where he would spend the next forty-eight and one-half years. John was a German language professor from 1963-1981, engaging his students with his pedagogical antics. During these early years at Fullerton College and while actively raising his four children, John also earned an MA and PhD in History from the University of California, Irvine, thereby earning the exalted title of Herr Professor Doktor. He then served in various administrative capacities, including Grants Officer and Staff Development Officer, but primarily as Dean of Instruction, until 1995. He thought of that era of college leadership as “the golden years” led by Dr. Philip Borst and his own mentor, Vice President Jane Armstrong. From 1995-2011, his love of teaching led him back to the classroom as a history professor.
In his retirement letter in 2010 John said, “It is important to me that I have had three different careers during my long tenure at Fullerton College which have given me a sense of having made at least a modicum of meaningful contributions to the institution. Occasionally these responsibilities overlapped, for example, I taught some German sections during my administrative years as well as after I had returned full-time to the History department. What I value most about my years at Fullerton College is that I was allowed ample opportunities for intellectual growth and the sharing of my learning and perspectives with students and colleagues. This learning did not come exclusively from the reading of books and articles.”
Thanks also to Fullerton College John met his second wife, Joy Wanden, who was a student at FJC before she worked full-time in the college library for nineteen years. She served as a member of several campus-wide committees, including Staff Development, Staff of Distinction, Dr. Borst’s Consultative Council, and as President of the California School Employees Association for classified staff. She continued on to a professional library career that lasted another two decades at the non-profit, global organization of libraries, archives and museums linking 170 countries, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. John was proud to travel as her “accompanying spouse” throughout the United States at conferences as well as during her training and consulting assignments. As a matter of fact John enjoyed telling others that his PhD mentor had taken him aside many years ago to encourage him to “make friends with the librarians” as he began his research; he exceeded those expectations by marrying one.
According to a nineteenth century Romantic poet, “Wem Gott will rechte Gunst erweisen, den schickt er in die weite Welt” (To whom God wants to bestow real favor, he sends into the wide world). Armed with this (profound) wisdom and (doubtful) authority John led like-minded faculty in the establishment of a Study Abroad Program for Fullerton and Cypress Colleges—a program that has now endured for a quarter century. The high point of his teaching career was in 2011 when he was co-leader of the first program to be taught in Berlin. He felt his Study Abroad experience was one of the most satisfying in his career and was proud to have assisted at least 1,000 students in their desire to study in places like England, Paris, Costa Rica, Florence, and Salzburg.
In his early career John was a prolific book reviewer for various English- and German-language professional journals. More recently he contributed to the following publications:
These subjects combined his interests in history, Germany and New England. It was the surroundings of his undergraduate years at Dartmouth that introduced him to the wonders of the four seasons on the East Coast, as well as its remarkable peoples.
However, being a father always came first. During all of his life John was a loving father to his children, attended every one of their athletic games and made their school lunches each morning. Though the children report that his lunches were famously horrible, it was the effort they never forgot. He was very proud to have seen them all earn university degrees, including one with a Doctorate from Yale University. He was extremely close to his daughter, Janine, who died of breast cancer in 2005. John adopted Kristin Sunanta Walker (Joy’s adult daughter) in 2009.
John was an exceptionally courteous person who would never say anything disparaging about someone, though he could on rare occasions utter a witty observation about a rather challenging personality, though most did not grasp his true meaning because it was delivered in such a subtle manner. He always had a boisterous, infectious laugh as well as a great sense of humor. He particularly enjoyed puns and metaphors.
John retired in 2011 to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina where he shared an amazing two years exploring the Southern states. He and his loving wife, Joy, were inseparable for twenty-three years before he passed away after a stroke at the age of 75. One of their closest friends noted that their years together were as much or more than most, though more was deserved by both of them. On the morning of his stroke John was scheduled to give a lecture to the local high school Honors classes on the subject of the Holocaust, which he had dedicated to Leon Leyson, survivor and husband to long-time FC colleague, Lis Leyson.
The family is extremely proud to have the opportunity to provide future scholarships to Fullerton College undergraduates through the Fullerton College Foundation, honoring his forty-eight and one-half years of service.