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H. Lynn Sheller, an English teacher who became president of Fullerton College from 1950-1969, was born on a farm in Iowa in 1904. For the first fifteen years of his life, he lived without electricity, gas, or a car. He was one of only a handful of people from his rural community to attend high school, much less to eventually earn a doctorate in literature from USC.
After graduating from Manchester College in Indiana, he followed his sweetheart Mary to Los Angeles, where he entered a graduate program at USC. In 1927, he was hired as an English teacher at Fullerton Union High School. At this time, Fullerton was a relatively small town (about 10,000 people) which was comprised mainly of orange groves. One of Sheller’s students at Fullerton College was a young man from Yorba Linda named Richard Nixon, who would go on to become the 37th president of the United States and call Sheller one of his finest teachers.
In 1933, Sheller began teaching at Fullerton Junior College, which at that time shared facilities with the high school. It wasn’t until 1935 that Fullerton College built its first building, the Commerce Building (Currently the 300 building), with money from the Works Progress Administration.
In 1950, after having served as Dean of Men and Registrar, Sheller became Fullerton College President. Under his guidance, Fullerton College steadily expanded its facilities and programs. He started the Fullerton College Foundation in 1959, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to students.
“I believe in the dignity and worth of every person, in the right of every person to realize his potential and to receive help in realizing this potential in the public schools. This is important not only for the individual himself, but for our society as a means of self-preservation.”
Mary Marguerite Gilbert
1926, B.A. Manchester College, Indiana
1931, M.A. English University of Southern California
1927-1933, Teacher of English, Speech, and Journalism, Fullerton Union High School
1933-1950, Teacher of English, Fullerton Junior College
1945, Ph.D. English University of Southern California
1950-1969, President of Fullerton College
1959, Founder of Fullerton College Foundation
1969, Educator of the Year, Orange County Press Club
1969-1984, President Emeritus, Fullerton College
1984, Distinguished Friend of Fullerton College Award
“Schooling is one thing, and education is another. I believe my education began from my earliest days, because growing up on a farm there is a great deal of education in just being where one is experiencing nature in many forms—the seasons, flowers, trees, birds, insects...I used to carry a little book of poetry with me and memorize a lot of poems just while riding a plow in the field.”
H. Lynn Sheller
[Nixon had] greater success as a debater, winning a number of championships and taking his only formal tutelage in public speaking from Fullerton's Head of English, H. Lynn Sheller. Nixon later remembered Sheller's words, "Remember, speaking is conversation...don't shout at people. Talk to them. Converse with them.”
—The American Presidents.net
Sheller, H. Lynn in a series of interviews with Anne Riley for the Oral History Program, Fullerton College, 1971. Fullerton College Library Special Collections.
Sheller, H. Lynn. “Biographical Notes.” Appendix A to aforementioned interview. Added by Mary Helen Sheller Hansen for revised edition of the Interview transcript, 1995.
“Richard Milhous Nixon.” The American Presidents. http://www.theamericanpresidents.net/nixon.html
Fullerton College Library Online Archives, c. 1960