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STAFF STORIES: Dr. Samuel Hensley Cortez

Dr. Samuel Hensley Cortez - Former Dean Fullerton Junior College

Dr. Samuel Hensley Cortez and his wife Elsie Yates Cortez arrived in Fullerton in 1934 when he joined the faculty at Fullerton Junior College and served until his untimely death in 1957. Sam and Elsie were born in Utah and raised by devout Mormon families. They both were dedicated to teaching and helping young people. They married after Sam returned from his Mission in France in the 1920s. Sam received his undergraduate degree in Science at University of Utah. Sam and Elsie moved to Indiana where he obtained his Doctorate in Physics at Indiana University.

Teaching jobs were scarce during the Depression and Sam took a teaching job at Mississippi State University where their daughter Patricia was born. Sam was excited when he learned that there was an opening at Fullerton Junior College. They rented a home on Jacaranda and began a new life in Fullerton. Sam taught Physics and other Science courses and was a popular teacher and counselor to studies.

Sam and Elsie built their first home in 1939 on a vacant lot they purchased at 1341 Skyline Drive. In 1940, Sam was named Dean of the College and served previously as Dean of Men. Their second child, Karen was born in 1940. Their third child, Douglas, was born in 1942. But World War II changed everything. In 1943, Sam joined the Navy and took a leave of absence from FJC. He left for training in Arizona and eventually taught science and engineering classes at the Philadelphia Navy Yard rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Sam left for Arizona training in 1943 and then went to Philadelphia alone. Elsie stayed home with the children in Fullerton. Elsie later took the kids on a train to Philadelphia to be with her loving husband. Fearing the length of the war, Sam wanted to sell their “dream home” on Skyline. Elsie objected and Sam agreed to rent the house while the family lived in Philadelphia.

After the War ended, the Cortez family returned to their home in Fullerton and Sam continued to teach at FJC. By every account, he was a popular teacher, but also a trusted counselor to hundreds of FJC studies. Elsie was an RN and taught public health at Bellflower High School for over 30 years. After the War, Sam was active in the Mormon church and was instrumental in building the ward house on Raymond Ave. He became the Bishop of the Ward and later the President of the Long Beach Stake. Sam was an avid hunter, fishing enthusiastic and outdoorsman. He was devoted to his family, his church and countless students.

Sam died in 1957 of a sudden heart attack at the age of just 53. Elsie continued to raise her children. Patricia graduated from Cal State Long Beach, married a NASA scientist and moved to Houston. Karen married the son of William Klaustermeyer, a popular history professor at FJC and a Lutheran pastor. Douglas, Karen and Patricia all graduated from FJC. Douglas transferred to UC Berkeley and earned is BS in Chemical Engineering. He attended graduate school at MIT where he earned his master’s and doctorate in Chemical Engineering. Patricia was a science teacher in Texas before retiring. Karen was a teacher in Los Angeles where she still resides with her husband Dr. William Klaustermeyer. Douglas worked as an executive in the Oil and Gas and Engineering industries in Southern California. He retired in 2006 but continues to serve clients as a consultant. He lives with his partner of 20 yrs in Laguna Beach.

This story was written by Douglas Cortez with help from his two sisters. We were blessed with the most loving and devoted parents anyone could ask for.