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ALUMNI STORIES: Charles Leavell

Charles Leavell


Natural Sciences Faculty, 1974 – 2008

I decided to go to Junior College because all my friends were going. I didn’t do a very good job as a student the first year, mainly C’s and a couple of B’s. The third semester I was required to take a life sciences class. I ended up in a non-majors Zoology course taught by Jules Crane, the greatest teacher I have ever known. He changed my life and put me on a track that I have followed ever since. I transferred to Calif. State College at Fullerton (now CSUF) as a Biology major. Because of the influence Mr. Crane had on my life in the critical first years of Junior College, I decided that I wanted to teach at that level and help students, who were lost as I was, to find their track. I arrived at Fullerton Community College in September of 1974 with a full time position after teaching here for a few semesters at night part-time.

After 5 years of teaching Zoology, Human Physiology and Natural History of California, I felt that something was missing. Thanks to a special category of classes – Regional Field Studies I was able to write a new course – A Natural History of Costa Rica and was able to take students to Costa Rica for 24 days each Summer Session for 17 years. Hundreds of students enrolled in the class over the years and we explored the Tropical Ecology of Costa Rica in great detail. Each student had their own project that was expanded by work in tropical forests and library work. I am still in contact with many of these students – some are teaching at the university level, some are working as field biologists throughout the U.S. But they all say that those short weeks in the wilds of Costa Rica changed their lives, as did the semester I spent in Jules Crane’s Zoology for non-majors class in 1961!

I owe a lot to Fullerton Community College for the range of classes I was allowed to teach and the freedom to take students to the tropical forests of Costa Rica and other parts of the world. This has been one whale of a ride, there is absolutely nothing I can think of that could compare with my life at Fullerton Community College.