Fullerton College Centennial


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Writer: Donna Johnson


As planning gears up for the 2013 Centennial Celebration, we're discovering a growing connection to generations of alumni, what you could call Fullerton College Family Trees. The West family is a great example, stretching from 1920 to today.

Eldo and Grace Milhous West arrived in the Quaker settlement of Whittier in 1909, traveling from Indiana with their three children – Mary Jessamyn, age 6; Myron, 5; and Clara Carmen, 1 ½ . A fourth child, son Merle, was born in 1912.

The Wests initially stayed with Grace's cousin's family – Frank and Hannah Milhous Nixon and their sons -- then both families built homes in the small community of Yorba Linda.

Their Fullerton College legacy took root when Jessamyn "Jessie" West attended classes at the then-junior college in 1920-21, finding a mentor in English teacher William T. Boyce, who later became campus president. Jessamyn West McPherson returned to the college in 1957 as a renowned author and keynote speaker at the dedication of a new library. She also announced the creation of the William T. Boyce Creative Writing Award, which is an endowed scholarship presented annually, including spring 2011.

Jessamyn's brother, Merle, chose a business career over college; but his daughter, Melinda West Tirpak, attended Fullerton College in 1961-62 and his son, Ron West, in the 1970s. Today, Ron's son, Matthew West, 22, is an FC student working on his Associate of Arts Degree, with a goal of becoming a history teacher.

Another branch of the tree fills in two more Fullerton College generations. Merle West's wife, Elizabeth Keeler West, earned her A.A. in 1934. And Elizabeth's mother, Emma Holmes, was enrolled in pottery classes in the 1940s, turning out dozens of treasured family artworks.

In addition, the Nixons joined the Hornet legacy when their son and future U.S. President, Richard, married Patricia Ryan of Artesia, who attended the college in 1931-32 and starred in a campus theater production of "Broken Dishes."

This tradition of Family Legacies will be a featured element when the Centennial Celebration kicks off in the spring of 2013 with a Fullerton Museum Center exhibit. In addition to exploring the historical, social and cultural growth of Fullerton College and Southern California, this exhibition will also observe technology's growing role in education and will critique what is in store for the future of the campus and the American educational system.

Anyone interested in loaning or donating FC programs, books or other memorabilia for display, contact Exhibit Curators Carlota Haider and Christina Hasenberg at chaider@fullcoll.edu and chasenberg@fullcoll.edu

For more information, contact Centennial Co-Coordinator Robert Jensen, dean of fine arts, at rjensen@fullcoll.edu.