Fullerton College Centennial


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I originally moved to Southern California to teach full-time at UC Irvine after teaching at several other colleges and universities on the east coast. Having the PhD in English, options beyond the two-year level were open to me. Yet I found those other teaching experiences disappointing, so when the position came up at Fullerton College I thought I’d try it. That was 20 years ago, so clearly it all worked out! I like the California community college system for its inherent democracy, both for student admissions and for employee rights and opportunities.

Some landmarks of my work at FC have been the Writing Center and the Honors program. I served as Assistant Director of the Rollins College writing center in Florida and saw how helpful it could be for both students and instructors. A group of us including former Dean of Humanities Lis Leyson advocated for and eventually got our writing center, originally housed in the Student Services building across the bridge over Lemon Avenue. In a similar fashion I teamed up with Bruce Hanson of the Philosophy Department to start our Honors program, for which I served as the inaugural director and taught FC’s very first Honors English course.

The most dramatic change in my time at FC has been all the new buildings and renovations to the campus. The library in particular went from a one-story boxy and dilapidated building where the College Center now stands to the magnificent structure we enjoy today. Much of the credit for that goes to Janet Portolan, an exceptionally effective Vice President and another former Humanities Dean.

Other colleagues I have admired along the way include the legendary Jim Henderson, full of wit and wisdom; John Orr who filled several distinct roles at the college; Phil Mayfield for his knowledge of inner workings, union matters and good gossip; Jeanne Costello and Pam Tackabury for their unflagging dedication to developmental writing; Bob Jensen for all his artistic theatrical work; and Joe Carrithers, who knows all.

After ten years at the college I decided to move north to raise a family in the beautiful San Luis Obispo area. So far as I know I hold the all-time record for distance from Fullerton College as an employee! My routine has been to commute 200 miles via Amtrak, then stay in Fullerton for several nights and put in many hours on campus before returning home at the end of the week.

A big reward for teaching at FC is seeing students open their minds to new ideas. Many become transfer success stories and it is gratifying to see them do so well after the preparation they have gained at FC. My advice to students is, take your studies seriously and make them a priority in your life. As someone who earned three separate degrees, my view is that the undergraduate degree is the most difficult to attain, because you must study in subject areas in which you may have little interest or aptitude. As my older brother who earned his PhD from Harvard once told me, the secret of academic success is avoid procrastination and dig in: “When you get an assignment, start it!”