by Ryan Guerrero
photography by Michael Savall
Memories are sacred. They are a recollection of the rich history, tradition and values of the University that have sustained it for 125 years. Richard Rose, professor of philosophy; Maurice Flora, class of 1957; Lynn Tegtmeier-Valdez, class of 1969; Michael Frantz, professor of mathematics; Michael Ryan, instructor of music; and Mariela Martinez, La Verne senior and ASULV senator of the College of Arts & Sciences, each share three favorites.
(1) Being recognized as one of the 125 most influential people of the University of La Verne in The Voice Magazine is one of the memories I’ll cherish the most. I felt truly humbled and honored to receive such praise. I will never forget my first time here on campus. I was originally appointed in 1996 for the teaching job by former President Steve Morgan. Whether it has been being able to tell my personal story or working with the campus ministry, I’m glad I have had a meaningful impact on students and faculty at La Verne.
(2) The ULV Summer Academy program each year is a memory I am very fond of. The program comes from the Irvine Grant and allows ULV students to serve as counselors at day camps and African-American churches over an eight-week period. I overlooked the program and served as the director. During the day, students would develop an academic curriculum in English, math and science. During the afternoon, students would participate in a variety of recreational activities. It was fun to spend the summer with the students in a unique academic setting and keep them on track for the summer.
(3) A unique memory of mine is that my wife and I were married in the University Chapel. In fact, Interfaith Chaplain Zandra Wagoner served as the ordained minister. It was a very brief, private and intimate wedding that remains as a little-known fact of the University Chapel.
(1) I got here in 1953. We ate in the basement of Miller Hall, where the old dining hall was located. I got totally involved. Drama and basketball were two major time consumers in my life. I was a math major with a minor in science so I lived in the basement of Founders Hall where all the math classes were taught by Professor Albert Herbst. He taught half my classes while I was at La Verne. I remember taking biology, chemistry and physics so that I could teach. I later found out everyone played football so I joined the team. When I started, I was 5’10” and 135 pounds. When I graduated, I was 290 pounds and 6’2”, which I am today. I played a couple years of football, and it was fun playing for [Roland] Ortmayer and [Dwight] Hanawalt. Hanawalt was the guy who affected my life more than anybody else at the University. He sent me off to work at football camps in the summer time. I went to Pennsylvania one summer to work at a camp in the Pocono Mountains. He taught me football, and after La Verne I got a job as a coach while I taught math and science. I also got a job as a football line coach and had two CIF championships at San Marino High School and Royal Oak High School in Covina. I was a fortunate guy, and none of that would’ve happened had I not attended the University of La Verne. I was accepted to Stanford, USC and Pepperdine but decided to attend La Verne because of my relationships with other students. La Verne changed my life with the opportunities it provided for me.
(2) I eventually came back to the University of La Verne and taught and worked with student teachers for about nine years. That was a dream because I had always wanted to come back as a member of the faculty as an adjunct professor. There was an opening in the math department so I taught college algebra for seven years. I had a great time doing that with students who don’t really love math. I also taught high school biology and learned how to be a biology teacher thanks to my time at La Verne.
(3) We just had a good time on campus. When I first got here they didn’t have dancing on campus so we would pull an extension cord out in the front of Miller Hall and take it across the street to Sneaky Park, where, on a piece of concrete, we would run dances on Friday and Saturday nights with a record player. I remember hauling that cord and taking it across the street, and I loved the weekend dances. The opportunities were there to learn, do and be involved in a lot of different things. Well, that’s La Verne 50 years ago as it is today. You got all sorts of combinations you can put together, and that’s cool.
(1) In January, my friends from my days at La Verne and I got together at the University during the weekend of the MLK holiday, a tradition we have been doing for more than 20 years. Devorah [Lieberman] cleared her calendar, came over to talk to us, and we are now officially known as the “Great 8.” In the dining hall were a couple of tables reserved for us and a little sign that said, “The Great 8.” As we were walking around campus, different students would go, “Oh, you guys are the Great 8!” We started getting together right after our 1969 graduation. We decided that we really wanted to continue our friendships, and so I called everyone to meet at restaurants before we started meeting at different people’s homes, something we have been doing since 1970. It’s been quite a few years, and we still do it until this day. La Verne was just magical for all of us. I can’t begin to explain how much each one of my friends I have here at La Verne means to me, and they in turn feel the same. We love each other to the moon and back. We tell each other things that are going on in our lives that maybe sometimes we don’t even tell our spouse, or we don’t tell other people because we don’t feel the trust that we feel with each other. We are just a really lucky group and email each other every day. We share specific things that are going on in our lives or just say, “Way to go roomie!” Those friends mean the world to me.
(2) I always wanted to be a cheerleader so, so bad. I even had a book on positive thinking by Norman-Vincent Peale. I cut out a picture from Seventeen Magazine that showed four little cheerleader girls and placed it on my mirror as inspiration. I wasn’t shy; I loved being out there in front of everyone. I liked the attention and being a little show off having a good time. We would have pep rally bonfires on Friday nights before Saturday games. All of us who were the cheerleaders were in front to do cheers and have fun with our friends during our bonfire.
(3) I was the editor of the yearbook during my senior year in 1969. I was blown away when I was asked to be editor. The previous editor would ask the next person to oversee the book. I never expected it. I don’t know whether I thought that maybe I wasn’t capable, but I was pretty darn excited. I really liked the cover we created; it features La Verne’s green and orange colors. It’s wild, kind of like me.
(1) During my sophomore year at La Verne, I was taking a course in the computer and language program BASIC [Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code], which back then was popular. The instructor had to miss a class for a conference, and I was doing really well in the course. He asked me one day whether I wouldn’t mind teaching the class while he was gone. I think about it now as a professor, and I would never ask one of my students to teach the class, but I just sort of felt honored. The students just weren’t understanding two-dimensional arrays in matrix form, and he said, “Maybe you can teach the class about that,” and I said, “Yeah, OK” because I got it; it was easy stuff. I don’t remember exactly what I did; I prepared, and I taught the class, and I could tell right away the students were finally getting it. Chances are, it was because it was the second time they had seen it, and maybe it had nothing to do with me, but I looked at it as, “Wow, I can see the lightbulbs come on in their head, almost like a flash coming on.” Afterwards, I thought, “Wow, that’s a really great feeling because I got them to understand something, and that’s due to me.” That was when I decided I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to teach at a college. That was an amazing experience for me because it allowed me to just solidify that.
(2) I was a German minor, and I had a German professor named Roswitha Brooks. About once a month she would invite her German students to her house, and she would provide snacks. Actually, as I recall, probably some beer and wine. It was kind of a social hour, and we were supposed to speak German. We didn’t all the time, but we gave it a shot. I always remember the time her 4-year-old son came down the stairs. With nine of us in her living room, he just rips out about two minutes worth of ultra-fast German. We’re all sitting there like “What?” because he was way better than we were. We’d been studying this for two years. That was kind of like a watershed moment. Then, she had us over during the Christmas holidays and made us a nice German dinner. It was just one of those things where you just really got to connect with your professor. I had friends who went to schools like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and they were in calculus classes with 400 people. I’d visit them and tell them about La Verne, and they’d be so envious that we had experiences like that.
(3) One of my favorite memories from working here, really has nothing to do with teaching classes. For 20 years a group of faculty and students played volleyball in what’s called the old gym [present day location of the Campus Center] two times a week, sometimes three. Pole vaulting Olympic gold-medalist Bob Richards used to practice in there; in fact Roland Ortmayer cut a hole in the wooden floor so he could plant his pole and practice. We played in that same gym, and it was great. Brian Tresner, Dan Campana, Harvey Good, Jeff Burkhart, Rick Simon and Mark Nelson were among some of the professors who joined us, but we also had students come in. I didn’t have students over to my house once a month for dinner, but I got to play with them on the court, which was fun because it gives them a chance to take out their frustration on the professors or vice-versa. Some of the best times were when we had the men’s volleyball team come in. Those guys were amazing. You could easily get sent to the hospital if you weren’t paying attention when they were hitting.
(1) As a La Verne student I was a resident assistant in the dorms. At the time, Stu-Han was all women, but for the year when I became an RA, they had two wings. One wing was all men and the rest were women. Probably about 60 people were in Stu-Han, and there were about only 15 guys, so they had a good time.”
(2) “When I first got the job at La Verne, I was playing music at Hotel Laguna pretty much full-time, five nights a week. I had a great gig playing classical guitar and singing. I had a place to live, and every day I’d go to the beach. I had my stuff set up in the hotel so I’d walk in every night and plug in and play. Then one day Dr. [Reed] Gratz called and said, “Hey there’s an opening for someone to teach guitar,” and I thought, “Well, this is a good opportunity,” and so I came back up here and moved to Claremont. That was the beginning of my La Verne career.
(3) A few year ago I produced and performed a Brazilian concert called “A Night in Rio.” It was a memorable experience because it was one of the first concerts in the newly remodeled Morgan Auditorium, and we had some of the best musicians and dancers from the LA area. The evening was a magical experience—the musicians, dancers and audience seemed to all lose themselves in the beauty and passion of the music. The concert ended with the audience dancing in a conga line through the aisles of the auditorium. I am so grateful for the wonderful experiences that the University has given me throughout my life—from my undergraduate years to my present-day teaching.
(1) “One of my favorite memories as a student has been the Spirit of La Verne Recognition Ceremony. It recognizes individuals who embody the spirit of La Verne. It takes place at the Church of the Brethren, and I remember one ceremony specifically because the Church had birds hanging from the ceiling, and there was beautiful singing. The echoes, the voices and the birds; it was beautiful. Three different students were selected to give a reflection. My best friend Anthony went up; he’s a humanist, and I’m secular, and he read the Humanist Manifesto, and it just really resonated with me. The individuals who attend are kind of the core, the backbone, the soul of the University. Dr. [Zandra] Wagoner, Dr. [Richard] Rose, President [Devorah] Lieberman; individuals who really care about the students and are passionate about what’s going on at La Verne. You see them all come together, and there’s a certain vibe felt when you are all there for something special taking place.
(2) The Black Student Union hosted an event [MLK Day Candlelight Vigil] in the Chapel at the beginning of this year in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King. It was nice to hear some of the students singing, performing poetry, and playing musical performances with African drums and piano. It was just this beautiful ceremony of people coming up to speak and saying something that’s important to them. Jedaun Carter did this poem that reflected on everything that’s been going on politically and socially, giving the point of view of African-American women, and how they take this all in. People got up and sang, and there was just this moment of awe.
(3) It’s Chapel nook and crannies that are perfect and open to anyone and everyone: the upstairs piano, the hidden lounge sofa space or the readily available teas. The Chapel is home to anyone seeking a refuge, a place to rest and to be. Zandra’s constant peaceful music is also a miss!