Began in 1966
Retired in 2002
Campus Activities: Adviser to the Student Senate; Honors Program faculty; working with Robert Jones, developed programs and supporting material for Sacramento Valley Vision; with Joyce Ball serving as chair, served on the committee that hired Spencer Freund to run the media center, the was the best hire I was involved in - he transformed the place; helped begin 40th anniversary campus history – George Craft wrote the history, I contributed some bio sketches, one of Isabel Hernandez-Serna.
Teaching: In the 1990s I began publishing my course Study Guides through the Reprographics Center, for History 17A, 161 (American Visions), and 166 (Popular Culture). The students wrote take-home midterms and finals. Through email I worked with them on as many drafts as they wished to submit. They did some really good work. I most enjoyed working with freshman and lower division students – seeing them develop their skills and confidence was my most rewarding experience at CSUS.
Work Experience: Fantastic – I had no idea when I started at Sac State in fall 1966 what a gift I was being given. The teaching load may have been a bit heavy, but released time was available. The campus was marvelously friendly, collegial. I worked with other faculty including Steve Polkinghorn in the Honors Center. For some years I worked with Dick Kornweibel on History Day. Ken Owens, Joe Pitti, Angus Wright and I helped develop an exhibit plan for the Sacramento History Center. In company with Robert Jones, I developed outreach activities and supporting material for Sacramento Valley Vision in the late 1990s, and CSUS’s 40th Anniversary Celebration in 1997/98. Associate Dean Ed Klingelhofer sent me to Fisk University in Nashville for a summer course on African American History in 1968, during the Democratic Convention in Chicago. I came back and taught African American History for one semester. I knew the dates and trends, but I was and am White. It was a challenging experience.
At the department level I was very fortunate. In general I taught the classes I wanted to when I wanted to teach them. Moreover, I developed courses that were successful year after year. My History 161, American Visions, which initially relied heavily on slides and taped music, was a popular GE course. Today I guess it would be presented through PowerPoint.
Over the years however I came to see that it was documents written by those in power that defined what American Visions would be accepted. Thus the Constitution, written by slave holding, land owning, property owning Anglo-America males, dictated the early course of American history – who would be winners and losers, who was included and who was excluded. For example, slavery remained locked in the Constitution up to the Civil War, but then cultural values continued to impose a racist and sexist matrix on American life that was in some ways more arbitrary and violent. Lynching comes to mind. Under slavery most black people were owned by white people – they had value. Under ‘freedom’ no one owned a black person and they could be lynched without damaging white property – and they were.
Thus History 166, Popular Culture, where I accepted a basic definition of culture as learned behavior became important in understanding how society and history actually functioned. Here I again used documents, but this time they were novels; The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, 1719, by an Englishman, Daniel Defoe, gave us the cultural model of an independent, self-made man, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1884.85, by Mark Twain/Samuel L. Clemens – with Huck’s last words “…But I reckon I got to light out for the Territories ahead of the rest…” encapsulating America’s practice of pushing social, political and economic problems westward into the future; and then further westward by the next generation. So it was with slavery in the Constitution until Abraham Lincoln said thus far and no further.
Subverting Plato I also used poetry as documents of cultural change. Plato felt that poetry could be so powerful that he would have banned poets from The Republic. Rightly so, when we consider the contributions of Bob Dylan to social change in the 1960s, and the Beatles vision of a new way of being in the world in the 1960s, and Robert Bly’s opposition to the Vietnam War. Or as Mark Shields says – you campaign with poetry (rhetoric). You govern in prose.
I could even teach History 17A, which in the catalogue covered the years 1607 to 1865. As I understood the issues more accurately, I felt the course had to include the replacement of slavery with segregation in the 1896, Plessy v Ferguson Supreme Court decision.
In sum my work experience was fulfilling and creative beyond anything I could have envisioned or hoped for.
I fully retired in 2002. I was diagnosed with cancer at the right base of my tongue in February 2004 – through radiation and chemo I have had No Evident Disease since May 2004. In October 2011 my right jaw broke from osteoradionecrosis. It was successfully restored with bone from my scapula held in place by a titanium strip in December 2011, but my body deconditioned and I have been unable to swallow since January 2012. At this writing I am on a G-tube; my swallowing is improving, and I look forward to a full recovery.
I am scheduled for cataract surgery on both my eyes in October 2012. As my colleague Peter Shattuck says, I’m becoming a man of many parts – many new parts; a titanium strip, acrylic lenses – what next?
You may look at my health history as a litany of despair – I definitely do not. Some of my colleagues and friends are suffering from or have died from Alzheimer’s. I have not. Others have had debilitating strokes. I have not. My Kaiser benefits have been phenomenal – saving both my life and my wife, Mary Bellefleur’s life. Regarding my life with Mary and our blended family her two daughters and my two daughters, two grandsons, and one granddaughter, the words from Micah 4:4 come to mind: “Every man will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make him afraid…“ I have neither a vine nor a fig tree, but I do have an orange tree and a lemon bush that bear fruit throughout the winter. As a boy raised in Minnesota, I have come to enjoy a life of wonderful abundance!
Through the Renaissance Society I am a member of a Writer’s Workshop that meets every Tuesday. Writing for an audience of my peers – successful, mature, professionals – on subjects that interest me, is one of my most rewarding retirement activities.
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