Bill Williams


Bill Williams

Well, let me go back a little bit. I was at Tustin Union High School. I had served in the Navy for 22 years as a naval officer/aviator and retired from the Navy, and then I went to work for aerospace for a couple of years and didn't like that. So I became involved in education. I had gone to school while I was in the Navy and got my bachelor's degree and master's degree, so I was kind of ready. I went down to Tustin High School and got a job. This was in 1964. The Tustin Union High School District covered all of Mission Viejo and all of Irvine. And so the Board voted to build a high school in Mission Viejo, and I thought, Mission Viejo, where is that? What is that? I'm gonna go down and take a look.

So I drove down the freeway, which was practically a two-lane freeway at that time, three lanes maybe. I got off at La Paz, went under the freeway, and the road stopped. There wasn't a road. And I looked around and I said, "Why are they building a high school out here? There's nothing here." And of course, in time, the road was punched through La Paz. The Dean Homes were built up on the left-hand side of La Paz, and the other homes that they were selling, which were larger homes, were built on the right-hand side.

There were the model homes that Saddleback College used when we first started out because we had no buildings, no nothing. It was just a district that had been created by the voters. The Board was elected, and they appointed Roper, Jack Roper, to be the first superintendent. Fred Bremer was the Dean of Instruction. So they were first housed in these model homes, which were kind of funny 'cause they were built as shells just to show off what the homes were gonna be like, never intended to be used as homes. No plumbing, no electricity, no nothing except one of them did have it. So we used that one and the one next door for our offices to begin with. We were in there for, gosh, several months. Mission Viejo High School is across the street and there is a big shopping center in there today. But that's when they had those four model homes that were torn down after a period of time.

I was at Tustin High School, as I said, I had taught for Chapman College for several years. While I was working in aerospace I went over to Chapman College and I got a job at night teaching history and political science classes. The reason they hired me was because I had been in the military, and I had access to El Toro. So I went to the El Toro Base to teach my classes at night and during the summer. I was just the kind of person they were looking for because I could do that. We created a large audience for those classes at El Toro. They were supposed to be for the Marines, but we started drawing in a lot of outside people, especially school teachers because they were earning credits in order to go up on the salary schedule. So this is where I met Dr. Bremer, who worked for Chapman College. He was just an acquaintance then. I really didn't know him as a friend, but he was an acquaintance.

So when Saddleback College started, I decided to go down and apply for a job. I talked to Dr. Bremer, and he interviewed me. Then he said, "Well, how would you like to be the Dean of Social Science?" I said, "Yes, Social Science." I just wanted the teaching job. I said, "Well, I guess I could handle it." After my two years in the Navy as an officer I had a lot of administrative work, and so I then was hired. I had to go back to the superintendent at Tustin High School to ask him to relieve me from my contract because they wanted me to come down to Saddleback right away. And it was in the middle of the school year. So I was relieved from my contract, and I came down here and we started Saddleback College.

As I said, we were in the model homes. All the interviewing for Social Science was left up to me. There was no committee or group or anything else, it was just me. And so I sent out notices to get applications and they called people in, and we interviewed them and selected the people that we selected to be the initial staff for Social Science. And so that's how I got started at Saddleback College.

We built the staff there, and then we went out and hired the people that originally came to the college. I was looking for teachers, people who could teach, because this is what we needed. We started off with five people, counting myself, and we covered all the social sciences with those five people, except economics. We only offered economics at night the first year and we used a part-time instructor for that, who in time was hired to become a full -time instructor in economics. So we were doing all the social sciences among us, just divided it up.

We looked in other college's catalogs to see what their programs were and then built the courses that we felt we wanted to start with, which were the very, very basic courses in history, political science, psychology, sociology, and in time, anthropology. And little by little we added to those basic courses. So when you look in the catalog today or the schedule today, you see all these different and exotic classes that cover all kinds of things that we didn't even imagine back in those days because we just wanted a very basic program. So this is what we selected and this is what we started with.

The campus actually started up on the site where the hospital is today, Mission Viejo Hospital, and we were up there for one year with temporary buildings. They hadn't purchased the land yet. They were negotiating for the land. Then they purchased this land that the campus is on now, which is some 200 acres, and the buildings that were located up on the hospital site, temporary buildings, were moved from that site down to this site. The lower campus that you see today are those temporary buildings; they are still there. We used to say in the service, there's nothing as permanent as a temporary building. And it proved to be right at Saddleback College as it did at the El Toro Marine Base, because they still have some buildings over there that were left over from World War II. And Saddleback College still has buildings left over from when we started the campus up on the hospital site.

It seems like, for a while there, that wherever I went there was one of my students and I couldn't get away from them. In the summer I'd go out to Palm Springs, and we would go out to eat at some restaurant or something and here comes the waitress or the waiter over and they'd look and say, "Aren't you Mr. Williams. Don't you teach history at Saddleback College?" Sure enough! They were one of my former students, and some of them were in graduate school going on. Others, one I met, became an attorney. The other day I ran across one of my former students -a man named Fagan who writes a comic strip in the paper -and he was in my class. I didn't recognize him, of course, but he did me, and he came over and said, "Aren't you Mr. Williams with Saddleback College." I said, "Yeah." He says, "Well, I'm Kevin Fagan, and I write the comic strip Drabble." Oh yeah, I read you. Kevin Fagan. Yeah, great guy. And these are the kinds of students that I run into, you know, from time to time.

Then there was a student named Vicki in one of my classes who married Jim Lindblad, who is now Vicki Lindblad. She was a student going through the college, was in my class and one of the best students, and wound up marrying one of the instructors. Of course we've had a lot of marriages between faculty and students. I don't know if I should say that or not. But also marriages between faculty and faculty, and the deans and faculty, and people who were working at the college together, so we had all those sort of things happening.

When we were constructing our original catalog, you know, there are a lot of things in the catalog besides just the courses and the names of the faculty members. One thing was general education requirements. If you look at any college catalog anywhere in the United States, you're gonna find the general education requirements are listed. At that time, each college had their own general education requirements. And so some of the community colleges in their catalogs had to show the general ed requirements for Cal State Fullerton, the general ed requirements for Cal State Long Beach, the general ed requirements for Cal State San Diego. Each Cal State school had their different general education requirements, as did the University of California, UCLA, they all had different general education requirements. So Dr. Bremer gave me the task of constructing all those general education requirements, so we could put them into our catalog.

I went up to Cal State Fullerton to talk to the dean there who was in charge of curriculum about the general education requirements, and as we were talking he says, "Well, I have something I'd like to tell you." I said, "Yes?" He said, "There's a move now that all the Cal State universities will have the same general education requirements." I said, "Oh? Gee, nobody knows that." He said, "Well, no, it hasn't been fully approved yet, but it's going to be." And I said, "Will you have a copy of that?" He said, "Yes."

And he gave me a copy of it and I came back down to the college and I handed it to Dr. Bremer and I said, "Here's the general education requirements for all the state colleges and the state universities." And he looked at me and he said, "You must be crazy." I said, "No. That's what's gonna happen." He said, "I don't believe it." I said, "Well, call Dr. so­and-so at Cal State Fullerton."

So he called him and found out that, yes, that was true, and that was what was going to happen. So we put that in our catalog, and when our catalog came out, we started getting calls from Santa Ana College asking, "What have you got there in your catalog? We don't have that in our catalog. What are you talking about?" We told them what was happening. Of course, it was true, and it did happen. And today, if you look at our catalog, it says general ed. requirements for state colleges, and all the state colleges are the same. You have to take your history; you have to take your political science; you have to take your liberal arts; you have to take this; you have to take that. So that was one thing that I got involved in that was kind of different than what other people got involved in.

Another thing that I got involved in which might be interesting is when we started out here, we didn't have any medical insurance. We went along without medical insurance. And one day I went into Dr. Bremer and I said, "How about working up some sort of a medical insurance program?" And Dr. Bremer said, "Oh well, the Board will never go for that; they'll never go for that." I said, "Well, why not work it up and try it?" He said, "If you want it, it's your time go ahead." So I found out who the insurance agent was for the Board at Saddleback College, which was an insurance agency in Tustin. So I went up to Tustin and walked in and started talking to the people up there, and I said, "We need a health insurance program at Saddleback College. Do you think you can work one up?" They said, "Oh yeah, sure, we can work one out." I said, "So let's work it out and present it to the Board."

So they worked it all up and we scheduled it on the agenda for the Board. The insurance people showed up and I made the presentation, and they kind of backed me up. Dr. Bremer was there, of course, saying, "They'll never approve this; they'll never approve that." So when I got through with my presentation, one of the Board members, Hans Vogel his name was, leaned forward and looked down at me and Dr. Bremer, and he says, "Now that's what we need in this district." And Dr. Bremer said, "Yes, yes, Hans, that's what we need in this district."

And that's how the medical group insurance started ... just me as a committee of one wanting to do it ' cause I wanted it myself. And somebody had to do it. Get it started and get it through. So that was one story I wanted to tell 'cause I thought it was really different from what other people were involved in. Okay, the general ed requirements and the medical insurance were two things that I wanted to talk about.

You noticed how I dressed today for this interview? This was the accepted dress at the time when the college started. The order was that all men had to wear coats and ties, and women could not wear pant suits. They had to wear dresses, and that was the order of the day. So this is the way that it was. Now you want me to contrast it with today? Just walk around the campus and take a look and see some instructors teaching classes in shorts, which would not have ever happened in those days, you see. I knew one or two of the instructors. They only had one coat, so they had to wear the same coat every day. Of course you could take the coat off in the classrooms, but you had to wear a tie. Some of them had very few ties and never wore ties. So they did what they had to do to get by.

I remember we had a meeting down at El Adobe. You know, the El Adobe Restaurant has that big area out in back that has a glass roof to it that opens and closes. So we had the full faculty there, and we were having this meeting. At that time Dr. Bremer was called upon to present his part of the meeting. Dr. Bremer was called upon to give his talk, and as he got up to give the talk, all of a sudden the roof started opening. Somebody decided to open the roof at that particular time, and of course it makes a lot of noise as it opens, and everybody looked up. Bremer was announcing the dress code: "Coats and ties, and no pant suits for women." Well, the timing of the opening was just really something. So that's a little, special story.

For classes, we'd hired a few people to get started. As we went along, we started hiring more and more people. Another thing that I was involved in was night classes. We started night classes in all the high schools in our district because we had a small campus, and we couldn't really accommodate everybody here and especially at night. More students came at night than in the daytimes sometimes. So we started night classes. I searched out a lot of retired teachers 'cause I figured they were the ones who had the most experience and the most knowledge and brought them back to work to teach classes for us. And then I started hiring away some of the high school teachers. I hired them away because I paid them a little more money than the high school did.

And so we, in time, got in trouble with the high schools because we were kind of infringing upon some of their classes, so to speak. The students were taking our classes instead of high school classes, and I was hiring their instructors to teach our classes instead of high school classes. So this created a little problem. The high schools finally forced us out of some of their rooms and limited the amount of rooms that we could use on their campuses and then, in time, started charging us to use the rooms. So when that happened, the night schedule off campus dropped off quite drastically, but by that time we had built some buildings here and we had more room here to start accommodating our night classes. And then Irvine Valley campus came on line and that took some of the load away from us , cause their night program is huge and outstanding, and it kind of worked its way out.

But as the Dean, I was also Assistant Dean at night. There were two of us that had this night duty, and one took it on Monday and Wednesday night and I took it on Tuesday and Thursday night. And we would go out to the campuses and check all the classes and do that sort of thing. So I had all the Irvine and Tustin area. And someone else had the Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente area. That's the way we divided it up. This all happened when Lombardi came in as the Chancellor, because he started the tremendous expansion program and the thing just really blew up, if you want to use that term as expanding, you know, and covering all bases with everything. We added a lot more classes to our curriculum and, you know, the college was off and running.

It was great. I'm a little disappointed about what has happened lately, but I don't want to go into that. I really enjoyed being here. I think it was a great experience. I taught here for 30 years of my life, which is little over half of it. And so, you know, I have a real strong feeling for Saddleback College and what happened here. You know, I was here in the beginning.