Jack Swartzbaugh


Jack Swartzbaugh

Counseling Instructor Jack SwartzbaughI was hired at Saddleback in August of 1968 to go to work in September. When I came down here for my interview at Saddleback College, I didn't know what job I was interviewed for. I just said, "Oh, I've got an interview, so here I am." It was kind of a general interview. I talked about me and my philosophy and the things that I'd done. Of course I had a short haircut, which was important in those days. From there I got a second interview, which was very general also. I still didn't know what job I was interviewing for. The night before I got my final interview, Jack Roper, who was the first President/Superintendent, had resigned. So I met again with the same people I had already met with. We went to the Mission Viejo County Club and had a couple and that's where I really found out that I had the job. But I still wasn't sure what job it was. But then I did learn that it was the Coordinator of Student Activities.

From what I understand, Jack Roper was a consultant from the County Superintendent of School's office. He was like an Assistant Superintendent and he came to Saddleback to work with the Board. The college was established February 14, 1967, and so he was kind of the consultant to help them put the whole thing together. He did a very smart thing. He took a leave of absence from his job at the County (not knowing what was going to happen.) The Board went through the whole interviewing process to search for a President/Superintendent and couldn't make up their minds; so they offered it to Jack, and he took the job. I think that lasted less than a year. But he had taken this leave of absence, so he was able to go back. Very smart.

Starting back when I came here in September, I was in the kitchen (of the model homes). I had George Hartman's desk, because George was at the Marine Base with fall football practice. I think they were in dorms, and the whole thing was almost like a four-year school. So I had a desk in the kitchen of one of those model homes that were in at the time over there on Chrisanta and La Paz (across the street from Mission Viejo High School), which is now a gas station and medical building, I believe. I was counseling students in the kitchen with a locked desk. It was very informal but fun. There wasn't any campus at that time, although it was being put together with relocatables that we called permanent temporaries. That's where we were the first year.

Being in student activities. I was responsible for clubs and that kind of thing that included counseling. I had been at Rio Hondo Community College and had some experience there before I came here. Well, we were kind of feeling our way along and working with students in a very casual way. We hired good high school teachers and counselors, and we trained them in the Saddleback way, whatever that was!

I have a lot of stories, but probably one of the funniest was during registration when everybody in the faculty had to work on the registration line way before computers and phone-in registration and all that. The students actually came to the registration station, the first station, with a little ticket in hand and were screened as far as the dress code was concerned. If they passed the test at the first station for the dress code, then they got to come in, and there was a station for each division then. I think it was S Building or R Building or Q Building. That's where each faculty division was represented, so we had a chance to recruit students in those days. So that's where some counseling went on as well as consulting from the faculty themselves. Counseling was represented there. All the divisions had a chance to meet students.

I think one good story is that a young man showed up. He had long, long hair and he showed up with a body cast that he had borrowed from a friend. So the body cast came up to the neck, and he was able to tuck his hair into the body cast, and he tried to get through registration that way.

Another story about the dress code was that I was usually at the first station of registration. That's where the screening took place, mainly of the boys and the hair length. The girls, you know, it wasn't a big problem. There was supposed to be a skirt length, but I don't think anybody paid any attention to that other than to look. The boys' hair that was a big thing. It couldn't be over the collar or over the ears. And so here comes Rudy, my barber from Laguna Beach, downtown Laguna. He's still a barber and styling now. He comes to the first station at registration, and guess who's there at the first station. Me. I said, "Rudy, I'm sorry but you're not going to be able to register. Your hair is too long." So Rudy wasn't able to register. I don't think I went back to get a haircut from him either.

One student who stands out in my memory is Jeff Dubowe. Jeff was one of our most active students and was also in my student government group. He was trying to get all kinds of things going. He lived in Tustin. He tried to get a bicycle ride going from Tustin to the campus, which was quite a journey in those days. Very active. Always trying to get something going including Homecoming. We were going to have a catered chicken box lunch. Well, some administrators thought that the students would just throw those chicken bones at each other. That was kind of an attitude that existed a little bit in those days. It all went down very nicely with no problems whatsoever. Well, there was a bonfire that comes to mind. Now this is back on the old campus, back on the dirt, back behind where the hospital is now. Had a bonfire. The pep squad showed up. A few from student government. There must have been 10 or 12 of us for a bonfire pep rally for a ball game.

Oh, and there was the Faculty Wives Club, started in the fall of 1968. I guess there was a question at the time whether I was an administrator or faculty. There was a possibility that my wife would become the Faculty Wives' President, but there was still a question: Is he an administrator or is he faculty? They didn't want an administrator's wife being the Faculty Wives' President. It was very well organized. We had a big function at Ben Browns. My wife had her wisdom teeth out the day before, was in a bit of pain, but still she was tough and went to the party. Mel Mitchell's wife was very active, Bremer's wife was very active. It was really a very nice group, but as the college grew, we grew out of that. It seemed to be sort of like the dress code. Sort of a high school thing, and we were still trying to grow out of the high school image. A high school with ashtrays.

I think the first challenge that we faced was that in the very beginning this district did not accept federal money. We were going to do it our own way with our own money and we didn't want any federal money. To my knowledge there was no federal money accepted until the Library building was in the process of being completed. Then we didn't have enough money to furnish it, and we were able some way to come up with the money through federal money to pay for the furniture that went into the library. So the challenge has always been money. The challenges were and are facilities. I am just really sorry that we are not going to see, during my time, a complete campus, a physical campus with a beautiful piece of land, nice buildings, great faculty, great students, and an incomplete campus, still working in bungalows, temporary bungalows.

I became Dean of Student Services. This position is now known as Vice President. I was developing all of these programs. So the challenges were to get a lot of these things going. We didn't have a health center. Bob Brewer, who was originally our maintenance chief, had been a corpsman in the Navy and that then qualified him to be our head nurse. So if we had a problem, a hangnail, somebody got hurt, we called Bob Brewer. Basically I was involved starting student service programs, all of those like the health center, financial aid scholarships, the EOP program, counseling and special programs, handicapped. All of these things had to be done, and we did it. It was a great opportunity professionally to be involved in starting all these programs. Some of them were very difficult in getting a very conservative college, in this case, to accept some of this, like a children's center or a health center.

When it came to aligning our academic programs with the universities, which is called articulation, we were fortunate enough to hire Bob Jacobsen as a counselor, and as we grew he became the Articulation Officer and Dean of Counseling. Bob is a very smart, very astute man, probably the best in the state. It's going to be a real loss when he retires. He is smart enough to be able to coordinate our academics with many of the four-year schools and has a very fine reputation. So he's been responsible for a lot of that and working with the faculty. Some courses have taken years to get accepted by those universities.

I've seen the growth of the institution, a beautiful, beautiful campus, but I don't know that we have the togetherness, the teamwork that we used to have in the old days. They say you can never go back to the old days, but I think we were more of a team in the first ten or fifteen years. As you grow you lose track of people. We're more division-oriented now. So that's very healthy and very strong, but you could come into a classroom or facility and not know the faculty from the students in some cases.

We are in an area where we have a lot of things to be thankful for. As I went into counseling from administration, I'd like to say to parents and students, "We are good because you are good." Excellent high schools, excellent high school teachers, excellent high school students that feed into Saddleback. And I think that one of our real strengths is that we're still able to have small classes. We have outstanding faculty and we're inexpensive. If you really want those kinds of things, you're not going to find them at four-year schools, you are going to find them here.

If I could send a message to the faculty of the future, I'd say, "Be well­prepared." You need to have a well-rounded education. Know your subject, but be well-rounded. And be able to communicate. We sell education.