Jean Vincenzi


Jean Vincenzi 

JEAN VINCENZII had been working on my master's degree at UCI. I was in the first group at UCI. I finished up there, and I wanted a job in community college work. My husband had worked over at Orange Coast College, and I had done some substituting at Orange Coast and thought it was a wonderful institution. Of course, they wouldn't take me there. In those days they didn't hire a man and woman from the same family in the same work place. So I started looking around at other community colleges. Meantime, I got a job, a temporary job, at Chapman College for one semester. At that time Chapman was running Campus Afloat, and a math teacher went out on the ship. I wanted to stay, but they didn't have room for me.

So I was out looking, and I heard about this new college that was being formed. So I happened to be with a young lady doing a summer program (the summer before), and her husband was the first Superintendent/ President, Jack Roper. Jack was only with Saddleback, I think, a few months. We had had the Ropers to our home, and he said, "Why don't you come down and apply?" So I did, and I think I was the first or second person, other than the people who were hired for deanship, department chairman, or division chairman, I guess they were called. Well, Jim Thorpe was the division chairman. I interviewed with him and Jack Roper and Fred Bremer, and they almost hired me on the spot. So I believe I was the first full-time member who was hired other than the division chairs. Many people had different questions asked of them later on in the interviewing process, because it was a very conservative board that we had in those days, and they didn't want any radicals. I tried to not sound too radical, naturally, when I was being hired. But they hired me, and I came in before any of these strange questions were asked of people. like "What is your party affiliation?"--things that are just totally against the law now.

Actually, I was interviewed in a temporary building on La Paz Road and Chrisanta. Then they said they were going to bring in some temporary structures to start the school in October. They probably weren't going to get it done until October. We were on the quarter system at that time. So the first quarter was usually long anyhow, so they could afford to compress and have us go a little bit longer in June to get the appropriate number of days for the school years. When we actually started, the place was located up where the Mission Hospital is now located -I think about six or seven temporary buildings. Some of them are still down on lower campus here. Any rate, we happened to have a very, very wet introductory year, and the mud was up to your ankles, at least, most of the time. Getting from one of the temporary buildings to another was a challenge. It wasn't much better the following year. They then moved those buildings. During the summer of '69 those seven temporary buildings were dragged on the freeway, or dragged on Crown Valley first of all, gotten onto the freeway, and then up Avery Parkway and put into its present place now on lower campus. It, too, was a muddy year, that '69 -'70 year.

The physical layout left something to be desired in those days. N Building was, well, I'd like to talk about N Building. N Building was where all the faculty were. You didn't have offices then, you just had the whole thing open, and you had your "office." There was a whole series of desks that were backed up to each other. If a phone call came in, someone would holler, "Hey, Jean, you've got a phone call on line one" or something like that. So everybody was all together in the same building. Any of the handouts to students were done on a ditto machine. Do you remember the old ditto machines? The old, purple things. I mean, you would just be purple from head to toe. It was a wild time. Then we got a mimeograph machine -then you could be blue and black at the same time!

The next year, it was decided that there wasn't much privacy, so they built partitions in N Building, except that the way they built them made them look like toilet stalls. There was just room enough for a file cabinet, your desk, your chair as a faculty member, and one other chair for a student to sit at. It was really tight. But the funny part was that everybody had cubicles to either side and across the hall, and you could hear every word that was being exchanged between students and faculty members. So there was no privacy anyhow. It was a funny-looking building.

Years later, when Dr. Richard Sneed was chancellor here, he asked me to help be the liaison for Cal State Fullerton when Cal State Fullerton was coming onto the campus. What we did with and for Cal State Fullerton was to redo M Building, N Building, H Building. I think those were the three that we did initially. Then they got J Building and a couple of others. So I had to go back over to N Building and relive the days of N Building. N Building then became offices, 10 and behold, for Cal State Fullerton, with a library at one end of it. The metamorphosis s through the years of N Building always will stay with me. Magical N Building'

In the first days, Jim Thorpe and J were kind of the ones who arranged what the curriculum should be for the math area. He was the division chair so he oversaw the Science, Math, Engineering and Technology. We called it the SMET Division. So he had lots of other things that he had to do besides math, so it was kind of up to me. That first year we only taught, supposedly, freshmen. We only did the freshman curriculum. The following year, we then continued on to the sophomore curriculum. But, of course, there were all of the "makeup" people who needed a high-school background and general math, beginning algebra, second-year algebra, and so forth. It was fortunate that we were on the quarter system rather than the semester because we could offer that many more courses during the year. So I had six different preparations the first quarter, six different ones the second quarter, and six more the third quarter! I think that continued for the next couple of years until we finally hired enough other math instructors so that some of the people could have maybe only three or four preparations in a quarter. You were on a treadmill all of the time. It was interesting.

The students were very interesting, I mentioned that we had a conservative board, and the board decided that we would not have any of the incidents on the Saddleback campus that they were having on those other campuses. Of course, this was at the time of Vietnam; campuses across the country were having all kinds of violence, which really affected Saddleback and what Saddleback ultimately looks like today. They had a very strict dress code. And, of course, this was just like the high school dress code. They didn't want to have any of the male students have long hair. That was when long-hair business was first starting. As the students came through the registration lines, there was a person who checked on whether their hair extended over a young man's collar. We had very conservative students come in as a result, because any of the other students would say, "I don 't want to have to deal with the kind of thing that's going on at Saddleback." But what came out of it was that the students were really, really an interesting group of people at that time. They were a conservative group but very interested in the programs.

There is one student. May I mention names? Larry Pomatto was a brilliant, brilliant young man who knew how to do all the things electronic at that time. Of course, this was when computers first started. He was in on the ground floor of computers. He was a very wealthy young man at this stage of the game. But he would help us set up some of the original computers that we had by taking lines in through the ceilings of all these temporary buildings. He would do the wiring, and I think what we did was we'd "glammed" the telephone people out of some money because he got us hooked up in some ways that were probably very illegal. He was a remarkable guy, just terrific, terrific student. He really stands out in my mind.

There was this class, one of the first classes, calculus classes that I had. The group of people were knit so closely together. They would form their study groups. I've lost track of almost all of them. A couple of them are, I think, teaching for us at the college. But I haven't seen them in recent years. They were a very, very closely knit group. They would pick apart what you had to say but then once they got ahold of it, man, they would just run, run like mad. It was terrific to be involved with these students.

The obvious change was going from little too big. We started out with, I think, it was right around 1,000 students that first year. Of course, now it's what, I don't even know, 27,000/28,000. As a result, you get a splintering of groups so that you don't have people who are majoring in the fine arts having any contact whatsoever with the people who are majoring in the sciences or mathematics. And in those days you did. They were all in the same classes. There weren't that many classes. None of the classes were larger than 30. That's all that the rooms would hold. We didn't have any more room.

Another thing was the acceptance of a statement from a person of authority. That changed as I finally finished up my teaching career. And I guess it's even worse now. The litigious society hadn't come into play back then, so we didn't have to worry if we came up behind the student and patted them on the back, saying "Good for you." We didn't have to worry about going to court today. I understand that there is especially a concern with the male instructors. They have a tough time now. They just always have to keep their office doors open and be sure that nobody accuses them of whatever. Nobody accused me of that. I came as an older person, so they always looked on me as more or less of a mother figure, I think, by the time I was hired.

After that first group, people came in what we call the "second wave." Next year we had to hire enough instructors to teach second-year classes as well as the first, so we doubled in size. But that first crew of instructors -we were so close and we were forming a new college in spite of a lot of the difficulties with the conservative Board and the road blocks that we felt were put in the way of the students. We were kind of a religious society. I mean, we had that same kind of fervor. We wanted so much for the school to grow into something like other schools around us. Everybody talked about how wonderful Orange Coast was, and then there was this other funny school that was trying to lure some of the students from them. And we wanted to show them that we were just as good. There was such a closeness among the faculty members. We were so full of the zeal for teaching and forming the new school that I still get tingly when I talk about it.

There had been a bond issue that had passed, believe it or not, an initial bond issue to form Saddleback district. That included the choice of the Board and what they were going to do with the bond money. Of course, they were supposed to build a school out of it. They finally decided that the library should be number one. The person who was the librarian was a really strong individual, and she really talked up the library. It was a fine thing to do. Then the decision was made that rather than use the lower campus, which was nice and flat, they decided to put the library up on this hill where it is presently located. The first designs came in on the library, and it actually had windows in the library. Just about then there were a couple of incidents-the Berkeley incident and the Kent State incident, and shortly following, the Board met with the architect and said, "Oh no, we can't have any windows that the students are going to break in the library." So the architect went back out, redesigned, came back, and that's how come the place looks like a castle or fortress.

Unfortunately, I think they made the decision to build this one building up on the hill that took almost all that was left out of the bond issue. Instead they could have built several buildings down on flat ground for the same amount that they built this cement structure up here on this hill. That put Saddleback behind the eight ball as far as classrooms and classroom buildings are concerned. They've never caught up. To my knowledge they never caught up. There are still requests in every year into the state budget for classroom buildings. I think that that's the case. I haven't kept up with it the last five years. And we just never ever, ever really designed the college. We designed one building, and then the rest of the buildings had to come around it. The next building that was built was the Science/Math building and then the Fine Arts building, then finally the Business building got built. But we've always been behind, and that's been too bad.

I remember the second wave of faculty that came. Then there was a third big hiring wave about, I think. it may have been about five years later when we really expanded. I'm trying to remember when we went off the quarter system and onto the semester system. That was pretty influential in getting students to be interested in coming here. Then we kind of opened up. The complexion of the board changed; the complexion of the administration changed.

We tried to pass along the same ardor to the next group, but some of it kind of died. Then I saw. as the years went by. the passion for the school kind of wen! by the wayside. Then Irvine Valley came into the district. Some of the people from here were taken up to Irvine, and the whole togetherness of the faculty started to change. Then we formed not only the Academic Senate; we started doing collective bargaining; and then I think there was a dichotomy in the faculty. I think that's still present today. It's the sort of stuff that hits the headlines, unfortunately.

I was very fortunate in my experiences with Saddleback because I did get involved in the political situation on both locally and statewide. I had served as an Academic Senate President locally. I was chosen to be representative to the statewide Academic Senate, and I was able to serve as the statewide Academic Senate president. I was chosen for very great honor. I was one of the first people who received the Hayward Award. There are three of us from Saddleback from that original faculty who became Hayward Award members: Jim Thorpe, Pat Grignon, and I.

I served on many committees and ultimately served on the accrediting commission for the Western region. So as a result of my association at Saddleback it allowed me personally to see a whole range of things in the community college situation all over the country. I think that community colleges, the whole idea of it is germane to what I think we should be focusing on in college education in this country. I've had contact with students who have been anywhere from 16 to 80 years old and this is, for me personally, such a broadening experience, I think. It's open for everyone.