Lee Rhodes


Lee Rhodes

LEE RHODESI came to be hired at Saddleback College rather interestingly. I was teaching in Santa Maria at the high school and Alan Hancock Community College. I was teaching biology and chemistry at the high school and physics at the college. And I was also coordinating a program which specialized in individualized instruction. So I guess I got worn out, overwhelmed by all this, and up comes a position at Saddleback in biology for more money teaching just one subject. So I applied and I was accepted, and that's how I got to be here.

The interview. Now I can't remember all the people who interviewed me, but I think there were three. There was Jim Thorpe, who was hired as Chairman of the Science and Math Division, Fred Bremer, and Jack Roper. So they interviewed me and asked questions about my background. I had quite an extensive educational background in science, so I guess they were impressed enough to hire me. It was a rather simple interview.

There wasn't any campus when I was interviewed. The campus at that time was over in some houses off Chrisanta in Mission Viejo. That was in May of 1968. Classes started in September. The campus at that time was a temporary campus, I think 11 buildings or something like that, on 15 acres right where the hospital sits now. It wasn't very impressive.

That 15-acre campus was just temporary. They were negotiating the purchase of this property here at that time, 200 acres. In 1968 we moved to that campus where the hospital is, and then in 1969 we moved over here.

The microbiology program –I put together -was pretty much patterned after what I went through when I went to college. When I was an undergraduate student and graduate student, I worked as laboratory assistant and student assistant in microbiology so 1 have all kinds of practice in preparing materials and, you know, identifying this or that. So it went fairly smoothly except for the fact that we didn't have much equipment. You have to have a sterile environment to grow your microorganisms in. Well, we were using pressure cookers and it worked out reasonably well. We got our first group of students through all right. Our first biology program was much more rudimentary. We taught basic biology, which was kind of patterned on traditional biology. There were two biology teachers, F rank Sciarrotta and myself. Frank taught anatomy and physiology, and] taught more or less field sciences.

Now the reason they were field sciences is because we didn't have a laboratory. It was just kind of put together, and that first year we didn't have supplies; so we basically went out and collected our own material, took the students out into the field because it was there where our lab was. It was kind of nice. This whole area where the college is sitting now was just chaparral, brush land. You could walk from the 1968 campus to over here and spend an hour or two hours just collecting and then go back there and identify a few things and preserve a few things, and that was it. Another thing that made biology interesting for me was the fact that I had great latitude to do what I wanted. I had a minor in marine biology so I could prepare a lot of marine slides, of course, being this near the ocean. It was a lot of fun in those days.

I remember on the first campus, 1968 campus we'll call it, there were 11 buildings and they were kind of in a quadrangle arrangement with the biology buildings (this is what I know best) facing west. I remember that because of the great storm we had in 1969, February, so much rain. So it was on a quadrangle. We had a little library there. And in 1969, this campus -we started out down there near N building, and the science building was T Building, the library again was very simple. It wasn't until 1970/ 72173 that the permanent library was conceived and built. The library was at first thought to be a monstrosity, to tell you the truth. I think everybody understands why, or most people think why it was built this way. We perceived it to be built as a fortress. You know, at that time, there was so much unrest on the campuses around the country, I think the designers just made sure we had a building that wouldn't collapse under a little bit of pressure. Not too many of us were very fond of the design. In fact, many of us weren't fond of the design of the building that became the permanent campus. I don't know if you're familiar with Foothill College that has those nice, Spanish-type buildings with tile roofs and so forth. Some of us were pushing for that kind of structure on these hills. It would have been beautiful.

The Science/Math building came into existence sometime after that, and it had a few features that I thought were very nice. One was the microbiology lab where we had actually all the materials that we needed to teach a full microbiology class. And the other thing that I liked about that building (and very few people know this) is that it had the first woodshop on campus. It was at the north end where the physics and astronomy building is. That was one of the key features that I helped put in there. The tools later went down to the lower campus and became the woodworking program.

Oh, I have lots of favorite stories. It's hard to search through and find one. I think one of my favorites is that in 1968/69 we had a young man who was a janitor here, young man just out of the service, and his name was Herb Henry. He and I kind of hit it off because we were both veterans and so forth. We would go scuba diving together and what not, and I talked him into going and getting a college education. So he took classes at Saddleback in the evening and then went on to get his bachelor's and master's degrees and became a science teacher up in the Los Angeles area someplace. I think that's one of my favorite stories.

Another one, my all-time favorite, is: In my first year of teaching I had a science student, a young woman by the name of Patricia Creighton, who later became one of our first nursing students. She would go on a lot of my field trips with me, and she became a pretty good friend. Well, a few years back, a couple years back, I had cardiac surgery, and by this time she was head of Cardiology Rehab down at the hospital so she helped pull me through. I think that's one of my favorite stories.

I'm sure there are plenty of stories about the school. I think one is kind of interesting, and this goes back to those early days when we first came over to this campus on the lower part of it, T Building. I was able to get a greenhouse, a small greenhouse. Everything was going along well there until one day the Superintendent/President called me in and wanted to know what those marijuana plants were doing in the greenhouse. Well, evidently I had a young student at that time who thought that it was a good place to grow them. That was kind of funny.

There were many challenges. As I mentioned, just getting started was a challenge. I think, early on, getting involved in faculty politics was a challenge for me. The first year here, I was somehow appointed as grievance chairperson. At that time no one had tenure and there was a lot of controversy about regulations and so forth. Of course, over the years the other challenging thing was becoming involved in negotiations. There were lots of challenges and still are.

I'm going to tell you one change that stands out in my mind. The first year, 1968, we were on the quarter system. It's hard to juggle classes so you could get a full load, so I was given a one-unit class in slide rule. I had to teach slide rule for that one year. Well, you know, slide rule was the precursor to the calculator, to the computer, and to see us go from, you know, handing out slide rules to students so you could teach them how to do calculations to going to the computer, that's a real change. It all happened very fast, Today I don't think students would know what a slide rule looks like.

The people here made Saddleback special to me. We had such camaraderie those first few years. We all helped at the football games. We helped at basketball games. We had parties. We took the afternoons off, like Friday afternoon off, went down to play pool. Those are fond memories. The people were great and still are great.

For example, Frank Sciarrotta was a very competent person. He was a good individual. He and I had some run ins. Everybody had run-ins. But he was a very fine person. I liked Frank very much. We got along well, and I was just sorry to see him go. Later, the "old boys club" formed, retired men. Now we invite women. But Frank and I and others were the first members of that group, and Bill Phillips, and Howard Marcou, lots of others. I can't think of their names now, all good people.

I think the thing that stands out most in my career is my love for learning. When I came here, I became a true, lifelong learner because I was one of the first students to ever enroll in a class at this college. My number was in the hundreds. So that stands out as one of my great experiences here at this college. I've taken many courses and enjoyed them all, learned a lot and still love learning.

My experience as a board member was an interesting experience. I wasn't going to run. I was talked into it, and I'm no politician. I guess I should have been if I was going to be elected to the board. It was a great experience, and I enjoyed it very much. I just wish I hadn't run the second time. That was a very poor experience for me, not the losing but the process. That was unpleasant. The actual experience on the board was great.

One thing that I thought about was a feeling I had about the sciences that we were experiencing when we first started here. We were actually at the top of the nuclear age at that time, and the nuclear power plant went in at San Onofre. I went off to study nuclear science and so forth and so on , and we looked at nuclear science as a form of alternative energy. Today, nuclear science is way down on the list, alternative energy is down on the list, and that's one disappointing thing, because I always preached alternative energy, and it didn't come about. I feel kind of disappointed about that.

But, if I could send a message to the faculty of the future, I would say, get to know your students and treat each one individually, and you will go away with a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.