Memories of Faculty and Staff

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Professor Phelps leads a discussion with CMC students.

“Dr. Orme Wheelock Phelps”

I was at CMC from the fall of 1954 to February of 1957. Dr. Phelps was feared by most of the younger students. As a returning veteran of the Korean Conflict, I was less daunted by Dr. Phelps. At that time no one had done a Senior Paper with the good Dr. I was fortunate enough to be his only student in a management class. I wrote my Senior Paper for him and got a grade of A-. Dr. Phelps told me, “Your grade was good enough for an A, but I never give A grades.” He was a national force in the area of Labor relations and I treasured every minute with him. He died at 96 in 2003.

- Edward Millis ’56

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President George Benson sits with two students at a table in the Hub.

"A Great President, A Great College"

It was 8 a.m. on a cold, gray, overcast morning, as I stood in Pitzer Hall. It was the fall of 1995, and I was in the second month of my freshman year. I was new to the College, new to my class, and new to Southern California. I had little money, no car, a bad toothache, and no clue what to do. I also had Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday American Government taught by President George C. S. Benson P’61. On that forlorn morning, Dr. Benson came out of his office and, surprisingly, called me by name and asked, “What is the problem?” Upon hearing my plight, he asked if I had a dentist. After my negative response, he went to his office, arranged for an immediate appointment with his own dentist, called a member of the Stags, and arranged transportation for me both to and from the dental office. He even asked for a report when I returned.  

I have never forgotten how a busy college president took the time to give personal attention to a singular freshman in need, and I was forever grateful for his action. A small college, individual attention, a real commitment to the students–the marks of a great president and the marks of a great college.

- Ray Remy ’59

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Professor Harold Rood sits at his desk in a classroom.

“Rood Awakening”

Harold Rood was famous for research assignments of enormous scope. His international relations course was an exercise in academic masochism. Its standard term paper required summarizing 100 years of European history. Everyone submitted their work at the last minute, and still he filled the papers with comments. During my time at CMC, one senior–overwhelmed by this work–thought of a clever way to get his “A”. He bribed Rood by submitting his paper with a $100 bill clipped inside. When he got his paper back, however, he found he’d only gotten a grade of 77–and $23 change.

- Dan Goldzband ’67

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Professor Ricardo Quinones leads a discussion during a literature class.

“Professor Quinones”

I was a fairly mediocre student at CMC, and I made every effort to seek out professors whose reputation was that of not being too demanding regarding course work or too tough as graders. Thus, as a literature major, I managed to avoid a literature class from Professor Ricardo Quinones P’88, who had a thorough and notorious reputation for difficulty. This was not as easy as it sounds, as there were only approximately a dozen literature majors in my class. Furthermore, in those days, an oral exam would be administered at the end of your senior year for nearly all majors. Passing the oral exam was necessary in order to graduate.  

My luck ended: one of the three professors administering the oral exam was Professor Quinones. He kept looking at my checkered transcript, and then at me, undoubtedly wondering how I had never taken at least one course from him. Professor Quinones then posed the question: “compare and contrast Richard III and Henry IV.” (I told you he was rough.) I responded that I could not answer since I had not read Richard III to which he emphatically declared, “No one should graduate from this college with a degree in literature who has not read the classic, Richard III!” Fortunately, the vote was two to one allowing me to graduate. Professor Quinones, of course, was the dissenting vote.  

Twenty years later, nearly to the day, the CMC class of 1967 had its twenty-year reunion. At our Saturday “sit down” dinner, Ricardo Quinones was the honored guest as he was retiring from teaching. Bob Novell ’67 P’94, our class agent, remembered that Quinones had tried to keep me from graduating so, flashing a mischievous grin, Bob asked if I would like to introduce Quinones, our honored guest, at the dinner. Saturday night, I weaved between tables, stood behind the podium, tested the microphone, and looked at Professor Quinones to see the same quizzical expression as he had twenty years ago. It seemed to say, “Who are you and why are you going to introduce me?” I proceeded to mention to the gathered class and their wives that it was my honor to introduce Professor Quinones, and that his expression was very similar to that which I received almost exactly twenty years ago that day. I proceeded to relate the story of my nearly failed oral exam and why the Professor had voted against my graduation. I ended with, “Nevertheless it is my distinct pleasure to introduce our honored guest…” The group laughed loudly. “High fives” were given as I made my way back to my seat. Just as I was about to sit, Quinones arrived at the lectern; gripping the microphone, he asked if I had still not read Richard III. I moved my head in denial, and he said, “Well then, I made the right decision.” That laugh response bested mine. 

- William “Van” Wolbach ’67 

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“The Professor’s Advice”

During the spring semester of 1968, neither my roommate nor I were particularly diligent in our studies. My roommate was especially worried about his less-than-stellar microeconomics grade. In an attempt to get some slack, he scheduled an appointment with his professor, Procter Thomson. My roommate showed up at Dr. Thomson’s office, wove a tale of woe, and then asked for advice. Dr. Thomson glanced up, raised his eyebrows, and stated, “Buy low; sell high.” He then returned to his reading. My roommate didn’t get the grade he wanted in that class, but he did get the grade he deserved. 

- J. David Officer ’70 

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"Robert G. Rogers ’52, Senior Associate Dean of Admission"

I started receiving a deluge of college catalogues my junior year of high school, but one catalogue in particular jumped out at me: the one from Claremont McKenna College. I was politically active and very interested in government. A school that promised an education focused on leadership and public affairs in sunny, beautiful California? I was hooked.  

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. I had been admitted to CMC, but the prospect of CMC’s tuition was beyond our family’s reach. My parents were sympathetic, but told me that CMC’s financial aid package “wouldn’t do the trick,” and I would have to decline the offer. They did not understand why I would turn down the full rides I had received to the respectable state institutions in Arizona. I was devastated, but I didn’t give up.  

For the first time in my life, I played hooky and skipped school. Without asking my parents’ permission, I bought myself a plane ticket to California and drove to the airport. When I got to Claremont, I went straight into the office of admission to plead my case to Dean Robert Rogers ’52. “Okay,” I said, “Claremont McKenna is everything I’m looking for–a place where student leaders are trained to play a role in the public life of this country. But my parents have said they can’t afford to send me here.” At this point, there were tears rolling down my face, and Dean Rogers was sitting there with his jaw hanging open. “But,” I continued, “I am meant to go here. I am absolutely certain of that.” Dean Rogers said, “Will you excuse me for a moment?” He walked out and came back fifteen minutes later with a new financial aid form, offering enough aid to make it possible for me to attend CMC.  

It was quite a conversation at my family dinner table later that night in Phoenix. “Um, Mom, Dad? I need to tell you what I did today…” 

- Laura (May) Grisolano ‘86 

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Fritz Weis talks on the telephone in his office.

“The Best Christmas Present” 

I have been asked for my favorite CMC memories. There are so many, but one moment absolutely changed my life.  

Today’s students make a pilgrimage to many campuses to take a look in advance. It seemed in the early 80s, not many of us were able to do that. At least I didn’t. I showed up to CMC sight unseen. It was November before I realized that there were mountains nearby (air quality is vastly improved today). Funny what you remember.  

December of my junior year, I arrived home in Ketchum, ID for the Christmas holiday in style. One of my dad’s friends had picked me up at a nearby airport in his private jet (Sun Valley was actually difficult to get to then). After a pretty special ride home, I was in for a big surprise. My parents let me know that they couldn’t afford for me to return to CMC for the next semester. The economy was terrible in 1984. I remember calling Fritz Weis ’65 P’94, an alumnus and also the treasurer of the College. I let him know I would not be coming back. It was December 23rd. Fritz said, “give me 24 hours.” Probably the best Christmas present ever came on December 24th. Fritz called back and let me know that he “had taken care of everything.” He said, “you will graduate from CMC.” 

 - Carol (Oliver) Hartman ’86 P’19