Favorite Professors

Editor’s Note: For its 20th anniversary celebration this year, the USC Emeriti Center plans to honor the university’s retired faculty. A request for nominations of “favorite professors” printed in the last issue produced a shower of responses and, courtesy of the Emeriti Center, we are printing a sampling of the letters received. Incidentally, it’s not too late to nominate your favorite professor. For information, see the “Notice Board” on page 10.

Honoring retired faculty is a wonderful idea. I would like to nominate Professor Norman Fertig. Dr. Fertig was my “savior” at USC. Through him, I was able to find a scholarly direction at USC that has carried through my entire life. I say this from a distance of 36 years since my graduation, as a published historian and “expert” on American political and World War II history.
When I came to USC in 1959, my educational plans were “adrift.” Dr. Fertig’s interest in me and my education were the high points of my college years. Eventually, I became a reader for his Diplomatic History classes and developed a close relationship with him. I have tried to see him whenever I come back on campus, which unfortunately has not been often enough.
I know that he has been honored on several occasions -- by student voting -- as one of the best teachers on campus, for very good reason. Both as a professor and as a director of the LAS Honors Program, I am sure I am not alone in having been graced with his guidance and friendship.

Robert Fratkin ’62
Washington, D.C.

 

What a wonderful idea, asking alumni to remember their favorite professor during their years at USC! David H. Malone, chairman of the Comparative Literature Program, is my nominee.
Dr. Malone arrived at USC from Auburn University in 1963 to assume the chairmanship of the Comparative Literature Program, which had languished prior to his arrival. That year I was beginning my major in Comp. Lit., and over the next three years I took three or four courses with him. He challenged us intellectually without a trace of arrogance or condescension. We read wonderful books by Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Rousseau, Tolstoy. I had always loved to read. Now all I wanted to do was read.
I still remember as a junior he gave one of my papers a less-than-satisfactory grade. When I came in for a conference, Dr. Malone patiently went through one or two paragraphs with a red pencil, crossing out my turgid phrases, substituting simpler words, and tightening my prose. He told me to go home and revise the remainder of the paper. The next week I brought back my corrections. Again, out came the red pencil -- more corrections, more crossing out, but they were administered with a keen eye and a kind manner -- not to embarrass me but to show me a better way to write. He always joked that my inclinations were to use a twenty-dollar word when a nickel word would do as well, or better. I had thought myself a competent writer, but Dr. Malone showed me, with his characteristically gentle but firm manner, that I had a long way to go.
In 1964-1965 I enrolled in graduate school and took his methods class, required of all Comparative Literature graduate students. He was unrelenting in his demands on us, yet all suggestions were done with good humor and a faith that we would learn to be good graduate students in the discipline that he loved so much.
I have taught composition at City College of San Francisco for 30 years, and I often tell my students the story of Dr. Malone’s red pencil to show them that writing doesn’t come easily for anyone and that it requires a real commitment to become good at it.
Several years ago, Dr. Malone retired with his wife, Alice, to a suburb of Seattle to be closer to their two sons and their grandchildren. Now we e-mail each other occasionally, and he recommends books for me to read. USC was most fortunate to have this wonderful and generous man on its faculty.

Deanne Koziol Spears ’64, A.M. ’65
El Granada, CA

 

In re, USC’s retired faculty: though they didn’t outlive me, I’ve just got to say hi to two of the greatest:
H.D. White -- English. To him I owe a great love of Shelley, Fletcher and so many others of the later Elizabethan period.
Henri Uttenhowe -- Fencing. Twenty-five years of the sport along with excellent health, two Olympic squads (didn’t make the final 4-man team, but came close).
And to these two and so many more I owe a long and active life with a great appreciation of great literature.

Delmar Reynolds ’33
Newport Beach, CA

 

I earned my Master’s degree at USC in 1956, and later on took some other courses there, including Education Statistics from Dr. Welty Lefever.
All of my instructors were wonderful people, and one even merited a poem from me. I had a heavy teaching assignment in a rough area in L.A. with a particular principal who was always having tea parties after school, etc. We all thought she might be seeking a further promotion because of this.
I had to ride a few buses and street cars to get to the campus, and the course itself was no snap. And if the motorman, or driver, was getting behind schedule, he’d not stop and I’d have to wait for the next bus or streetcar. This caused much strain, but Dr. Lefever was so marvelous and had such a wonderful disposition and was so generous in his explanations that he really “unnervoused” all of us.
Each day I had to “unwind” so I could study, so I’d write little bits of verse on scraps of paper. One day I arranged them into a complete poem. Then I typewrote a copy for Dr. Lefever and gave it to him at the last meeting of our class. I did not give Xerox copies to the class, because we had no Xerox in those days.
Here is the first verse, as printed in the Phi Delta Gamma Journal of April, 1961:

“In all of math’s creation,
“The STANDARD DEVIATION
“Is the cause of our damnation,”
Says the class.
Says Lefever, “You’ll never guess
“Its total usefulness.
“So put complaints at rest,
“If you expect to pass.”

Another favorite was Dr. Tema Clare, who founded Omicron Chapter of P.D.G. She taught botany and biology for 50 years at USC. When Howard Hughes was building the Spruce Goose, he sent his men to her woods classes and paid their tuition. The way she found out about this was that a student pointed Howard Hughes out to her one evening. He had visited the class to find out what his men were getting from the class!

Virginia Charlotte Sullivan M.S. ’56
Fountain Valley, CA

 

I read your little ad about the invitation to alumni to submit the name of their favorite professor at USC. That is “easy,” and here is my response.
After years in taking diverse courses at various locations, I decided that at last I would like a “paper” -- that is, a degree to show my efforts in continuing education throughout my adult life. Since I was prevented to attend university in Norway -- all the professors were sent to work camps etc., and the university closed during World War II German occupation -- I had always enjoyed classes here in the USA, but never focused on a formal course of action. However, when the School of Gerontology opened, I conferred with my husband and he agreed that I should make a try of it.
The fall semester 1976 arrived. I was terribly nervous, and a huge blister on my lip appeared. I felt miserable but excited to sit in a classroom at the University of Southern California. I had Dr. Ruth Weg in my biology course, and Dr. Weg was the professor who definitely made a great difference in my life.
Since I had not had biology in my high school during the war years, only anatomy, I had to get some “foundation” before entering into serious studies of biology. So I went to the library to borrow biology textbooks. I “hated” the stupid feeling of ignorance when Dr. Weg lectured, so I persevered in trying to find some sense in what she was delving into. Of course, my co-students had all (or so I imagined) their high school biology. I also had close at hand Taber’s Encyclopedic Medical Dictionary and Attorneys’ Dictionary of Medicine. These two well-worn books are still in good use.
Dr. Weg was patient and perhaps more tolerant and considerate to me as one of the older students in her class. As the weeks passed and the beginner’s “panic” subsided, I started to enjoy Dr. Weg’s course. I admired her immensely, and I couldn’t get enough of all the new learning. But still I was anxious over the future and what I had embarked upon.
As I was plugging along with the studies, I was pleased to get acceptable grades in various tests. It encouraged me, but never really convinced me I should continue. Always in the back of my head was the thought I could drop out when the semester ended.
Dr. Weg continued to talk with me and kept me excited about all this new knowledge. When the final test gave me the best grade in the class I was really enthusiastic and put any thoughts of dropping out out of my mind. But I truly believe that if Dr. Weg had not shown as much consideration and understanding to me, and on top of it grading me with a glorious A on my final, I doubt I would have continued.
It is not an easy task to sit in a formal class environment where learning is a serious task when the age is a factor -- like it or not. But Dr. Weg always showed me respect and kindness, which is the reason I point her out as my favorite professor at USC.

Berit Burton M.S. ’80
Los Angeles, CA


Four Lives

I had to write this letter after reading the article “Four Lives” [Summer 1998] that tells the story of four minority graduates of the USC Law School.
The author, Tom Tomlinson, in his moving and telling article relates the struggles and triumphs of four unique men. It is heartening to see that almost from its inception, the Law School has made a difference in the lives of its students and the wider community they serve. It is almost shocking to read an article lauding the legal profession for its “service” and not “disservice.”
From my experience in the practice of law there are many more in the profession who exemplify the concern and commitment to justice that these four do. Thank goodness for people like Tom Tomlinson for making me proud to be a law school grad and a lawyer.

Andrew Schwartz ’66, J.D. ’71
Los Angeles, CA


Sim Iness

It is rare that an item in the obituary column makes one feel happy, but I felt that way reading about Sim Iness several months ago [Autumn 1996] in the Trojan magazine.
Let me explain why. About 50 years ago I was teaching in Tulare and knew Sim Iness and Bob Mathias as pupils in my algebra class. One year they both went to the Olympics. Bob won a gold in the decathlon (his first one), and I felt sorry that Sim did not win a medal.
The news item in the USC magazine told of Sim’s winning the gold in discus while attending USC. That is why I felt happy about the item.
I was also glad to learn of his other records and that he was using his athletic ability as a coach in Porterville.
I have shared this with other teachers who knew Sim in Tulare. Thank you.

Colette Thorndike ’43
Torrance, CA


Last Word Blues

To “The Last Word”: Of course, if you have a literary bone in your body which compels you to pursue this literary Odyssey, you cannot turn in just a check list.
This, like other similar mind-games, is a trap: first, it looks deceptively easy -- “I know these books; I know these quotes...” Secondly, it looks fun. But it is, of course, a fool’s errand. But there are rewards: like any research project, the harder you work, the more you uncover treasures and insights which (without this challenge) you would never discover. You also have the dubious pleasure of uncovering a whole trove of ignorance in areas you had heretofore deemed yourself competent.
The process at first catches your fancy, then it obsesses: a sickness you delight in sharing with others, with no pangs of conscience. But you do conclude with a certain self-satisfaction that justifies the Faulkner title you chose to omit: The Sound and the Fury.

Jack W. Rainey
Cherry Valley, CA


Errata

We wish to comment on a death notice of C. Henry “Hank” Fertig which appears on page 68 of your Summer 1998 issue. First, we are dead solid certain that Mr. Fertig served on the Huntington Park police force and was chief of that police department, rather than that of Huntington Beach. We also remember his son Craig having a sister (Trudi Fertig) who is the mother of Todd Marinovich, the former Trojan quarterback of the 1990s era. The article did not mention the late Mr. Fertig as having a daughter who survived him, which makes us wonder whether Trudi preceded her late father in death, has been disowned (which we very seriously doubt), or whether this omission was merely an oversight. Whatever the reason, we would like to know whether she is still with us.

Sam and Susie Sparta
Huntington Park, CA

You are right on both counts: Trudi Fertig Marinovich is indeed still with us, and we apologize for omitting her from her father’s obituary notice. And Hank Fertig was in fact with the Huntington Park Police Department. We apologize for the errors.


Notice Board

All SPIN graduates and Sports Studies graduates, make plans to attend the 1st SPIN Reunion at Homecoming, Saturday, October 31. If you want to receive information about this long overdue reunion, please write: Roy Englebrecht, P.O. Box 10205, Newport Beach, CA 92658, or e-mail Roy at talkcamp@aol.com.

Roy Englebrecht
Newport Beach, CA

For the USC History Project, the USC Alumni Association encourages alumni and friends of the University to donate their USC “archives” back to the University. We are particularly looking for photos, sketches, layouts, etc., of Widney Alumni House -- or any memories of its physical appearance. It is our goal to display some of the more interesting items in the Alumni House on a permanent basis.
If you have any such materials (such as yearbooks, programs, pictures) that you would like to donate, please contact Margaret Doss at (213) 740-2300.

Gerald S. Papazian ’77
USC Alumni Association
Campus

As a part of the 1998 USC Emeriti Center’s “Celebration of 20 years,” we want to honor USC’s retired faculty.
I would like to invite alumni to submit, in writing, the name of your favorite professor at USC, along with a brief sketch expressing your feelings about why that professor made a difference in your life, both then and now.
Send your written piece to the USC Emeriti Center, Attn: Harriet S. Servis, Associate Director, 3715 McClintock Ave., Suite 220, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191; or e-mail to
hservis@usc.edu. Please include your class year and major.
Thank you. We look forward to honoring your favorite faculty member!

Harriet Servis
USC Emeriti Center
Campus


Previous Last Word Answers
We welcome letters from readers, although we do reserve the right to select and edit for space. Send letters to:

Mailbag, c/o USC Trojan Family Magazine, University of Southern California,
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2538, fax: (213) 821-1100

And of course, by e-mail at magazines@usc.edu


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