Frank Cox

Frank D. Cox, Psychology Department

I taught at Santa Barbara City College from 1963 to retirement in 1989. However my story begins much earlier when I was a student at Glendale City College in 1951 and 1952 after having graduated from Glendale Hoover High School. The Korean War had started in 1950 and numerous of my friends had joined the reserves in an effort to avoid being drafted. This strategy did not work as some of the reserve units were quickly called to active duty. I managed to pass the draft deferment test that allowed one to finish college. Thus my first real girlfriend and I were attending Glendale City College. There was a young and very handsome sociology instructor who was quite dashing in his powder blue suit. His name was Henry Bagish. It was his first year of teaching. All the coeds had a crush on him so when my girlfriend signed up for his class in the second semester I did too (perhaps out of self protection????).

My first semester grades were basically in the C+ range. About midway through the semester it became clear to the young Mr. Bagish that I was too in love to do much studying but he somehow recognized potential in me.  Hard to believe, but one day after class he invited me to lunch in the cafeteria. Much to my surprise and discomfort he told me that I had a very nice girlfriend and it was all right to be in love but not so much so that my studies suffered. To this day I remember the conversation quite clearly and it worked some magic on me. The grades began to improve despite being in love. And the biggest surprise of all, many years later it was Mr. Henry Bagish who talked me into become a teacher and was instrumental in bringing me to Santa Barbara City College in 1963. My first love became a TWA flight attendant and soon married another.

After receiving my BA in Psychology I served two years in the military, 1955-1956. When I returned from overseas I had visited with Henry and discussed my interest in teaching. I then returned to Occidental College to earn an MA degree in Psychology as well as a teaching credential. In addition I received a School Psychologist Credential from UCLA. I was hired at Glendale City College, and taught there from 1958 to 1963. At this time community college teachers could be assigned to teach most anything. My first semester teaching load consisted of Introductory Psychology, Economic History of the United States, California Government, Speed Reading, and How to Study. Needless to say I worked night and day and also learned how to adlib when I came to the end of my notes.

After four years teaching in Glendale my wife and I decided it was time to leave the home town (Glendale) and seek a new beginning. That summer we drove up the California coast interviewing at a number of community Colleges. Our first stop was a social visit with Henry and Fran Bagish in Santa Barbara. Our two families got together for some tennis and lunch in Pershing Park. Needless to say the courts were not what they are today. We had the pleasure of meeting Henry and Fran’s children (three) and a lot of good conversation about my teaching plans. I didn’t think much about it, but Henry quizzed me a lot about my teaching. Of course, big mouth that I was, and often still am, I did a lot of talking. I hadn’t thought about applying to SBCC as the campus was very run down with few facilities and certainly not up to the standards I was used to at Glendale College.

The following Christmas I received a card from Henry inviting me for an interview as the school was in need of someone with my qualifications. Dr. Joseph Cosand was the president and after meeting him I spent the day being interviewed by the members of the Social Science division as well as other administrators. During lunch break I asked if anyone on campus played tennis and had the opportunity to meet coach Russ Wenzlau at the municipal courts. I don’t remember who won but it was the beginning of a very long friendship lasting until Russ passed away in 2009.

I was hired the following school year, 1963. I began to adapt to this run down school with numerous temporary wooden classrooms, no gym, no faculty office space and mailboxes hanging precariously on the wall of the main building. There were approximately 1000 students and 35 teachers. Most of my student counseling was done sitting on cut down trees behind the main building weather permitting. We bought our first house on Lucinda Lane. I used my GI Bill to commence work on a PhD at UCSB which took me many years to complete as two children were now in the family, the second one arriving just after moving into our new house.

It took me a while to get used to SBCC. Glendale College was an established older community college with a large student body and an older faculty that was not particularly friendly to a very young new teacher. In fact, since most community colleges were part of high school districts at this time, the faculty tended to be high school teachers who were promoted (?) up to the community college. I started at Glendale at age 22 and was the youngest faculty member by thirteen years at the time. Thus the friendliness and openness of the small faculty at SBCC was most rewarding and fun once I adjusted to it. Most of the faculty attended the school dances and parties. My wife and I went a number of times as the parties were famous for spaghetti and meatballs which were very tasty. It was not until a year or two later that we discovered the meatballs were made from canned dog food and/ or horse meat. I personally thought it was a great joke. The faculty also had a lot of fun playing ping pong. Tim Fetler, (music and philosophy), Gene Gingerich (math), were among those enjoying the ping pong past time.

In addition, there were often get-togethers at various faculty homes. Stan and Doris Sofas threw a nice party for the new faculty and their wives that first year. Rob Rutherford, George Frakes, and myself were new and, of course, all of the Social Science division teachers also attended (Henry Bagish, Bob Casier, Frank Dobyns, John Kay, and their wives were among those attending).

In 1965 SBCC became independent from Santa Barbara Secondary School District, Henry Bagish, Bob Casier, George Frakes, John Kay, Mike Mallen, and many other faculty members worked hard to create governing bodies such as the Instructor’s Association and the Faculty Senate. In all honesty I was little interested in Administrative problems and owe a great deal to the many faculty members that worked hard to create a dynamic and well run college. I always wanted to be in my classroom teaching and probably unfairly avoided any administrative duties leaving those things to my colleagues.

Although most of my time was spent with the Social Science Department colleagues there were many other wonderful and skilled teachers present at SBCC during my time. I can but only mention a few. Hal Dunn took over the music department and turned it into a popular and super successful department sought out by literally hoards of students. Bud Revis, Russ Wenzlau, Harold Fairly, Jack Sanford, Richard Weist, Bob Rheinschmit and Bob Dinaberg produced winning sports teams. Royce Adams became a successful teacher and writer in the English Department. Mike Mallen helped to create a fine math department. John Dunn built a very successful Restaurant and Hotel Management program. I could go on and on about the many great teachers with whom I worked before retiring in 1989.

I would like to point out that the SBCC teachers and instructors were there for their students. When the counselors interviewed SBCC students who had transferred to various four year colleges almost all felt that the SBCC faculty were among the best teachers they had ever had. I periodically taught classes at UCSB filling in for professors on leave. It was helpful for my own teaching to know what my students would face upon transfer to UCSB. I was almost always disappointed in the negative attitudes that so many of these university professors expressed toward their undergraduate students. They very often looked upon their undergraduate students as an unfortunate necessary evil that took them away from their really important research and writing duties. Very often the undergrads were taught by teaching assistants working towards their PhDs. Often the last thing these TA’s wanted to do was waste their time teaching undergrads. To me and I think most of my colleagues at SBCC such attitudes were unacceptable.

My own PhD work I found to be learning more and more about less and less. I was so disappointed in the narrow confines of my PhD program that I never used the term Doctor as a self- description. In fact, I often shared with my students the idea that the PhD was actually a degree in ignorance. By this I mean that the more I learned the more I realized how ignorant I was.

For me and many of my colleagues our job as teachers was to broaden our students, not narrow them. Perhaps Henry Bagish represented this broadening of students best by the wide travels he and his family undertook to bring a constant variety of lifestyles and cultures into his classroom. From the Dani People of Ne w Guinea to the many tribes of Africa, Henry brought real life experiences to his students. Taking a leaf from Henry’s emphasis on travel as a way of broadening his students, I held an open meeting each semester for any students interested in traveling the world on the cheap. One of my greatest travel thrills was meeting a Dani warrior in New Guinea who had known Henry Bagish and his family while they were visiting his village. His remembrances of the Bagish family were filled with great enthusiasm and caring. He sent a number of his handmade arrows home with me to give to Henry.

Over the years there were many more outstanding colleagues teaching at SBCC whom I failed to mention. Be that as it may, students attending SBCC are very fortunate and I am proud and humbled by working with such great people at such a great institution.

One thought on “Frank Cox

  1. Dr. Cox:

    You were my psychology instructor a Glendale College and a main reason I decided to make psychology my major. I subsequently transferred to the University of Redlands and then to Berkeley for graduate work in industrial/organizational psychology. I left grad school after two years and subsequently made a modest career in applied psychometrics. I am now retired in Colorado (Fort Collins area) where I do pretty much what I please, study some history and mathematics, remain physically active, push my political causes, and pester my daughter in CA whenever possible.

    I’m writing to say thank you for having been such an outstanding role model for me at a transitional point in my life. You were an inspiring teacher outside of the typical mold – standing on your desk to make a point, for example! I’ve always remembered your discussion about conformity (I recall that at the time we had the incident of a group of persons each following the herd in a trashing of automobiles). Another thing I remember well was your telling the class something about your grandfather and his passing. His having everything in perfect order at the time of his death impressed me greatly as regards independence and respect for others. I committed then to follow his example.

    In addition to introductory psychology, you got me to realize that one’s life continually offers choices and that each of us can and should make thoughtful efforts to define him/herself effectively. Seems obvious now, but it definitely was not obvious to me then. Seems easy, but has not always been. It’s my opinion that too few Americans have received this lesson.

    I was in Glendale about a month ago and walked the old campus. It’s an impressive-looking community college, grown but with many of the same old buildings and classrooms (and the tennis courts look great!). I hope that it continues to be a pivot point for young people, as it was for me.

    Thanks again for being one of my life’s important persons!

    Eric Werner

Comments are closed.