Campus Corner: Alumnus reflects on time spent at ECC

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After many years I happened to be in Los Angeles County, and I drove around El Camino College campus.

I am a graduate of ECC with an AA degree with emphasis in chemistry. As I glanced at the campus and buildings and drove all around the golf course , my mind seemed to travel back in time to the years 1973-1976 when I was a very young student at ECC , and I also worked at the Records Office part-time to earn some money for expenses.

Suddenly I felt a great need to write a letter to the editor of the school’s newspaper as a tribute to the wonderful experience and the gift of an education that ECC represented.

I would like to fill in some blanks and note that after I left ECC I graduated with a BA degree in Chemistry from UC San Diego with minors in mathematics and managerial economics.

Soon after I earned a Master’s Degree from UCLA in chemical engineering (Dr. Eldon Knuth, Advisor) and a late Doctoral Degree also from UCLA in chemical engineering with a minor in quantum chemistry (Dr. Selim Senkan, Advisor).

I must upfront list some of the faculty in the chemistry department of ECC whom shaped my future path in education:

Prof. Warren Ford, Prof. James Campbell, and Prof. McQuarry. Who could forget as well the laboratory technician whose name unfortunately I could not recall.

Prof. Ford always reminded us that as chemists or chemical engineers we would be responsible for the clean-up of the environment of this nation the United States of America. One semester he did not grant any A grades in the course. Only two students earned a B grade, I was one of the fortunate ones. He could always be found in his office drinking coffee and grading all of our homework problems. He was one to set high standards of excellence always.

Prof. Campbell I can remember as always having conversations with students in the organic chemistry laboratory, his sense of humor and willingness to help students with such a difficult subject as organic chemistry. An extraordinary person and teacher.

I still can remember the great sense of humor and jokes of Prof. McQuarry in qualitative analysis course. He never stopped telling us that we got the unknown chemical under our analysis wrong as a way to joking. Great humanity.

Dr. Virginia Skinner taught calculus. She was a great personality and always spoke of her father as an electrical engineer. She had extraordinary abilities to teach advanced math. She may have been the reason I earned a minor in mathematics at UC San Diego and then later pursued quantum chemistry, a subject based on the understanding of higher mathematical concepts.

I always took physical education activities from a fellow Croat Prof. Stanich. The man was a great personality and very approachable. Nothing but good memories of jogging around the golf course in hot weather under his supervision.

I must always reminisce about individuals that I came to know while working part-time at the Records Office:

Virginia Erickson (Supervisor), Patricia, Dorothy, and most of all Maria Denouden an extraordinary woman of great humanity and ethics. I did not deal with him directly but I do remember the presence of the Director of Admissions Roy Brugman, a decent man.

I believe that all of us who share of the ECC experience, most specifically the chemistry department had a sense of anticipation in achieving our goals of becoming chemists, engineers, physicians [and] instructors……For all of us it was not just a possibility it was a reality waiting to become.

I think today the college experience is much more difficult for young people. Technology developments are having profound changes in our society , so quickly in fact, that society and the individuals are having a hard time to adjust and accommodate the impact of such changes in lives and social rituals or costumes.

It is also obvious that the cost of living and education is higher today which impacts students and their expectations. This is a difficult issue.

However looking back and thinking of today, the power message and example of the individuals and teachers at ECC remains the same, one of excellence and personal responsibility.

As a result of my academic achievements I have been involved in past years on the development of facilities for destruction of obsolete chemical weapons within the USA and by international agreement (under the supervision of a veteran of Korea and graduate of Annapolis).

I was invited to make a presentation on my work with hydrogen sulfide combustion chemistry by a group, part of the Science Intelligence Community of the American Government (an invitation by a past member of NSA).

I also had involvement as [an] independent consultant in the assessment of a device to protect against biological terrorism in the continental USA. I have been involved in the development of facilities to produce biodiesel, bioethanol, hydrogen (supervised by a past member of the USA Navy engaged in the design of nuclear plies for USA submarines).

From all of this experience, one learns that we still live in a world with great need for economic development, but it is also still a dangerous world with the need of excellence and standards of conduct.

It was at ECC, where all of the professors and members of the administration whom first exposed me to the concept of having the good fortune of getting an education and that we do not live in a vacuum but we do have a responsibility and perhaps thanks to our education, a role to play in the future of our great nation and make it possible to build a nation of wealth, prosperity, and freedom.

Ivan Gargurevich

Principal Process Engineer

[email protected]

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