Silly pranks, romantic connections, and inspirational moments. For UC Riverside’s longest-serving employees, those are the memories that stand out during their decades-long careers.
A group of about two dozen employees — with careers spanning 30 years or more — were honored at a June 10 luncheon at the Alumni and Visitors Center. At the suggestion of Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, they each shared personal anecdotes about their time at the university.
Many sounded a common theme of how their time at UCR had changed their lives.
“We’re different people because of the time we were here,” Wilcox said. “And it’s great to think of our careers in that light, that we’ve been shaped by our experience.”
David Reznick, a professor of biology who has been with UCR since 1984, recalled how early in his career as an assistant professor he decided to make a final exam extra dramatic.
During a tour of the University Theatre, where Reznick would be holding his lectures, the theater manager mentioned to him that the stage included an orchestra pit that could move up and down when needed, and that he’d be happy to help if he wanted to use it, Reznick said.
Reznick took him up on the offer, and during the final exam Reznick donned a “Death’s Robe,” a scythe, and a glowing skeletal hand that he had acquired from the theater department. Mozart’s “Requiem” played as the students entered the theater, and Reznick was slowly raised up in the orchestra pit with the music hitting the chorus as the stage reached the top.
“I learned what it felt like to be a rock star,” Reznick said. “The audience kind of gasped and wheezed, and then they began to cheer, and they clapped.”
He capped off the stunt by opening the robe, inside of which were stacks of final exams that his teaching assistants collected and passed out to his students.
John Fischer, a professor of philosophy, told the story of how he met his future wife, a former student who dropped his class because she found it boring and was dealing with some personal issues. The next quarter, he saw her waiting outside his office every day and thought she was waiting for him. He eventually asked her out on a date, but it wasn’t until later that he learned she wasn’t waiting for him but her next class, Fischer said.
Denise Correll, who started at UCR in 1989, shared a story about a connection between two students that she met while working as an assistant textbook buyer at the bookstore.
One of the students had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair and the other was blind. Correll had gotten to know them separately, assisting them in purchasing their books.
A few years later, at the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences commencement, she saw the two students together. They had become friends, with the blind student pushing the wheelchair of the other student, who acted as their eyes, directing them where to go.
“It just touched my heart so much,” said Correll, now an undergraduate advisor at the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.
Philip Roberts, a professor of nematology, reflected on the changes he’s seen in his 40 years at the campus.
“One of the things that intrigues me and is very gratifying about UCR is there have been so many changes in terms of buildings, personnel, and leaders, and so on, but the community that is UCR hasn’t really changed,” he said. “It still has a wonderful essence of community and collegiality. That’s really what I’ve enjoyed and thrived on.”