Lessons in Giving From a Lifelong Learner

Michael Fields '70

"Not a day has passed that I have not been rewarded in some way by my Occidental education."

I was determined to spend my college years at a small, residential liberal arts school with a beautiful campus. Occidental was close to where I’d grown up in Pasadena, and even closer to the sprawling metro L.A. area and its many enticements. It seemed like it would be a good fit, and it turned out to be one.

Oxy showed me that the path to one’s goals need not be linear or conventional. I became so absorbed by Professor Mahler’s freshman psychology class that I devised a plan to satisfy the science course requirements for dental school within a psychology major. Faculty members who were so influential in my development as a student and person—Robert Hansen and Constance Perkins in the Art Department, Lewis Owen in the English Department, and David Cole M’48, my mentor in the Psychology Department—taught me how to think, to write, to create; to trust my instincts and pursue my interests with passion and a standard of excellence.

San Francisco beckoned, with my acceptance to the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry. I soon met Pamela Gerard, who was pursuing her fine art degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. We were married and have lived in a Victorian home here in the city ever since. Our lives have centered to a great degree on the arts and travel. We were able to attend so many memorable performances of opera and symphony in our early San Francisco days; from these experiences I developed a real passion for classical music. Pursuing this passion meant once again becoming a student, and after a few years of studies in music theory, voice, and piano, the door was opened to my long association with the San Francisco Symphony, as a member of the chorus—surely one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I give Oxy full credit for having sent me out into the world curious and valuing lifelong learning.

Not a day has passed that I have not been rewarded in some way by my Occidental education. The broad foundation of knowledge, acquired world view, and exposure to thinking from different perspectives that are at the core of the Oxy experience have added immeasurably to my relationships with colleagues, students, and patients throughout my professional life.

Pamela and I feel strongly that education, and especially higher education of the caliber offered by schools like Occidental, can address so many of the challenges, struggles, and inequities that we encounter in the world today. When we decided to contribute to the future of the College’s mission and of its students, creating endowed scholarships made the most sense to us.

Most of us support the idea of what a fine education can do for our careers, our society, and the world. But it’s important to remember the great benefits to be gained in our personal lives from an education at an institution like Occidental. Oxy trains us to reason, to think, and to be stimulated to be perpetual students. During the inevitable challenges and rough patches in life we all experience, being able to access the tools, extra dimensions, and interests we gained from our education can be critical to our health, well-being, and resilience. So, for graduates who feel that they have benefited from the multiple and varied lifelong gifts that their stay in the oasis of Eagle Rock has bestowed on their lives: Please consider the College as an eminently worthy beneficiary of your philanthropy.

A recently documented estate gift from Pamela and Michael will support the Obama Scholars Program and the Edgerton-Occidental Merit Scholarship.