Many Thanks, Lynn Mehl

Photo by Kevin Burke

After 45 years at Oxy, choosing a favorite class is "like choosing your favorite child," says the professor of kinesiology and psychology

What attracted you to Oxy? "While in graduate school at USC, I got to know three different faculty members who had ties to Oxy. With their encouragement, I applied for a position at the College. After stepping on the campus and meeting the students, I knew that I wanted to be here."

What was your favorite class? “That’s like choosing your favorite child. Over the course of 45 years I have taught a wide range of courses in both kinesiology and psychology. My favorites have been those crossed listed which has allowed for an interdisciplinary perspective. Developmental Motor Behavior (or some variation of the course title) has been taught since I first arrived. Before the creation of the Child Development Center, I used to recruit infants and children of my Oxy faculty and staff colleagues to visit class for ‘active’ learning. Both my daughter and grandchildren were regulars in the class.”

What are your plans for retirement? "Plans are still in the early stages but will include traveling, spending time with my grandchildren and family in North Carolina, and reconnecting with amazing friends and colleagues.  On the home front, I intend to continue and expand my involvement in nonprofit community-based organizations."

Anything else about your time at Oxy you would like to add? "I'm proud to be part of this community."

Vance Mueller ’86: First, I would like to congratulate Lynn on a remarkable career. Her work as a professor of kinesiology and psychology at Occidental has influenced countless young minds to challenge themselves to push and expand the boundaries of learning in an attempt to find what the body and mind are truly capable of achieving. 

Her commitment to athletics and Title IX at the College have had an incredible impact on the growth and sustainability of our existing sports programs. Her efforts on the panel to reestablish the football program greatly contributed to football being brought back and to be seen as an asset to the College that should be fought for. I will forever be grateful for her positive encouragement in that very challenging debate.

Most importantly, I will be forever grateful for Lynn’s mentoring and guidance when I was a struggling young student looking for direction. Lynn introduced me to the science of kinesiology and forever changed my life. My passion for learning accelerated tremendously and I found a field of study that has positively influenced my life and career choices over three decades. Lynn, thank you for all you have done for me personally and so many others. I am proud to call you my mentor and my friend. Enjoy your retirement, even though I don’t really see you not staying very busy in retirement!

Mueller played professional football for six seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders. He is the owner of Mueller’s Elite Training in Jackson.

Sue Bethanis ’82: I came to Oxy not long after Lynn did, and have kept in touch with her ever since. What a treat this has been for nearly 45 years (and by the way, that’s a crazy amount of time). Not only did I get to study with Lynn at Oxy, I have had the pleasure of working with her in my role with Tiger Club just four years ago.

Lynn Pacala instructs Division III doubles champion Wendy Antisdel '84 in 1983.
Lynn has been a true inspiration to me in so many ways. She combined the psychological and the physical in her teaching and research; and she was an athletics coach and administrator. Early in my career, I did the same at Colorado College and USF. At those institutions, my staunch dedication to what it really meant to be a “scholar student-athlete” comes from Lynn, first and foremost. Likewise, knowing I could go for a doctoral degree in education while I was also coaching a Division I sport—no problem, that’s what former scholar student-athletes do. Again, Lynn was in the back of my mind. 

Now, as part of my role as CEO of Mariposa Leadership Inc., I have the honor of coaching executives in high-tech companies. In leading my company, and in coaching leaders, I get to apply years of learning the psychological and the physical. Yep, Lynn again. Her mentorship has been invaluable; I am so grateful for her presence in my life and proud of all she has accomplished at Oxy. She has had a profound effect on my life and career. Mahalo, my friend!

Bethanis played both volleyball and basketball for Occidental. She has served as president of Tiger Club.

Jennifer (Wright) Bea ’96: Dr. Lynn Mehl was a part of my college experience from day one and has had a huge influence on my career and life since graduation. What made Lynn such a special instructor and mentor is that she cared about me as a whole person, not just a seat filled in a classroom. Oxy is magical that way and Lynn has been an integral part of that magic. Sure, she ensured that I took the right classes, understood scientific concepts, and applied my learning (never forget the rotor pursuit project and bilateral transfer!) so that I would be successful. But she also attended Glee Club concerts, sponsored the Cheer Squad, and showed up at games to cheer me on. I know she did the same for many others in their various interest areas.

I can trace much of what I know about teaching and mentorship back to Dr. Mehl: Care about the whole person and a provide variety of opportunities. Her classes were filled with diverse activities, from videos, to readings, small- and large-group discussions, hands-on projects, and more. Every style of learning had a chance to thrive. Lynn also created space for being human and sharing her life with us. She was a role model for balance as a professional, a teacher, and a parent. I have such fond memories of her young teen daughter wandering in at the start of class to check in with mom before heading out to “hang” on campus with the athletic trainer’s daughter. As our friendship grew, Lynn offered me a job babysitting her daughter Krissy when she would travel. 

One of the most important pieces of advice Lynn ever gave me, and I put it here for others to benefit, was that you don’t have to pay for a Ph.D. There are grants that can pay for tuition and salary. Not only was I able to take advantage of that advice, but I am now in academia myself and able fund others and pay Lynn’s advice forward. 

As an associate professor, I also have to balance my research, teaching, service, and motherhood, as Lynn did. Lynn is still there as a mentor and friend. She has counseled me during career transitions, sends students to my cancer prevention and control summer research program, and sends holiday cards with pictures of her and the grandchildren. What a blessing to watch Krissy grow, get married, and have children. Seeing photos of Lynn with her grandchildren in various locations across the country brings a smile to my face every time. I hope retirement brings many more smiles and family adventures.

It is hard to believe 45 years of service to Oxy has already passed. May we all have such stamina for stimulating scientific curiosity, hard work, and lifelong mentorship.

Bea is associate professor of health promotion sciences at the University of Arizona.

Kirk Bentzen ’91: Coming across the country as a wide-eyed first-generation college student, I had little idea what I was doing. I had hit a huge roadblock in organic chemistry the same semester I had discovered kinesiology. Lynn Mehl’s gentle influence helped me tremendously. My double major of kinesiology and psychology became the perfect launch point into a profession of service and caring as a physical therapist. From observing elementary school children in motor development to mirror tracing tasks in motor learning to advising my senior comps research on bilateral transfer of learning, Lynn’s courses were foundational and fun!

Lynn’s own service and caring of myself as one of her students became a model of mentoring compassion that I carried through my master’s and doctoral education as a physical therapist, into my clinical practice with patients, and eventually into my current leadership role as the clinical manager and residency program director at Adventist Health Therapy and Wellness Center in Glendale, a mere mile away from Oxy.

Unsurprisingly, Lynn continued to be a significant influence on my professional endeavors when she invited me to become a community member on Oxy’s Human Subjects Institutional Review Board. Within a few years of reconnecting on the IRB, Lynn and I developed together the incredibly successful physical therapy internship within the kinesiology department as a partnership between Oxy and the Therapy and Wellness Center. Lynn then invited me to join her as a part-time professor in kinesiology teaching anatomy, labs, and the introduction to kinesiology course when the department had a need. What a joy it has been to become a colleague in the department (and with the mentor!) that has meant so much to me for so long.

Even in the middle stages of my career as a therapist and educator, Lynn encouraged me to go back and finish the Ph.D. that I had talked to her about wanting to do when I was in my early 20s. With her mentoring and guidance, this dream culminated this past August where I successfully defended my dissertation. My life has had Lynn’s handprint on it every step of the way since my first year at Oxy. She has become so much more than a professor or a mentor. She is a wonderful friend.

Bentzen joined the Oxy faculty as an adjunct professor of kinesiology in 2014.