John Auld (1940-2012): Historian Remembered for his Commitment to Students, University

One of California State University, Dominguez Hills Department of History’s earliest professors, San Pedro resident John William Auld, passed away on April 8 from complications of dementia. He was 71.

A Midwestern boy, Auld was born Dec. 30, 1940, in Marion, Ohio, and later moved with his family to Bucyrus, Ohio, where he graduated from Bucyrus High School in 1958. He attended The College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1962. In his senior year he received the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship award to pursue graduate education, and was accepted to Stanford University. He earned his master’s degree from Stanford in 1964 and his Ph.D., specializing in British history, in 1970.

Auld joined the faculty of California State University, Dominguez Hills—then-named California State College, Dominguez Hills—in 1968, at the start of only its fourth academic year. Classes were still being conducted on the Watt Campus across Victoria Street from its current location, and enrollment had just exceeded 1,000 students. He retired in 2000.

During his 32 years with the university, he saw much growth to the campus and played an active role in his department—serving as chair for several years—and within the university. He served on the Academic Senate faculty governing body and on various university committees.  But John’s true calling and love was teaching, and he taught not only his specialty, 19th century British history, but also a variety of interdisciplinary courses in the humanities, and even an elementary algebra course in the math department.

“Lois Feuer [professor of English], John and I team-taught an eight-unit linked course on the Renaissance sometime in the early 80s. I remember John’s calmness, competence, and sense of humor as he kept students interested and informed,” said Lyle Smith, emeritus professor of English.

Donald McPhee, emeritus professor of history, first dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and former provost/vice president of academic affairs, fondly remembers the 17 years the two worked together.

“John brought a thoughtful and balanced presence to the department as it grew rapidly in those exciting and sometimes turbulent times,” McPhee said. “Of the images I carry of John Auld from my years as vice president, one of the strongest was his role as a faculty representative on the Council on Programs and Priorities, a university-wide planning and resource allocation body I chaired…. John Auld’s contributions to the unique experiment that is Dominguez Hills are significant and will endure. I am proud to have been his colleague and friend.”

In addition to being on faculty, Auld also held various administrative roles, including assistant to the university president (under President Don Gerth) and coordinator of School Relations.  It was while coordinator of School Relations in the 1980s that he met his wife, Mary Auth, emerita professor of public administration who at the time was the coordinator of the information center. They married in April of 1987.

“John was a kind and gentle soul with a keen mind and an infectious smile,” Auth said. “He loved life, and was I was lucky enough to have shared almost 30 years of mine with him—first as a colleague, then as a friend, and then as his wife. Throughout the years, Dominguez Hills was such an important part of our lives, and we were both devoted to its mission, its students, and the colleagues and friends we were privileged to meet there.

Auld is survived by Mary, and his children from a previous marriage, James Auld and Karen Hatzakis, who spent a lot of their childhood on the CSU Dominguez Hills campus, and granddaughter, Athena Hatzakis.  The family requests donations in his honor go to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration or the Alzheimer’s Association.

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