Heifetz Memorial Scholarship Honors Champion of Returning Students
At a reception to launch the David L. Heifetz Memorial Scholarship Fund last January, the CSU Dominguez Hills community gathered to remember the chair and director of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) and the Program for Adult College Education (PACE). Faculty, staff, current and former students, along with his wife Gayle Heifetz, registration clerk, College of Extended Education, daughter Emily, and son Alex, remembered the educator’s dedication to the returning adult students who populated the PACE program. They recalled his commitment to helping them against all odds to earn their college degrees despite their absence from an academic setting for many years.
But mostly, they thought of how he would have been annoyed at all the fuss.
“Except for the food, David would have hated this,” laughed Myrna Donohoe, emeritus professor, Interdisciplinary Studies. “He was a real character, and would have preferred it if we had all come in baseball caps and cutoffs. He didn’t believe in ceremony. But we all knew that he believed in his students.”
After his death last May, Heifetz’colleagues decided that the best way to honor him would be through a yearly endowed scholarship, awarding $500 each year to an IDS/PACE student. A committee of faculty and staff, established the scholarship and planned the reception on Jan. 26, including Gayle Heifetz; Patricia Kalayjian, assistant professor and chair, IDS/PACE; Cathy Jacobs, lecturer, IDS; Joanne Zitelli, associate dean, College of Extended Education; Anne Garrett, thesis assistant for Graduate Studies and Research; Gary Levine, professor, IDS/PACE; Larry Ferrario, professor of English; Annie Watanabe-Rocco, project coordinator, Enhancing Critical Literacy Project; Vivian Price, assistant professor, IDS/PACE; Dexter Bryan, professor of sociology; Margaret Gordon, dean, College of Extended Education; and Frank Stricker, professor of history.
“Since David was chair when IDS became a department, we thought a scholarship would be the best living tribute we could think of for him,” says Jacobs. “He was really committed to the underdog, and wanted to see people move out of poverty into the middle class. He thought education was the key to that.”
Heifetz’ no-nonsense approach to propelling his students to success was appreciated by IDS/PACE enrollees, most of whom were working adults. Ferrario notes that his colleague “challenged them, unlike some professors who might be merely friendly. He would say, ‘Realistically, this is what you have to do.’ And at first, people would think that was overwhelming. Then he would say, ‘I’ll help you to get there.’”
Upon his arrival at CSUDH in the 1970s, Heifetz was instrumental in the evolution of the Small College Program, a non-traditional liberal arts curriculum established in the 1970s, into what is now IDS/PACE. He received a commendation from the County of Los Angeles in 2003 for his efforts to develop off-campus sites for IDS/PACE courses, affording county employees more convenient access to their classes.
“David worked hard to ensure that all students could get a quality liberal arts education that would not only improve their job prospects but their lives,” notes Kalayjian.
Approximately $7,000 has been raised so far to endow the scholarship, which will be awarded for the first time this spring. There are plans for another fundraising event this fall. To be eligible for the scholarship, an IDS/PACE major must have completed 90 units at CSUDH, with a 3.5 institutional GPA. Financial need is also a consideration.
“The creation of funds like the David Heifetz Memorial Scholarship is important for many reasons,” says Greg Saks, associate vice president, Development. “Not only do they allow friends and colleagues the opportunity to honor a talented educator and mentor, but they provide the financial assistance that can often make the difference between our students attending or not attending CSUDH.”
“Under David’s leadership, IDS/PACE became one of the most popular majors at CSUDH,” says Kalayjian. “More than 2,800 students have graduated from this program to take leadership roles in their communities and careers. He would be enormously proud to know that his friends, colleagues, and former students have joined together to honor him by giving financial assistance to deserving students in the years to come.”
For more information on contributing to the David L. Heifetz Memorial Scholarship Fund, contact Greg Saks at (310) 243-2182.
- Joanie Harmon-Whetmore
Photos above: Original art by
Annie Watanabe-Rocco, project coordinator, Enhancing Critical Literacy Project (ECLP), set the tone for an evening of fond memories and old friends.
Gayle Heifetz, registration clerk, College of Extended Education (CEE), at center, enjoys the company of her husband's longtime friends and colleagues, with daughter Emily and son Alex.
Larry Ferrario, professor of English, pays tribute to a favorite colleague, wearing one of Heifetz' signature L.A. Dodgers hats.
A collective effort by faculty, staff, alumni, and friends made the Heifetz Memorial Scholarship reception possible. (L-R) Joan Ferrario; Annie Watanabe-Rocco, project coordinator, ECLP; Gayle Heifetz, registration clerk, CEE; and Joanne Zitelli, associate dean, CEE. Photos by Joanie Harmon-Whetmore