A Handful of Faces
Get to know some of the people who make up our very own city of La Verne: their lives, their hobbies and their secrets...
At the heart of the city of La Verne, the university is home to many outstanding individuals, but only one is considered the big man on campus. Okay, maybe two, but in this case we are not talking about President Steve Morgan, we are talking about Eric Bishop, or EB, as he is commonly referred to by the students.
EB is student-tested and teacher-approved.
Students at ULV know who to look for when they need help.
“I don’t want students walking around not knowing the answer to something they should know the answer to,” Bishop says.
Despite his many duties as associate dean of Academic Support and Retention Services, he still has plenty of time to help those whom he considers the most important people at the university: the students.
“We should be dream enablers,” Bishop says. “Students walk in here with a dream, and our goal is to help them achieve that dream.”
Bishop was born in Los Angeles, but has lived in the La Verne and Pomona area since he was 18. He began his work with the university’s communications department, were he found a passion for journalism.
As a kid living with a single parent, he remembers being a straight-A student. That changed soon after he arrived at college.
“I didn’t understand the mechanics of studying,” Bishop says. “Everything had always come so easy for me.” This is a problem many students run into when attending college for the first year, and Bishop’s goal is to help them overcome that challenge and help them feel comfortable approaching professors and faculty.
In his free time, which isn’t much, he likes to listen to music, including classical, jazz, pop, some piano and what he refers to as “good hip hop” that has rhythm and flows. Some of his favorites include, Ice Cube, Tupac and Public Enemy, although he admits he cannot listen to everything they write.
Bishop is happily married but has no children yet, although he has been known to say he has 1,500 children at the university. So, when he decides to become a father, he’ll have plenty of experience.
Adventure was always the highlight of Scott Pickwith’s lifestyle. The La Verne police chief not only patrolled the city as an officer, he has served his department as a detective, patrol supervisor, watch commander and detective bureaus commander for 21 years.
“I’ve enjoyed each and every one of these positions,” says Pickwith, who has been chief since 2005. “They all bring unique challenges.”
Pickwith grew up in Covina with his parents and a younger sister. Family vacations are some of his fondest childhood memories.
“We used to travel a lot, but when we traveled it was always an adventure,” Pickwith says. “My dad tended to believe he could do anything without much instruction. We never had a plan B.”
But too many misadventures as a child made him a planner as a grown-up. Unlike his father, Pickwith plans ahead and always has a plan B. Nowadays, Pickwith’s first priority is his wife and two daughters.
Today, when he is not in his office, Pickwith enjoys landscaping and remodeling his home. He likes reading, mostly historical novels and, if he’s in the mood for it, he’ll even pop in a CD and jam to the music of Toby Keith, Kerry Underwood or Brooks and Dunn.
La Verne need not fear crime. We have our own personal hero: Scott Pickwith.
Fred Yaffe has thousands of eyes. No, he is not monster. But don’t be surprised if, when you walk into his office, you feel like someone is looking at you, because more than likely one of his countless eyeballs will be.
I know what you’re thinking: eyeballs? But really, it’s not as weird as it might seem.
The dean of the University of La Verne’s College of Arts and Sciences began his career studying the nature of perception or, to be specific, visual perception. Hence, the countless eyeballs.
The collection began in Washington, D.C., when Yaffe found a two-foot by four-foot image of Marilyn Monroe’s eyes to hang on his office wall at the National Institute of Mental Health. The collection has grown ever since.
“I just collect them, I don’t necessarily understand them,” Yaffe says.
Although this 62-year-old self-proclaimed academic takes his work seriously, his life does not revolve just around school. His favorite movies are not about school, and his favorite books are not textbooks. “I read any book that has a bloody cover with a knife on it.” Mystery novels are his favorite, although sometimes it doesn’t hurt to throw in a historical novel. He likes listening to music, although he might not get to listen to it too often.
“I’ve got an iPod at home, but my wife won’t let me listen to it because she says I won’t listen to her,” Yaffe says.
But at school, it’s not unusual to find his office walls vibrating to the sound of Afro-pop. When he’s feeling especially nostalgic, the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” brings back fond memories.
Music has been a part of his life from an early age. He was in the marching band at school and he played the piano, although he won’t tell many people because, as he claims, “I have no sense of rhythm and no sense of melody.”
Yaffe is more than just the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of La Verne. If you have met him, then you already know this. If you haven’t, I can only assure you that he is more than meets the eye.
For University of La Verne music professor Reed Gratz, who grew up in a home full of music, playing an instrument was as normal as brushing his teeth.
“My brother took lessons, my mother played the piano, and I was eager to start,” Gratz says.
In his younger years, Gratz also enjoyed playing football for his father, who was a successful college coach. But when he was 15, he began to focus on music, which became easier once he found his instrument: piano.
Gratz continued to be active in sports, including football and tennis, and says sports and music complement each other well.
“Music and sports together was something very common when I was growing up,” Gratz says. “It’s good for the spirit and the body.”
Gratz now plays with the Reed Gratz Band, a band that, according to him, does not really exist. It’s just a bunch of friends coming together and having a good time.
“I think every musician has their own band in their head,” Gratz says. For Gratz, teaching music means he gets to work every day on something he loves. When it comes to listening to it, Gratz’s taste ranges from Bach to Prince.
“It’s all the same notes,” Gratz says. “It’s like Duke Ellington said, ‘There are only two types of music: good and bad.’”
When Gratz is not teaching he enjoys spending time with his wife, Judith, who is from Amsterdam, and their young son, Joah. And, if there is time to travel, there is nothing better than spending time on his houseboat in Holland.
“I spend at least three months a year in Holland,” Gratz says. “It’s very important to me because it helps rejuvenate me.”
But students at the university don’t need to worry; he always comes back, rejuvenated and eager to pass on that love for music.
“Sixty-two days to the endless summer.” That’s what’s written on Dan Harden’s board in one Bonita High School classroom. Harden has enjoyed his 27 years as a teacher in La Verne, but is looking forward to retirement this summer when he will have more time to dedicate to his other job, as a La Verne city council member.
Harden was born in Long Beach, but what he remembers most is growing up on a farm.
“All the farm animals were my pets,” Harden says. “Sometimes on a farm, your pets become breakfast,” he says half-jokingly.
Later, Harden spent a lot of time in the West Covina area, and he eventually enrolled in Mt. San Antonio College. But his life as a student was interrupted by the Vietnam War. Harden enlisted in the Air Force and was shipped to Vietnam in a matter of months. Upon his return home, Harden attended Cal Poly Pomona and received a bachelor’s degree in history.
“I wanted to find out why I needed to go to the Vietnam War,” Harden says.
His teaching career was what led him to his second career as a member of La Verne’s City Council. Although, as he puts it, his careers have merged into one.
“Over the years it’s all meshed. It seems like the job is more about serving the community,” Harden says. “Whether I do it in this building or that building, it’s all the same.”
His career as a councilman began 14 years ago when his son asked about how the city council elections work and if there were any challengers. Harden’s response: “Let’s find out.”
They drove to City Hall and learned that there were in fact no challengers. Harden decided to run, and before he knew it he was a new city council member.
His kids often accuse Harden of being a ‘60s fanatic and only listening to the Beach Boys, but Harden disagrees.
“Hey! I like Jimmy Buffet, too.”
The perfect bands for an endless summer.