Monday, September 10, 2007


Gerald Fecht

Notre Dame High School

Class of 1957

Jerry Fecht was born Mexico, Missouri, where it is said that the original Santa Fe Trail began. Fecht is Alsatian name pronounced with a Helvetian accent - hence "fate." His working class family moved often, living in Washington State, Iowa, Missouri, California and Nebraska. By the time he enrolled at Notre Dame High School, he had attended 11 schools.
A Christian Brother came to Jerry's 9th grade class in Omaha, Nebraska and convinced the boy that he could serve the Lord and live in the warm Napa Valley at the same time. The 13 year old got a job in Greek restaurant, earned money for a Grayhound ticket and traveled alone to California.

St. John's minor seminary on 3rd and Detroit in Hollywood was Jerry's new home. The school moved the following year inside the Mission San Fernando. As much as he loved living in the Fairfax district, Jerry hated the confinement of the mission. He wrote his parents in the Midwest that he would come home in the fall, but left the seminary in June.

A summer of sleeping on the beach, staying with friends, and exploring Los Angeles, came to an abrupt end when his parents discovered his whereabouts. The Fechts quit their jobs and came immediately to Van Nuys, where it took much cleverness to gain control over a boy who had been away for two years and free all summer in the city. Fall arrived, and with it enrollment at Notre Dame High School.

Jerry absolutely loved Notre Dame! He had the good fortune of joining the Speech Club and falling under the influence of Brother John Doran, who molded a marvelous bunch of kids into one of the most successful speech and debate teams in Southern California. Out of that speech class there also arose the wonderful zany and secret society of the Atonic League. (The Brothers never discovered how Das Liberator, the underground newsletter of the Atonic League was distributed. Perhaps they should have paid closer attention to the boys who carried the school's announcements to homerooms - all were sworn members of the League.) With Alex-aton von Nefer Kufu Bryant-heart (the reincarnation of Rob Roy), as our kilted leader, high school was one wild adventure after another. When someone, (I think it was Jay Whitney), got the idea of stacking the first meeting of every school club - League members became the presidents of everything and the student council was in Bert Falvo's words "forever in the hands of the people!"

Jerry gave little thought about college. In his family, it was considered an achievement to finish high school. His summer was spent working at Hughes Market and attending training schools in the Navy Reserve. September arrived and Notre Dame pals went off to colleges, joined the Brothers of Holy Cross or got married. On a lark, Jerry enrolled at Los Angeles Valley College.
Waiting to buy textbook, Jerry encountered Roy LoBianco (NDHS 1956). "LoBo" pointed out that none of his friend's classes were "transferable." "You had better come to our meeting Sunday night. We make sure our guys get the right advice", said Roy. Shortly after Jerry and Bill Westmyer pledged Phi Delta Psi Fraternity and were surrounded by ambition and determination. He became student body treasurer and fraternity president.

Jerry transferred to the University of Southern California, where he majored in history and government, became involved in the campaign of Adlai E. Stevenson, and was elected president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Involved with student politics, he worked for the election of John F. Kennedy.

Graduation brought the reality of student loans and Jerry returned to the grocery store. 1962, a time of self-pity and confusion, ended when he discovered that USC had just created an Education program for classroom interns and student teaching. Jerry embraced the $125 a month stipend, and returned to school.

In his first year of teaching at Patrick Henry Jr. High School in Granda Hills, Jerry taught the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. The following year, he was hired by the Burbank Unified School District, where he taught the 10th, 11th and 12th grades. He coached Burbank High's speech club and student council, and of course, checked hall passes. To his everlasting fortune, Janne Shreves a young Pomona College teacher was hired at the same time. In 1967, the couple was married at St. Francis de Sales church in Studio City. That summer, the Burbank Human Relations Council and American Jewish Committee gave Jerry a fellowship at Loyola University.

Three years passed and Jerry was asked to start Burbank's "continuation school." It was to be a "catch all" for kids who could not fit into normal classroom situations. In the 1960s towns like Burbank had no "public" problems such as juvenile crime, addictions or kids who had been abused or neglected. Jerry had 40 students, many of who were wards of the court in a high school deemed unsafe during an earthquake. Jerry loved his "misfits", but six of his kids were dead by the end of the first year. He was honored as teacher of the year by the Chamber of Commerce.

A Master of Science degree in Education came as he finished an 8 year commitment to the Naval Air Reserve. He began doctoral studies at UCLA, accepted a teaching position at Moorpark College, and completed his Ph.D. at USC. Jerry was appointed Director of Student Services for the college, just as the Vietnam War era came full force. Two sons, Brendan Patrick and Damon Carlyle arrived. The war ended and Jerry returned to the classroom, won 6 Teacher of the Year awards and grew desperately broke.

Financial salvation came when Jerry was offered a consultant's position for West Valley marketing firm. The company specialized in youth and college marketing. He wrote A Complete Parents Guide to Soccer, edited Soccer Now magazine for AYSO, helped to develop the Ford-Pele Soccer Scholarship program, became an advisor to the NBA Players Association, developed the General Motors (College) Spirit Award, as well as programs for Saturn, 3-M, Reebok, and several US sports federations. He worked on the 1981 Bicentenial of Los Angeles and the 1984 Olympic Games.

He left the marketing company to form Anchor Education (the company and the foundation). Among his adventures was the creation of Space Place for JPL, Heroes of American Labor for Saturn and the UAW and two books for the City of Los Angeles (Discovering My L.A. and Artventures.)

Jerry is serious about art.
In 2004, he retired from Moorpark College and became president of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. He is determined that the Valley should have a great museum of history and culture.

Jerry invites his classmates from the class of 1957 to join with him in building the museum community, an adventure of a lifetime.

1 comment:

Gerald R. Fecht said...

I was sitting at my computer this morning wondering why my classmates weren't getting their photos and bios in to this blog. I made a list of who needed to get stuff in --- and, realized that I hadn't done my own.......... so, here it is - unedited

Working on a college campus during the Vietnam war was amazing. I loved it.