Where art meets science

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By Erika Perez

The jungle landscape mural outside the Life Science building was created by former Riverside City College instructor Sam Huang in 1975 with help of about 20 children including his daughter (Stephanie Sisombath)

By Erika Perez

The history of Riverside City College is created in part by the diverse community that has come through it.

One characteristic of all RCC students and faculty is the will for survival and Sam Huang, retired instructor, exemplifies this.

Outside the Life Science building one can find a mural created in the summer of 1975 by Huang.

“Of course this is the oldest, the environmental mural . . . my first one in New York is no longer there. I had 3 or 4 in Washington and they also died by the way side after a few years,” he said.

The RCC mural was made thanks to a faculty grant. It was made with the help of about 20 children that he used as environmental classes here on campus.

“There are 105 animals throughout it,” he said about the jungle landscape inspired by nineteenth century French painter Henry Rousseau.

This mural is one of approximately 10 found throughout the Inland area created by Huang. Another can be found at the DMV on Brockton, Grant Elementary and two at Parkview Medical Hospital.

“I have another one at March Air Museum, dedicated to Gen. Chenault who saved my life,” he said.

Huang was born in China and lived there during World War II at which time he suffered a minor injury to his leg due to a bombing. Unfortunately, he developed an infection which later turned into tuberculosis and infected his leg, kidneys, and lung.

Chenault had found out about an experimental drug being tested at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington and requested to have the young Huang put in the program.

“I went to Walter Reed and there or maybe even before Walter Reed they had to take off a leg and take out one kidney, but then in those days tuberculosis was the number one killer,” Huang said.

Streptomycin, the experimental drug, did eventually cure Huang’s tuberculosis at the age of 21, but only after 11 years of relapses. While recovering from TB relapses, Huang was lucky enough to get into a medical technology rehab which sparked his love for the sciences.

“We used to laugh because we would get 25 cents an hour and you were allowed to work four hours a day, so we would get $1 a day,” he said.

Huang received his Bachelor Degree of fine arts from State University at New Paltz in New York but eventually returned to school and obtained his Master’s and doctorate in biology from St. John’s University in Queens.

In 1974 Huang moved to Riverside and began teaching at RCC. He taught biology, environmental science, and health science for 30 years at RCC.

In 2000, at the age of 60, Huang was introduced to tap dancing by an RCC disabled student as part of an exercise regiment for amputees. He has since performed at two military hospitals and entered and won first place trophies at three competitions. Currently Huang has been asked to join the Army’s Wounded Warriors and would like to continue performing and helping returning soldiers by teaching tap or readjusting to civilian life. It is very important to him to make people aware of the troubles and torment facing returning soldiers.

Huang lives in Riverside with his wife and five children, as well as 10 grandchildren who he passes his love for the arts to. His 10-year-old grandson, Mathew, plays the bagpipes and performed this past summer with his grandfather at March Air Base as part of a USO show.

His 12-year-old grandson has a water color piece hanging at Riverside Art Museum next to a piece of by grandfather, as part of the monthly Art Walk.

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