Professor continues after retirement

By Samuel Finch / Staff Writer

In the classroom (Allison Perez / Photo Editor)

By Samuel Finch / Staff Writer

Retirement is not the end of the road for many in today’s world.

Take, for instance, Ron Yoshino, who has a doctorate in United States history. Yoshino officially retired at the end of the last academic year in June after 25 years with Riverside City College and a total of approximately 30 years in higher education.

“I’ve always considered myself one of the lucky persons who retired because they wanted to retire, rather than because they hated their job,” Yoshino said.

Though he has retired, Yoshino continues to teach part time at RCC.

“I’ve always enjoyed the classroom and I continue to enjoy the classroom,” he said, “maybe even more now that I don’t have to carry such a heavy load for my teaching.”

Yoshino was born in the central San Joaquin Valley in the small agricultural of Livingston where he lived on a 140-acre farm. California was not the only state his family called home, however.

“Through my life I’ve had the opportunity to live in different parts of the country, including periods of time back east in Connecticut and Alabama,” Yoshino said. “For a person who eventually went into American history, that was a pretty good deal. I think it’s important for a historian to be able to speak with a certain kind of intimacy about different areas and different kinds of people because they are different and you can’t get that kind of difference just out of textbooks, it really helps to live amongst them as well.”

Yoshino began his undergraduate studies at Merced College, which at the time was a brand new community college, and was part of its second graduating class.

Once finished there, he went on to Cal State Fresno where he earned his bachelor’s in public address and communications and master’s in East Asian history. At that point he began work at Cal Poly Pomona as a part-time instructor.

“I’m not entirely sure what got me interested in studying history,” Yoshino said. “I think, like a lot of other people, I had a sudden realization that this is what I was interested in.”

“But I do remember at a very young, perhaps first grade or second grade, reading a lot of biographies,” he said. “Any good biographer, even at the level of text you read in first or second grade, creates a historical context. I mean, how can you understand a person in the past unless you understand where and how they lived?”

“And so I think that was rather indirectly how I became interested in people and the different lives that they lived,” he said. “Conversely, that also led me to an understanding of the historical matrix from which they came. That led me into history.”

Yoshino did not always know what he wanted to do with this interest, however.

“Actually, I did not always intend to teach,” Yoshino said. “Looking back on my life I guess I’ve always had a knack for teaching but I did not realize that it was going to be my life’s work.”

“I never used my bachelor’s degree in speech formally but the training I received in public address and communications formed the backdrop of my ability to lecture in the classroom, which I guess as a college professor didn’t hurt me at all,” he said with a laugh.

In 1985, Yoshino finished his doctorate in United States history from Claremont Graduate University. The following year, he was hired by RCC.

In addition to his teaching, Yoshino became involved with the Alpha Gamma Sigma honor society on campus as an adviser.

“I became involved in Alpha Gamma Sigma, the state community college honors society, when I first got here, partly because as a part timer at Cal Poly Pomona I did volunteer work in their history honors program and I always liked the students that I got to mix with,” he said. “So when I came here I made a beeline for the closest honors society and never left it.”

In his time with the chapter, it has continued to evolve.

“I think one of the proudest things about AGS is the way we have, over the past 25 years that I’ve been an adviser, become increasingly multinational, multiethnic, multiracial which I believe reinforces the notion that hard work and intelligence have no boundaries whatsoever,” Yoshino said.

As well as continuing to teach part time and advise the honors society, Yoshino has plans to spend more time with his wife, Dianna, and their four children.

“My wife and I like to be outdoors and and we like to fly fish,” he said. “There’s any number of lakes and rivers in the western United States that I’ve not emptied of fish yet and so I’d like to make a concentrated effort to do that.”

“I’m looking forward to an opportunity to see my children more frequently and bother them in their adult lives,” Yoshino said with a grin. “I think it’s time for me to bother them for a while.”

As the eldest of four, Yoshino also plans to spend more time with his siblings.

“In our busy lives we got separated a little bit and it’s time for me to start reacquainting myself with them and seeing them for more than just a weekend at a time,” he said. “I’m looking forward to enjoying the company of my siblings.”

On top of all of this, Yoshino hopes to do volunteer work, travel and publish more writings on his area of expertise, American military aviation history.

He also looks to the future with great optimism.

“I have nothing but the highest expectations for this new generation,” Yoshino said. “These will be the people who will take the pioneering effort of my generation, the post second World War baby boomers, in working in the area of equality which we have seen the expansion of genuine equality for people of color, for women, for the gay community. I am fully expecting that your generation will carry this forward into its logical conclusion, part of which we’ve seen in the election of an African American president, an absolutely unprecedented event in our history.”

“I see no reason on earth why this increasing democratization of our country, this increasing inclusiveness in which we break down barriers, will end before we make sure that everyone gets a chance to sit at the American dinner table and have a great full meal,” he said, “and I see no reason on earth, in my contact with young people, to doubt that will happen even better in your generation.”

“This is ultimately the promise of America, that each generation will, in one way or another, be better than the last, and it doesn’t have to measured in the dollar sign,” Yoshino said.

But of course, this is not the end of the road for Yoshino.

“I will happily continue teaching as long as the school will permit me,” he said with a wide smile.