Founding Dean at Cal State Fullerton Dies
By MIMI KO CRUZ
JAN. 8, 1998 12 AM PT
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
FULLERTON — Ernest A. Becker, the founding dean of students and an emeritus philosophy professor at Cal State Fullerton, died Monday. He was 83.
University officials Wednesday recalled Becker as a key figure during Cal State Fullerton’s first 10 years, when it was Orange County State College and had offices at Fullerton Union High School.
Becker joined the college in 1959, a year before it opened on State College Boulevard.
He typed the university’s first student catalog and launched the first student newspaper. He also helped students stage the first intercollegiate elephant race, which attracted 15 entries from universities including Harvard. More than 10,000 spectators attended the event, and 82 reporters recorded it in newspapers nationwide.
Becker, a Fullerton resident who was a minister before being hired at Cal State Fullerton, also was the university’s first athletic director. He even played on the school’s tennis team in the early days.
“He would accompany us with the team so we got to be very close friends,” said Alex Omalev, 77, the university’s first basketball coach. “I will sure miss him. He was a wonderful man, who always had the students’ concerns at heart. It was, for me, a privilege to work with him.”
Until 1977, when he retired, Becker served as director of the Career Planning and Placement Center and taught philosophy courses. He returned to the campus in 1987 to work part-time as the coordinator of academic appeals and retired again in 1991.
In his honor, the Titan Student Union’s outdoor performance center on campus was renamed the Becker Amphitheater in 1988.
He died of complications related to pneumonia.
Becker’s wife, Helen, died in 1990. He is survived by his son, Jon Becker, of Ventura.
A graveside service will be held at 10 am. today at Loma Vista Memorial Park in Fullerton.
IN ADDITION: Dr. Becker was U.S. Navy chaplain during World War Two.
- 1936 Graduate of Amherst College, BA received in history and philosophy
- USC graduate degree received in divinity
- USC doctoral degree received in higher education