Remembering Tom Pasqua... 

Dr. Thomas M. Pasqua was a stalwart supporter of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges for more than 30 years.  When he died unexpectedly of complications from surgery in early 1998, many people in the JACC community were devastated.  I was among them; I posted this message on the JACC faculty discussion group soon after Tom's death. 

    I'm sitting here at my computer, trying to cope with the news that Tom Pasqua is gone, that he never regained consciousness after his surgery. I need to share some of my remembrances of Tom; this seems like the right place to do it, if others online in the JACC faculty discussion group will indulge me. 

    I first met Tom almost 36 years ago when he was a young journalism teacher at La Serna High School in Whittier. Barely 24, he already had a B.A. from Whittier College, a master's degree from  UCLA and an impressive track record as a student journalist and a stringer for the Whittier Daily News. I was 19 then, a junior at Whittier College and a sports writer for the Daily News, covering a football game between La Serna and California High ("Calhi," Tom's alma mater). 

    During halftime, we talked about journalism education, a topic we discussed many other times over the next 35 years. He told me about a brand-new college in the area that I'd never heard of:  Orange County State College. He said OCSC was starting a journalism program under Bill Maxwell and Jim Alexander; Jim had been Tom's journalism adviser at Calhi. OCSC became Cal State Fullerton: I first heard of the place where I would spend the bulk of my teaching career from Tom Pasqua. 

    La Serna wasn't a bad place to teach, but Tom wanted to teach at the college level. In 1963, he went off to Michigan State to pursue a Ph.D. As I finished my B.A. at Whittier and went on to UCLA for my master's degree (with Tom's encouragement), I heard about Tom regularly from Rob Pasqua (his younger brother), by then a Whittier College student and later a close friend's roommate. 

    East Lansing just wasn't Tom's place; he returned to Whittier and La Serna High for 1964-65. Perhaps the most compelling thing that brought Tom back was his interest in a friend from his Calhi journalism days, a woman known as Sandy Burks to those of us who worked with her at the Daily News. Tom and Sandy were married in 1965. 

    1965 was a big year for me too. I was 22, finishing my master's degree at UCLA, and listening to Tom's advice about the advantages of college teaching. Remembering my own student days at El Camino College, I began applying for community college teaching positions. On one day I interviewed at Riverside City College and Southwestern College--and got job offers from both. I chose Riverside and then called Chester Devore, the president of Southwestern. I told Devore of my decision--and I told him I had a friend who would make a great J-prof at Southwestern. "Have him call me," Devore said. 

    Tom had told me about CSUF; now I could tell Tom about the college where he would spend the bulk of his teaching career. Tom went to see Devore on a Saturday--and returned home with the job. He and Sandy left Whittier for San Diego County. 

    During the late 1960s, Tom's career progressed--and his family grew. He was incredibly devoted to Bruce and Julie, and to Geoff and Alexis when they arrived. 

    By the early 1970s, Tom was no longer advising student publications at Southwestern: Chet Devore had not turned out to be the ideal college president from a journalism adviser's viewpoint. More than once I apologized to Tom for misreading the man. Tom decided it was time to finish his Ph.D. Taking a leave, he moved his young family to the University of Texas and became "Dr. Pasqua." 

    On one of the family's trips to Texas, there was a terrible auto accident. Miraculously, the Pasquas all survived, but the experience cemented the thing that was Tom's hallmark: the idea that in the final analysis, family is everything. His family always came first. 

    Armed with his Ph.D. in journalism, Tom returned to Southwestern but considered a variety of alternatives. He taught part time at Cal State Fullerton--and turned down a full-time position. When I was at Pepperdine, I also tried to get him to consider a position on that campus. His answer was always the same: his family had deep roots in San Diego, including Sandy's career as a journalist. He wouldn't budge, even though he wasn't teaching journalism at Southwestern in those days. (More than once the local newspaper commented on the absurdity of the fact that Southwestern had a guy with a Ph.D. in journalism--and a president who didn't want him teaching journalism.) 

    One of the most amazing things about Tom was the way he maintained ties to journalism education--and to JACC--through his years of teaching political science and philosophy at Southwestern. He served as JACC executive secretary and jumped at the chance to be editor of the Community College Journalist magazine. 

    He was a regular at Morro Bay nearly 30 years after he last advised the student newspaper at Southwestern, although he did teach journalism classes and advise the campus magazine in the post-Devore years. 

    Tom devoted endless hours to other causes in journalism education, too. From the late 1960s until the early 1980s, the California Journalism Articulation Committee struggled with the problem of transferring journalism credits from two-year to four-year schools. Tom was a mainstay on that committee, along with Art Margosian of Fresno State, Warren Mack of De Anza, Tom Nelson of Pepperdine and later Cerritos, Tom Kramer of Pierce, Jack Beisner of CNPA, and myself. There were other members over the years, but those are the ones I remember being there most if not all of the time.  (One of the toughest things for me to handle right now is my memories of the articulation committee. Art is gone.  So is "Mack." And Tom Nelson. And Jack. And now Tom Pasqua. At Morro Bay this year, I had dinner with Tom Kramer. I guess we'll go on with our lives, building our respective hideaways on acreage in the mountains, but GAAAWD, is this hard.) 

    I have many other memories of Tom Pasqua. One, of course, is our days as co-authors of Excellence in College Journalism (Wadsworth). It was a joy and an honor to have the names "Overbeck and Pasqua" linked by co-authorship and indexed together in the Library of Congress. 

    Then there are all the memories outside of journalism education. Tom got heavily into running and encouraged me to do the same. I did. He also got into real estate investing and encouraged me to do the same. I did. Were it not for Tom's influence (plus that of two other JACC real estate barons, Terry Itnyre and Wil Sims), my balance sheet would be very different than it is these days.  I've felt for years that I learned far more than I taught during my annual treks to Morro Bay to give law updates. 

    Then there were all the dark clouds we faced. Tom and Sandy were incredibly supportive as I went through my own personal traumas.  Finally, there were the struggles with the loss of family members. His mother, and then his father. My parents. The incredible loss of Karen, his brother Rob's wife, who couldn't have been more than 47 when she died. And Sandy's own frightening brush with death. 

    In times like these, what matters most is family. In that way, Tom was blessed far more than most of us: Tom was first of all a family man. One of the things that is hardest for me to handle is the knowledge that Tom won't be here to watch when Alexis becomes the next "Dr. Pasqua." Geeez, I'm glad none of you can see me right now... 

-Wayne Overbeck 
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