Ben Adelson, Educator
Ben Adelson, who inspired and guided many a fledgling journalist and passed along his love for the written word to countless students during his 32 years as a teacher, died today (6/9/11) at age 90.
Adelson began his teaching career at Sutter Jr. High School in the San Fernando Valley. After five years he transferred to Fairfax High School, where he taught English and journalism for a decade. He then moved on to Pierce College in Woodland Hills, where he taught for 16 years until his retirement in 1981. Adelson was part of the instructor team that raised the Pierce College Journalism Department into an award-winning, nationally-recognized entity. Pierce students and their publications consistently received highest honors from the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) and the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, among others. Adelson himself was recognized by the CNPA as a Community College Journalism Teacher of the Year
Adelson was known for his wickedly sharp wit, including an endless supply of puns, and for his exacting standards in matters from incisive word usage to the exercise of due diligence in information gathering. Though students feared the “red pen of Ben,” they also worked hard to gain his praise. He prized his relationships with his students and colleagues, and especially enjoyed team teaching journalism classes with Robert Scheibel, Tom Kramer and Mike Cornner, whom he called “three of the top teachers I ever met.”
He believed that one key to the department’s success was that “We had a low B.S. level. I seldom told students that my opinion was an absolute. I’d suggest they talk to another advisor and get another opinion.”
Born in Brooklyn on February 4, 1921, Adelson moved with his family to Tucson at age eight, and then to Los Angeles at 14. He graduated from Hollywood High School in 1937.
During WWII, Adelson served as a B-24 bombardier, based in Kunming in Southwest China. He had 300 hours of combat missions in 1943-44 in the China-Burma-India Theater, and earned five Air Medals and a Distinguished Flying Cross. He married Nancy Rowe of Port Arthur, Texas, in 1946. Their devoted marriage lasted 65years until his death.
Adelson graduated from the University of Southern California with the class of 1948, and went on to earn his master’s degree in English, also at USC. He began his teaching career in1949.
A devout Trojan, he once said he wanted his epitaph to be “Fight On!” Those words he also imparted to countless students along the way.
Former students Greg Meyer and Stacy Jenel Smith lunched with Ben Adelson for more than 30 years after their graduations, and several years ago they lovingly conspired with him in the editing of this obituary.
Following is a slide presentation shown at Ben Adelson’s memorial service, held in the Great Hall on the Pierce College campus, Nov. 6 2011.