Notes from the Class of ’68


Imagine a campus with just three buildings, buzzing with bulldozers, and a student body so small you knew nearly everyone. This was UC San Diego for the charter class of freshmen, who graduated 50 years ago this year.

“One of greatest things was being around a small group of peers,” says Vicki McKenna, who with her fellow ’68 alum husband, David, established the Revelle College Inaugural Class Scholarship. Twenty-five classmates have since contributed to the scholarship, totaling $80,000 and endowing it in perpetuity. “I had two scholarships when I attended in the ’60s,” says McKenna. “I wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise, so I know how important it is to students.”

These were our forebears—the beanie-wearing, melon-dropping pioneers—and this is only a sample of where they went over the past half-century:

“In the fifty years since graduation, I have enjoyed a fulfilling life aided by the diverse requirements of Revelle college. I graduated with a major in history, emphasis on Greece and Rome, and minor in math. I had no career in mind. I was employed by UCSD at the time. I married in 1967. In 1971 my husband accepted an assignment from work to spend 6 months in Italy and I took a leave of absence from working at the now named Geisel Library. Who would have guessed that I would be using my education to enjoy the history of Italy, Greece, and Israel? To secure lodging in Austria in broken German, my language for the proficiency exam? After our return the states, we started a family. I stayed home for a while. I still was not completely satisfied. I obtained an AA degree in accounting. I had two clients, but still I wanted more. I obtained a teaching credential with a supplementary subject/minor allowing me to teach Math and use my science and research skills. Teaching was exhilarating and exhausting. In 1994 we moved to Washington, D.C., where I began another career. Because of the breadth of my education, I thrived as a paralegal specialist to a visually and hearing-impaired attorney. Humanities, linguistics, science, math and research skills were all utilized. I retired as a program specialist in 2013 and still reside in Northern Virginia. Thank you UCSD!”

—Judith Stolarsky Gechter ’68

“After graduation, I went to work at a San Diego firm in the defense industry. I left that job to attend SDSU to obtain a MBA in Finance. I then was involved in several small businesses after which I went to work at the corporate headquarters of Jack-in-the-Box restaurants. I left there to accept a position as Director of Administrative Services for the City of El Cajon, from which I retired in 2005. Since retiring my wife and I travel often—especially to see our two granddaughters in Arkansas.”

—Bob Troisi ’68

“Within a year of graduating I was caught in The Draft. I spent 2 years working as a Clinical Chemist at the army hospital at Fort Ord. Upon discharge I started working on a second degree in microbiology. A young woman in one of my classes told me of an opening at the UCSD Medical Center for a Clinical Chemist. So I began a 3-year career working for the U, also have an MBA, was on the University’s CAP (College of American Pathologists) inspection team, and have now been retired for 11 years. I’ve been married for 44 years to my wife Monica and have 3 children and 2 grandchildren. We spend our time traveling as we are able here and in Europe.”

—Richard Gattra ’68

“I graduated with a BA in biology in 1968 and promptly enlisted in Navy Flight School at Pensacola, Florida. I went on to fly for the Navy from 1968 until 1972. I left the Navy in 1972 and became a flight instructor/charter pilot with Jimsair Aviation Services out of Lindbergh field. I found my dream job in 1974 when I applied to and was hired by an all cargo airline, the Flying Tiger Line. I was furloughed for 2 years and went back into flight instructing/charter flying with a company in Tampa, Florida. Recalled in 1976, I spent the rest of my working years flying for Flying Tigers (the largest all air cargo airline in the world, at the time) I flew B-727s, DC-8-63s and B747s worldwide, during that period. I completed my career flying A300s for Fedex when they purchased FTL in order to acquire their worldwide, and particularly, their trans-pacific routes. I was reluctantly required to retire in 2006 due to the age 60 rule for pilots, in place at the time. I have been enjoying retirement with my wife, Bobbi, for the last 12 years with travel and growing bromeliads, an interest I developed after retirement.”

—Albert Evans ’68

“Although I majored in Spanish and ended up working in accounting, Revelle’s science curriculum was invaluable in understanding and supporting my husband in his engineering career at SAIC and both our daughters in their careers in the sciences.  I’m currently enjoying the grandkids, family, friends, and traveling.”

—Barbara (Beasley) Helland ’68

“I continued my education at SDSU, completing all coursework on an MBA in Marketing in 1972.  I married my beautiful wife, Pam, on 10/2/71 (1968 classmates Dennis Betcher and Dave Shine were groomsmen!).  We have two children: Jason (43) and Erin (40), and two beautiful grandchildren: Kaitlyn (5) and Kaz (3), that live in Seattle, WA.

I remained in San Diego and have lived in Tierrasanta since 1977.  For over 33 years I worked in Sales and Marketing positions, selling antibodies and purified proteins for use in research and clinical diagnostic kit manufacturing.  Employers included: Beckman Instruments, Calbiochem, Biozyme Laboratories, Scripps Laboratories, HTI Bio-Products, Strategic BioSolutions, Cliniqa Corp. and Fitzgerald Industries. I retired at age 67.

I have traveled with my wife to England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France and Mexico. For our 50th Wedding Anniversary in October, 2021, we are planning a 2 week guided tour of Italy.  I have traveled on business to Japan (11 trips), Dusseldorf, Germany (7 trips), Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea.

I am enjoying retirement tremendously!  I joined the Kiwanis Club of Tierrasanta in April, 2014, and I’ve been the club Secretary for the past 3 years.  My wife and I have had season tickets to the Old Globe Theatre for the past 20 years.  We also enjoy attending concerts and going to the movies.  For my health and needed exercise, I walk my 12 year old dog, Maggie, ~2 miles every day but Sunday (which is a day of rest!).”

—David West ’68

“UCSD was an amazing event in my life history. It was so very difficult for me, esp. coming from a high school that didn’t challenge me much. I improved my critical thinking ten fold, was inspired by the amazing faculty, and challenged to my very roots of existence by the curriculum.

I majored in Biology and was founder of the pre-med club. I had planned to go on to the first year of the UCSD med school, but Organic Chemistry shook the living daylights out of my medical ambitions.

I was the first student given Computer Programmer salary (a huge $3.50 per hour, the minimum wage was $1.25 then) and Programmer status at the University. As a self-created job, I converted the Registrar and Admissions office from total punched card processing to computer records processing. I created a scheduling program from scratch that used mark sense computer cards to inquire as to a students class preferences and generated a  class schedule from that information. I was popular with many professors who were late sleepers when they learned I made up the class schedule.

I was one of a very first and few music minors at the University and created the first ever music symbolic language to print music as a senior project. This was before individual display terminals or graphic printers were available, so the music was plotted on an ink plotter. My music professor was Jeff Raskin, who went on to be an inventor of the Apple Macintosh computer.

My career went into computer programming and I stayed in that field most of my life. I started the world’s first Gigabit/second fiber-optic based intelligent network company in 1983 serving the supercomputer business. After 7 years, we crashed and burned because we couldn’t keep up with the fast evolving marketplace in networking and computers.

Since then, I’ve become interested in photography and have traveled the USA in our RV for 15 years (until last year) doing photography. My work can be seen here:  I married my college sweetheart, another UCSD first class graduate, Sharon Sutton. Sharon passed away in the mid-1990’s and I have since remarried my current wife, Donna. I have two children and two grandchildren. We are now living in Idaho because its the only place I can afford that has beautiful scenery to photograph. I still work for a living for McGraw-Hill Book company, I do programming for an RV Park, and I do photography and web pages for a wildlife refuge. Life is full and good, and getting harder to navigate with this old bod!

I’ve attached a couple pics from the UCSD archives. One is our version of stuffing ourselves in a phone booth, but in a taxi trunk. The other on Revelle Plaza. I’m the nerdy looking guy on the left with the briefcase. That was prior to the invention of backpacks for things other than hiking into the wilderness.”

—James Perdue ’68

Like many of us, I started in math but ended up with a degree in economics. My diploma says I graduated in September 1968, due to taking the summer to pass the foreign language proficiency exam.

“After graduating, and some grad school draft avoidance, I worked for General Atomic Company across the street from UCSD analyzing nuclear power reactor sales.  That job ended with the energy crisis in the mid ’70s. I then went to Washington state to work for a government contractor at the Department of Energy (DOE) Hanford site. I moved to Colorado in 1985 to work on the environmental cleanup of DOE’s nuclear weapons plant called Rocky Flats. I also worked at DOE cleanup sites in Idaho and New York until I retired in 2015. I was the Business Manager/CFO for a couple of joint venture companies formed to do this nuclear cleanup work for the DOE.

Claire (SDSU class of 1969) and I were married in 1970 and have three grown “kids” and three grandkids.   We’ve enjoyed following the sports careers of our kids, and now are following our grandkids around the country.  We also like to travel, primarily to beaches in the Caribbean (we love to snorkel and my passion is saltwater fly fishing). We live in Erie, Colorado on Colorado National Golf Club (home of the University of Colorado golf teams).

Good luck to the Triton teams as they move to Division 1. The class of 1968 was also responsible for integrating varsity athletics into the rigors of UCSD.   I was a member of the first UCSD varsity basketball team. No scholarships, but two free pairs of Chuck Taylors!  That team of walk-ons beat Cal State Fullerton in 1968 on Steve Edney’s last second put-back after someone’s air-ball. There should be a statue!”

—Dennis Betcher ’68