Sunday, April 09, 2006

"She became my hero and an inspiration to succeed"

Most of us can name a favorite teacher or teachers. Some of us can name a teacher whose influence on our life was profound or far-reaching. Few of us have an opportunity to honor such teachers in a very public manner.

Harold Haak, was valedictorian for the Class of 1953. But before Haak graduated from Madison Central High School, he struggled with grammar and proper speech. He credited his English teacher, Miss Elizabeth Ritzmann, for his success. "She became my hero and my inspiration to succeed," he told an interviewer in 2002. "She was the one teacher in particular who was caring, yet demanding and showed a special interest in me."

After graduating from Central, Haak earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then went on to earn a Ph.D. at Princeton. From 1980-1991, Haak served as president of California State University, Fresno.

After his retirement from Fresno State, university officials presented Haak with an honorary brick to be mounted on the "Friends of Education Honor Wall" in front of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at the entrance to the university. Haak chose to honor Miss Ritzmann by having her name inscribed on the brick.

When Haak died, in 2003, Fresno State President John. D. Welty praised Haak, calling him "an outstanding scholar who served Fresno state extremely well," and ordered the university's flags lowered to half-mast to honor Haak.

Click HERE for more photos of Haak during his career at Fresno State.

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