Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Congratulations Matthew Jaffe

AVC’s Newest Scholar in Residence

May 18th there was our yearly Faculty Recognition event, and among the many pleasures the day provides, we get to learn who the next Scholar in Residence will be.

This year’s winner received a spontaneous and very sincere standing ovation when his name was announced: the History Department’s deeply beloved Dr. Matthew Jaffe.

Trained at UCLA (after an initial start at my alma mater, UC Irvine), Dr. Jaffe was teaching at Cal State Fullerton when AVC hired him in 1990. He also had been an editor at the very prestigious UC Press once upon a time—I still rely on his expertise when typesetting manuscripts to this day.

Of course back then manuscripts were hand-typed; he and I sound like real dinosaurs when we talk about typing by hand fifty-page grad school papers, including trying to eyeball the bottom margins, to leave enough room for the footnotes.

Now he has joined the modern era. While he doesn’t have a tattoo or Twitter account, here is a shot from Pasadena recently on the day he bought his first laptop. He and I may be dinosaurs, but we’re very hip dinosaurs.

Nobody has been an advisor to more student activity clubs than Dr. Jaffe, and few people on campus have taught as many successive generations of same-family students. He has been to more campus sporting events, more Flex talks, and more rehearsals for the Vagina Monologues than anybody else at AVC. Few come in as early as he does in the morning—or stay as late. He is a treasured part of the campus culture.

Something most people don’t appreciate is the quality of scholarship before he came here. Have you ever seen these panels at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art?

Dr. Jaffe can read these inscriptions, and indeed, studied these very panels as part of his PhD dissertation. I am hoping to talk him into leading a field trip to LACMA now that these Assyrian panels have been rehung in a new, more prominent gallery.

His is an amazing Renaissance mind. Among the topics we have talked about recently are the parallels between the present war in Afghanistan and the British debacles in the 19th century, who was the best (and worse) U.S. President, Hemingway’s fishing prowess, the influences of Greek culture on modern architecture, and the history of the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland. It often seems as if no Flex panel (on anything from the Koran to the movie franchise for Pirates of the Caribbean) would be complete without his presence—or at least his selfless mentorship.

A former student summarized it best when she told me, “AVC has dozens of good teachers. But Dr. Jaffe is not just good, not just great—he’s the very BEST.”

Congratulations to the newest Scholar in Residence, Matthew Jaffe.

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