Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Marsha Fralick: 40 Years of Memories at Cuyamaca College

It wasn’t the best first impression. 

Marsha Fralick had just accepted a job as a founding faculty member at Cuyamaca College in summer 1978 when she and her husband decided to have a look at the new campus in what was then a desolate stretch of El Cajon. “I was pretty shocked,” Fralick said. “There was only one building and a bunch of dirt. There were no roads, no sidewalks, just a lot of construction going on. My husband turned to me and said, ‘You may have made a mistake.’”

Forty years later, as Cuyamaca celebrates its ruby anniversary, there is no question Fralick made the right choice. “Every time I come to campus I feel a great deal of pride,” said Fralick, who officially retired in 2007 but still teaches an online Counseling 120 course. “It’s a beautiful college with beautiful, modern buildings and amazing students. This is what we all dreamed of, and it’s great to see it become a reality.”

Fralick is among several founding faculty members who still teach at the college, and she is among the scores of guests who plan to attend the Cuyamaca’s 40thAnniversary House Party on October 18 to celebrate the school’s history. 

Raised just north of Santa Fe in the New Mexico hamlet of Espanola, Fralick moved to San Diego in 1974 to work as a counselor at Grossmont High School before transferring to nearby Santana. In spring 1978, founding President Dr. Wallace Cohen and the Dean of Student Services, Dr. Phyllis Weidman, attended a Santana High School counselors’ meeting to recruit staff for a new college dubbed Cuyamaca. “That was the first I heard about it,” Fralick said.

The first day of classes on August 28 was memorable for more than a few reasons. A half hour into a 3-hour evening class, Fralick’s room went dark when power to the college suddenly stopped. “The entire campus went dark,” she said. “There were no lights anywhere. There were no shopping centers nearby. There were not streetlights. Campus security was escorting people to their cars in the dark.”

Just getting the college ready for the first day of classes was far from a sure thing. Classroom chairs didn’t arrive until the day before school opened. “Dr. Cohen was ripping up these boxes and putting chairs in the classroom,” Fralick said. “When you see your president ripping up boxes and putting chairs in the classroom, you were inspired to do the same thing. Nobody said, ‘Well, that’s not in my job description.’ We all did what was needed to be done.”

Cohen, Fralick said, was an inspiration. He encouraged her and others at the campus to secure advanced degrees. Fralick, who earned an Ed.D., is also the author of several books on counseling, including one, College and Career Success, that is used across the country. “Dr. Wallace Cohen never put himself above anyone else. He was one of the family. Whatever you needed, you could just walk into his office and he was always there to help.”

Such as when federal officials had failed to file the proper paperwork for students to secure their financial aid. “I was calling Washington, D.C. and they didn’t know who we were. I’d say, ‘Cuyamaca College. Jamacha Road. El Cajon,’ and they would say, ‘Is that in the U.S.?’”

With red tape keeping students from securing needed financial aid, Cohen approached the local Lions Club, which donated enough funds for student scholarships during the first semester.

Among Fralick’s most rewarding Cuyamaca College moments came when her children earned their associate degrees. A son, 38, would transfer to UC San Diego for a bachelor’s degree in engineering and then San Diego State University for a master’s degree in the subject. Today, he is a chief design engineer for Google. Her daughter, 34, transferred to SDSU for a bachelor’s degree in business finance before earning her MBA at the University of Redlands. Today she works in the finance department for NBC San Diego. 

Fralick, meanwhile, still lives in the same Tierrasanta home she bought after accepting her counseling position at Cuyamaca.

“I love Cuyamaca College,” she said. “It has meant so much to me and my family.”

This is one in a series of stories celebrating Cuyamaca College’s 40th anniversary