Passion for History Brings Alumnus Back for Master’s
By Bri Phillips
While Ricardo Scheller was studying at Palomar College during the late 1980s, he heard about a new university being built just around the corner.
Once he read a newspaper article about it being a reality, he went to the closest public library to get a paper application to transfer to Cal State San Marcos.
“We read newspapers and there was no social media or anything like that,” Scheller said. “It was all word of mouth. I remember professors at Palomar mentioning that they were interested in teaching there so I decided to apply.”
At the time, CSUSM was in a rented office space with a dozen faculty members and nine majors. It wasn’t until fall 1992 that the permanent campus opened with the completion of the Administrative Building, Academic Hall and Science Hall I.
Scheller was one of the first people to apply to CSUSM, and he was also one of the first seven history majors who graduated in 1992. The university underwent a tremendous transformation over the ensuing three decades, growing from 448 students when Scheller attended as an undergraduate to 16,000 today. And nearly 30 years later, he decided to return to his alma mater to pursue his master’s in history.
Numerous professors made an impact on Scheller, including history professor emerita Patty Seleski.
“When I think back on CSUSM’s inaugural year, students like Ricardo come to mind,” Seleski said. “He was committed to CSUSM from the very first day. When I was in class with Ricardo and his fellow students, the suburban business park where we held classes transformed itself into a ‘real’ university despite lacking almost all the trappings traditionally associated with going to college. His intellectual curiosity did more than anything else to create CSUSM as a campus community and to define the spirit of San Marcos.”
Scheller worked for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection after graduating in 1992, and he retired in 2017. Scheller started to become bored while in retirement, and he wanted to reignite his passion for history.
While pursuing his master’s, Scheller worked as a teaching assistant with history professor Kimber Quinney, and he’s considering pursuing his teaching credential.
“From day one in the history master’s student program, Ricardo sought to get ahead of the curve,” Quinney said. “He was committed to meeting deadlines and learning about next steps in order to advance to candidacy. He was determined to stay on track and to complete the job — an important quality for any successful graduate student. But the difference is that Ricardo was equally eager to get ahead of current thinking about a given historical topic. So, he was ahead of the curve in learning how to learn.”
Scheller found that the most rewarding part of his master’s program was watching his peers grow.
“We all came together to help get our thesis done,” Scheller said. “I remember watching students who were not particularly good at public speaking learn how to become comfortable by the end of the two years.
“I have always been fascinated with the past. And as a child, even as a young adult, I became really interested in why things happened in history. Because things that have happened 200 years ago still have the drive and motivate people today. If I can touch one person through what I tell them in college or class and they become interested in something like history and want to pursue it, then it is all worth it.”
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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