John McDowell ’79

John McDowell ’79

This story concerns my time just after CMC, but it shows how we are built on personal connections between students and faculty. About two years after my graduation in 1979,…

This story concerns my time just after CMC, but it shows how we are built on personal connections between students and faculty.

About two years after my graduation in 1979, I was involved in a difficult legal situation and was on trial in LA county for a serious charge (I wasn’t guilty and was found so by the jury, thanks in part to this story). My lawyer asked if I knew anyone of some importance who could testify to my character. Who might that be? After thinking about it for awhile I decided to ask Dean of Students if he would testify on my behalf. I had taken several classes from him, and although at the time we did not agree on many things as he was a “liberal” professor, we got along well and I learned a lot in his classes.

A bit to my surprise, Dean Garris agreed to testify! This meant he to take time from work and drive into West LA to testify as the trial was being held there. Given the commute this meant he spent an entire day on my behalf, and this was two years after my graduation.

On the witness stand he testified to my good character (I thought he had me confused with someone else as he was so effusive!) and that testimony, plus the weight of all the other evidence resulted in a swift “not guilty” verdict by the jury.

It does not seem likely that most Deans of Students would do something like that for a former student, but Jerry Garris did. And that encapsulates for me what CMC is about – personal connections.

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