Three-time alumnus Ken Noller ’75, T.C. ’76, M.A. ’84, recalls the day his passion for history nearly ruined a date.
Seated in a local restaurant, Noller eagerly lined up individual coffee creamers across the tabletop while the young woman dining with him looked on, puzzled.
“Before I realized what I was doing, I had used the creamers to draw the Union battle lines at Gettysburg,” he says. “Nancy was looking at me like I was crazy. All she had asked was whether or not I had been to the place.”
Fortunately, for Noller, Nancy not only understood but also later became his wife. Like that memory, history is filled with people, events, and connections. Because nothing in this world happens in isolation.
It’s a lesson Noller shared with students during his 36 years of teaching history at Gage Middle School in Riverside.
As the new president of the UCR Alumni Association, it’s something he hopes to convey to UCR students and alumni.
“You’re a Highlander for life,” he says, and that common bond, which links the university’s alumni and students to an ever-growing academic family, is what Noller believes holds the greatest potential to positively in_uence each other’s lives, professions, and communities.
In fact, Noller feels a distinct pride and urgency about the role that “family” and the university could play in the future of the Inland Empire.
“When you look at the businesses, schools, legal profession, and politics of the area, you see so many individuals with a connection to UCR. That’s only going to grow,” Noller says. “Now with the new School of Medicine and the School of Public Policy, the university will have a huge impact on the economics of the area.”
And since many UCR alumni come from less-privileged backgrounds, one of his goals as president is to encourage alumni to remember those roots and do what they can to help open doors of opportunity for the next generation of students and graduates.
He hopes to inspire alumni to facilitate professional introductions, offer internships, and to fully endow the Alumni Association’s scholarship fund. “Scholarships are so important. Someone could have all the ambition and intelligence in the world, but if they can’t pay the bills, they can’t go to college. Yet a UCR education could be a real life-changer for them and their families,” says Noller.
He hopes Highlanders today and tomorrow will build their connections and pave the way for new students to follow in their footsteps. Their influence, he says, could help bolster the region and its people, along with the value and meaning of a UCR degree.