Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Lee Haggerty had developed grandiose images of becoming a famous lawyer in order to help the poor find justice within the American judicial system.
After coming to California to study law, he did not expect to leave his law degree collecting dust in the corner of his office to become a teacher at a community college in Orange County.
“I didn’t know Orange County even existed,” Haggerty said.
Haggerty came to California and originally studied at a community college before being accepted to Stanford, and then opted to get a law degree at UCLA Law School.
Haggerty is now a full-time instructor, and has been teaching both part-time and full-time for an accumulation of 30 years, at Saddleback College.
Haggerty began teaching at Saddleback while he was still in law school, and once he began teaching, there was no turning back.
“It’s not a job, it’s a life,” Haggerty said. “It was more like it was a calling.”
There was less of a reason to teach at Saddleback than at the college he was currently teaching at, he said. At Saddleback, he was living and working in an environment that held a very low population of minorities.
He now teaches American government, international relations, comparative politics, and African-American history.
Haggerty began the African-American history class in 1982, and has been teaching it ever since. However, while the class was on his list to teach this semester, it was not put on the schedule.
Regardless, his favorite courses to teach are international relations and comparative politics.
Haggerty is also involved in campus activity, acting as adviser to three clubs: Model United Nations, College Democrats, and the Black Student Union.
As adviser, Haggerty hopes to create the same environment as he does for his students.
“Extracurriculars teach leadership,” Haggerty said. “Education is more involved in the classroom.”
One of his goals as a teacher is to make sure none of his students walk out on an “egg-shell.”
An “egg-shell” is what they call an educated person with no common sense, Haggerty said. Experience in the classroom is mostly theoretical, and experience is an important factor when heading out into any field of choice.
The clubs allow students to develop those leadership skills they don’t always learn in the classroom.
The Black Student Union, who is hosting a Bloc Party on Feb. 17, is about re-establishing the needs of all students, and bridging the gap between African-American students and students of European, Latin, and those of other descents and cultures.
“It’s not a minority [club], it’s open to all people,” Haggerty said.
As adviser to BSU, Haggerty has been involved in many forums and events, resulting in the visits of Lula Washington, Dick Gregory and others.
“[BSU] is a club that provides activity for all people to enjoy having a part of accomplishing [interracial] goals.”
Haggerty’s hope in teaching and advising is to help young people accomplish what they hope to achieve, in order to make their future brighter and the human condition better as a whole.
As an instructor, he seeks to teach his multiracial students about more than only George Washington, but also Cesar Chavez, Inoi and Susan B. Anthony.
“Every student needs a positive role model,” Haggerty said. “I’m planting a seed in order to see it blossom.”