January 5, 1998
By Francine Tyler
Three people committed to enriching the lives of others have won the top awards given annually by UC Santa Cruz's Alumni Association.
Marge Frantz, a lecturer emerita in the American Studies and Women's Studies Departments, won the Distinguished Teaching Award for 1997. Frantz is highly regarded for her dedication to students and passion for her subject matter.
John Reid, the founder and executive director of A Grassroots Aspen Experience, won the Alumni Achievement Award. Through his nonprofit organization in Aspen, Colorado, Reid helps inner-city kids take part in an outdoor adventure far from their urban neighborhoods.
Angie Christmann, a coordinator for student programs and events at Cowell College, won the Outstanding Staff Award. For nearly 27 years, Christmann has been a guiding light at UCSC's founding college, helping students make their ideas for festivals, performances, and other events a reality.
The three were nominated for the awards by students, alumni, faculty, and staff, and were selected by the Alumni Council, the association's governing body.
They will be honored at a ceremony on Saturday, January 31, starting at 12:30 p.m. in the dining hall of Stevenson College; the public is invited. In addition to the awards being presented to Frantz, Reid, and Christmann, 10 students will receive recognition for service to their colleges.
Tickets for the award ceremony are $12, including lunch. For reservations, call the Alumni Office at (408) 459-2530 before Friday, January 23.
Following are descriptions of the 1997 award winners:
A lifelong activist, Marge Frantz infuses the courses she teaches with her own personal history and passion. Frantz witnessed the severe economic depression of the 1930s, experienced the ostracism of the McCarthy era, and dived into numerous political, social, and labor disputes. These experiences add weight to the classes she has taught: Learning from the '30s, McCarthyism, and Women and Radical Social Movements, to name a few.
Students in Frantz's classes are likely to hear her sing songs from political movements or tell tales from her own life or the lives of others. In course evaluations, students praise her for the way her knowledge and passion bring history to life.
"There's a mission about my teaching," Frantz said. "I really care about making my students activists--not in the sense of any kind of politics, but in taking charge of their lives and being politically aware and engaged."
Frantz retired as a lecturer in 1989 but returned soon after to teach part-time. Now 75, Frantz is retiring for real this year after more than 20 years of service to UCSC.
In a letter recommending her for the award, one colleague described Frantz as "a goldmine of knowledge about twentieth century American history, social movements, and public policy.... Marge does not just teach students, she leaves an indelible mark on them."
Frantz earned her Ph.D. in history of consciousness from UCSC after earning a B.A. from UC Berkeley in 1972 as a re-entry student.
She says students fascinate and inspire her. "It's very exciting. I can't think of a more rewarding line of work."
Eight years ago, John Reid founded A Grassroots Aspen Experience. Since then, his nonprofit organization has transported more than 3,000 children from the nation's inner cities to Aspen, Colorado, for summer and winter getaways.
The trip is free for the 10- to-19-year-olds who climb mountains, raft rivers, camp, and hike during the summer trip and return to ski in the winter. The outdoor adventures, which include a ropes course topped by a rappel off a 250-foot cliff, are designed to challenge the kids with obstacles they must overcome. Participants also attend counseling sessions and skills workshops. A select group of kids also participates in a separate leadership camp.
"You gain a broader perspective of who you are when you can leave your environment and interact with people outside your own neighborhood," said Reid. "Sometimes an experience like this can be a catalyst for success later in life."
Reid, who joins each group of kids to camp or ski, got the inspiration for his nonprofit while working for the mayor's office in Aspen. He rounded up an impressive array of financial and volunteer support from the people of Aspen and such notable celebrities as Glenn Fry and Don Henley of the Philadelphia Eagles. Approximately 700 volunteers nationwide help make the program happen every year.
Reid was born into an underprivileged family in Palo Alto. His father died when he was 11, leaving his mother to raise her 11 children alone. When Reid entered UC Santa Cruz, his eyes were opened to another world. While a student, he traveled to Kenya as a participant in the Merrill Field Program--an experience that he says changed his outlook on life.
"When you see people carrying buckets of water on their heads for miles to get back to where they live, that's a reality check," Reid said. "I came back telling my mother and brothers how fortunate we were."
The spring waltz. Culture Break. College Night. All are traditions at UCSC's Cowell College, touched in some way by Angie Christmann. In charge of college programs for nearly 27 years, Christmann helped start these traditions and others. "Jasper (Rose, Cowell's second provost) would say, 'we're having a waltz,' and I would make it happen," Christmann said. "It was lots of fun, but very nerve-racking."
Christmann clearly enjoys helping students carry on these traditions and stage their own plays, festivals, and other events. She recruits students for projects, dispenses advice to those who want it, and has even been known to paint sets or sing songs for student productions.
Over the years, Christmann's enthusiasm and good spirits have earned her many admirers and friends among students, faculty, and fellow staff. A number of these admirers praised Christmann enthusiastically in letters recommending her for the Outstanding Staff Award. One wrote: "Angie is amusing and easily amused; when the sound system doesn't work, when the band doesn't show up--tantrums are unknown; improvisation is the keynote.... She doesn't just represent what is best about UCSC--she embodies it."
Christmann, who shares her job with Kyoko Freeman, said the students she's known are "just a kick," and every year is a new adventure. "Students are a constantly changing clientele," she said. "We have never done anything the same way twice."
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