Professor Green Retires

When you meet with Melvin H. Green, treat him to a cup of coffee.

It is a small token of gratitude for the conversation that will follow. He will take a seat, talk and listen. It is something he has done with students for 38 years.

Green has promoted faculty and student interaction since he came to UCSD in 1963. He is retiring at the end of spring quarter.

“”I came to UCSD because of my intuitive feeling that UCSD would turn into a great school,”” Green said.

Growing up in a first-generation, low-income household, education was strongly stressed in Green’s family.

Green graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1958 and received a doctorate degree in biochemistry from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1962.

Following post-doctorate work at Cal-Tech with Renato Dulbecco, the 1975 Nobel Prize Laureate in medicine, Green came to UCSD when the school was preparing to accommodate its first undergraduate class for the following year.

At 26, he was the fifth member of the biology department. Because he was young, he easily related to students, interacting with them outside the classroom.

Green directed the Academic Enrichment Program from 1994 to 1999, aiming to provide undergraduate students with an academic experience that extended to research, tutorial support, training and mentoring.

“”I feel I have a great sympathy for and understanding of students, especially those with neither parent having gone to college,”” Green said. “”As director of this program, I had the opportunity to help students even more than by teaching class. I am very excited about having this opportunity.””

Green also started the Health Professions Program, as well as the Faculty, Student and Staff Interaction Program, which was popular for the easygoing setting that allowed students, faculty and staff to get to know one another.

The latter program was on hiatus for a short time, but has returned, thanks to encouragement from Green and the dedication of some of his students.

“”Teaching is not lecturing,”” Green said. “”Lecturing is merely one small component of teaching. Teaching is helping a student attain his or her objectives in life.””

When first entering a university, the opportunities offered can be simultaneously interesting and intimidating. When students barely know what major to declare, direction is greatly needed.

Green has worked to help students overcome these hurdles they face in pursuing their goals. Green understands that a student’s inability to succeed is not because of lack of intelligence, but “”the inability for some reason to cope with psycho-social demands … a breakup with a boyfriend, a problem with parents.””

Green continues to promote interaction between faculty and students to help provide students with guidance and direction. His latest idea involves bringing together emeriti faculty with freshman and sophomore undergraduates in mentorship relationships.

This program is intended as a reward for outstanding students and to help attract top students to UCSD.

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Planning and Programs David Miller looks forward to starting this program in the upcoming year.

“”It’s a clever idea to use a resource [emeriti faculty] we don’t take advantage of,”” Miller said. “”A lot of students could benefit from faculty members. The more programs you have, the more beneficial it is.””

Green still approaches his lectures with a mix of seriousness and laughter. His juxtaposition of “”Monty Python”” and biology might not be understandable at first, but there is no question about the sincerity of Green’s connection with students.

Although he is retiring, Green plans to teach a few classes at UCSD next year. He will continue to be the president of BioTek Ed, a company he created to teach biotechnology to nonscientists. In addition, he will work for Avanir Pharmaceuticals and become CEO of the Peaceful Transitions Foundation.

But first he is spending three weeks in Europe to celebrate his “”retirement.”” Upon returning, he will continue to interact with UCSD students and friends, be it in a game of tennis or over a cup of coffee.

By having coffee with Green or another faculty member, Green hopes students just might get a better sense of what college is truly about.

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