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Messinger’s Memories of Phoenix College

July 23, 2014
Paul Messinger '49

Paul Messinger, class of ’49, shares these memories of Phoenix College in the late 40s.  The former state legislator, Scottsdale council member and founder of Messinger Mortuaries began at PC as an 18-year-old in 1948. The GI Education Bill was bringing returning soldiers to college campuses and every classroom was filled to capacity.

Messinger was interested in engineering and he found that the GIs, who had just finished fighting in the world's first technical war, had been inspired by the science they encountered and were also pursuing engineering as well as medicine. Classes quickly filled. He jokes that you didn’t see any of the “room capacity” signs back then but he is certain there wasn’t an inch to spare. Classrooms were designed for 35 to 40 students but often filled with 50 or more.

According to the At least half of the students were 22 to 25 years old or older and far more serious than those who were recent high-school graduates. Although fraternities and sororities flourished on campus, the vets generally just focused on academics. They became campus leaders and set the standards for discipline and decorum.

“I remember engineering professor Amos Hoff would send teams of three to four students up to his land in the mountains east of Sunnyslope to survey boundaries and find various elements, testing our theoretical skills,” Messinger says. “I always tried to get on a team with some former GIs because these guys were serious about getting the right answers and doing it quickly.”

He adds that the returning veterans were all business, keeping the professors on subject and being ready to begin as soon as the bell rang. There was no fooling around or disruption.

Back then, Messinger says that Phoenix College was a school of about 900 students and you knew many of the students and teachers. He recalls that Robert Hannelly was the dean and set very high standards for the college and Fred Bedford and Louis Leithold made math courses very enjoyable. Other instructors he remembers are Virginia Botsford and John Prince in the English department; Joe Brundage in engineering; and John Riggs in the PE department. He also took social science from Mario Zito and Edward Andres, commenting that the professors’ “philosophies were quite different from mine, so I learned about another slant on life.”

 “As I think about those returning GIs at Phoenix College, I can see why their generation has often been described as the Great Generation. They were disciplined, serious students and serious family members. They were older, both in years and experience, had given time to fight a war, which benefited us all, and now wanted to catch up on their own lives.”

Also among his memories -- Frank Lloyd Wright spoke to his engineering classs. Although Messinger was working several jobs and didn’t have time to spare, he was a member of the Wings and Goggles flying club and earned his pilot’s license, which he still holds today. He says he’s still friends with many former PC classmates including Darrell Sawyer. His flight school buddy founded Sawyer School of Aviation.