Most of what happens at Antioch University takes place in the classrooms at Culver Pointe, but on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, the plaza in front of the building held a gathering of students, faculty and alumni to celebrating Dr. Al Erdynast. The fiftieth anniversary for the founder of the undergraduate program at Antioch University Los Angeles, and its longest serving member of the faculty.
“This was really about more than wanting to play tennis year-round, ” he joked, after being questioned about his real reasons for moving from the east coast, and then paused for the knowing laughter in the crowd. “This has been an experiment, and I modestly claim, a successful one.”
The crowd was welcomed by MeHee Hyun, Ph.D., Dean of Undergraduate Studies, who apologized for rescheduling the event due to Tropical Storm Hilary. “The weather today couldn’t be nicer, so it’s a confirmation of making a good choice!”
When taking his doctorate at Harvard, Erdynast was mentored by Lawrence Kohlberg. who created the field of moral development. Erdynast put theory into practice, starting on the proverbial ground floor of the satellite campus of Antioch Los Angeles, beginning an experiment in education that has flourished.
Starting with less than a dozen students, Antioch was aimed at fulfilling the needs of working adults, particularly by fostering their own personal moral development. Studies in philosophy and psychology fostered growth at the small school, and Erdynast saw it through decades of expansion and multiple locations; Antioch Los Angeles is now at its fourth location in Los Angeles County, in Culver City.
Honoring Erdynast for his groundbreaking educational work, and his long service to the university as both an administrator and a professor, speaker after speaker told of the personal impact that studying with him had on their lives. One woman was said to have accepted a marriage proposal with two conditions; her future husband had to promise to love her for the rest of her life, and he had to take a philosophy class at Antioch with Erdynast.
Dr. Susan Nero, who currently oversees the Master Program in Nonprofit Management, was an early addition to the university. “I was a disgruntled doctoral candidate at UCLA when Al hired me a mere 40 years ago…I simply could not have imagined how all this would turn out.”
His enthusiasm for Mark Twain and Pablo Picasso were the central points for many of his classes, and the commemorative coffee mug offered as a gift for the partygoers was a cubist portrait of Erdynast.
Glasses were passed down the rows, and when a toast was offered by Dean Hyun, “To the first 50 years!” Champagne flutes throughout the crowd clinked together.