The CSUSM Department of History will remember Wally as a vibrant and dedicated student, a lover of History, and generous man who wanted to help others. Wally came to the History Department in his late 70s, having transferred from MiraCosta College, where he completed his lower division work after retiring from a long and successful career in business. The History faculty members who had him in class, such as Dr. Carmen Nava, recall that Wally would always sit in the front row and could be counted on to participate enthusiastically in class discussions. Dr. Anne Lombard remembers that he loved the intellectual excitement of a good debate. Dr. Jill Watts and Dr. Alyssa Sepinwall recall that Wally was an incredible resource for students because he not only studied history but also had lived it, and he eagerly shared his experiences with his classmates. Wally completed his Bachelor of Arts in History in 2002, and amazingly, this was just the beginning of his career at CSUSM. Dr. Jeff Charles observes that when Wally made it to the university, he seemed to feel at home.
Pursuing his love of learning at CSUSM, Wally would go on to complete three Masters of Arts degrees. In 2006, Wally earned his first Master of Arts in Literature and Writing Studies. His thesis was entitled, “Virginia Woolf: Her Rebellion and Its Genesis.” In May 2009, Wally earned his Master of Arts degree in History. His thesis was entitled, “Doc Will Lend Money: The Life and Career of Dr. Attilio Henry Gianini.” In May 2013 Wally earned his fourth degree from CSUSM, a Master of Arts in Education. At that time, Wally was the oldest student in the entire California State University system and the oldest graduate in CSUSM history.
Wally inspired other History students, many of whom were also non-traditional students who were coming to university later in life. Wally was consistently prepared, focused and upbeat, and this made a strong impression. Jon Bechtol, a classmate of Wally’s in the History M.A. program, remembers him (and will always remember him) as a steadfast friend. Wally was also a wonderful role model for our students of a person passionate about learning and deeply engaged in life. Wally would frequently speak of his beloved late wife Clare, whom he credited with inspiring his love of reading. Students and faculty alike fondly remember Wally’s sense of humor.
But Wally was not only interested in cultivating his own academic interests. Wally took significant steps to provide assistance to students who would follow him at CSUSM. He created the Clare and Wally Taibleson Presidential Scholarship, which is notable because it provides four years of support to help a promising high school graduate successfully complete a bachelor’s degree. In conversations with History Department faculty, Wally would often shift gears, and ask questions about how we were working to build and strengthen our department. In what was the first major donation received by the History Department, Wally generously donated funds to establish an endowment for the History Department. He said that hoped it would inspire others to support the History Department. Over the years, this endowment has facilitated a wide variety of activities in support of the department’s mission, including special lectures and activities for both undergraduate and graduate History students.
In recognition of his academic achievements, and because he serves as an inspirational example to our students, the faculty of the History Department selected Wally as the first inaugural Alumnus of the Year in 2002. Wally’s name appears first on the perpetual plaque located in the department office. The History Department mourns the loss of our friend, Wally Taibleson, and we send our deepest condolences to his family. Wally was passionate about learning and dedicated to helping others realize the benefits he realized through his university education. The History Department will remember Wally as a wonderful model and friend to our students, department and university community.