Student Experience at College of San Mateo
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Student Experience
Avigdor (Vic) Ronn
Avigdor (Vic) Ronn UC Berkeley, B.S.
Harvard University, A.M., Ph.D.

Fifty years after he left CSM as a transfer student, Dr. Avigdor (Vic) Ronn returned in January 2011 to reconnect with the institution where he began his college education.

In 1959, 20-year old Vic arrived in the United States from Tel Aviv, Israel, in his pursuit to see the world. Vic found his way to San Mateo, California, where he decided to join the ranks of college students; he enrolled at College of San Mateo when it was located at Coyote Point. As a foreign student, Vic was referred to ESL courses and a limited curriculum by CSM's registrar. However, ambitious and bright, he attempted to enroll in 20 units of the college's most challenging courses (chemistry, physics, calculus, civics and English composition). He was told he needed permission from the dean to enroll in such a large class load. Vic recalls meeting the dean who was concerned not only with the number of heavy duty classes, but he doubted Vic's English skills. Adding to the dean's apprehension was Vic's lack of family in the country and that he was completely self-supporting.

Vic recalled, "I made a deal with the dean. I told him if I didn't earn A's or B's in every class, I would reduce my load to 12 units". He lived up to his bargain and earned the predicted 4.0 grade point average. Realizing that Vic was a high achiever and hardworking student, the dean helped him secure scholarships to pay for college expenses and, in 1961, Vic completed the transfer curriculum for UC Berkeley.

At Cal he earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry with honors and a Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to graduate school at Harvard University in 1963 where he earned a master's and Ph.D. degrees in chemical physics; he then completed his academic training with a two year post-doctoral stint at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington D.C.

This young Israeli student who began his college education at CSM went on to become an associate professor of chemistry at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York's premier engineering school at the time. The next step in his academic career was a faculty appointment at Brooklyn College, the elite campus of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, where he would spend the next three decades as a professor of chemical physics specializing in laser photophysics and chemistry. Throughout his academic career, Vic received a number of prestigious honors, including being named a Fulbright Senior Scholar (1983-84) and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow (1971-73) and was offered visiting professorships at University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and University of Tel Aviv, Israel.

Vic retired from CUNY in 2000 after a 32-year career in academia. He continued to pursue numerous research projects at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where, as the director of laser studies, he pioneered novel cancer treatments using laser driven photodynamic therapy and introduced the Department of Otolaryngology to laser pain therapy. To say he is an accomplished scientist is an understatement. His career has been punctuated with an extensive bibliography of his published work and he has been granted ten patents for scientific technologies.

Vic had never set foot on CSM in its present College Heights location. However, on a beautiful sunny day in January 2011, President Mike Claire gave this emeritus science professor a tour of the campus, pointing out new and renovated facilities, which of course, included a visit to the Science Building and Planetarium. It was a pleasant and informative afternoon for both men culminating with a visit to the KCSM facilities where he had his photo taken with Melanie Berzon, KCSM program director, and Chris Cortez, station announcer. As it turns out, Vic has been a fan of the radio station for years without realizing that the great jazz emanated from the campus of his alma mater!

When asked to comment on CSM past and present Vic said, "The present campus is lovely, modern, spacious, has million dollar amenities and even better views from almost any corner. But, Coyote Point was charming, quaint, intimate and pungent with the smell of eucalyptus.