Dr Donald Decker Ph.D
I was born as the son of wonderful parents in Detroit, Michigan, in 1923.
From the age of 10 through 17, I was a camper at a well-operated YMCA camp on a beautiful lake in northern Michigan. During the remaining months of each year I participated as a member of a Boy Scout troop, eventually serving as a squad leader and acquiring almost enough merit badges to reach the highest rank of an Eagle Scout. While participating in this wholesome program, I attended the first Boy Scout Jamboree in Washington, DC, in June 1937.
At the YMCA summer camp, the 30 or so camp counselors were an extraordinary group of carefully selected Midwestern college students. These young men were outstanding role models for the boy campers. The motto of the camp was: “Think of the other fellow first.” The best ways to get along with others were strongly emphasized and acted out at all times and in many ways.
Many persons served to demonstrate to me a deep understanding of what it meant “to be good.” These inspiring guides included primarily my parents, my YMCA camp counselors, my Boy Scout leaders and my Sunday School teachers.
After a year at Dartmouth College, followed by a sophomore year abroad at the Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile, South America, I spent over two years in the U.S. Army during World War II. There I served at the upper levels of military governments in Italy and Austria, where high-ranking officials made use of my writing and communications skills. I was gratified to be helping others recover from the upsetting circumstances produced by the extremely devastating tactics of warfare.
For seven years following World War II, I returned to Santiago, Chile, where I taught English to professional and business persons and also owned and directed a resident vacation camp in Olmué and a year-round weekend outing club for boys. where I sought to pass along to a younger generation the ideals of integrity and character I had gained especially at outstanding summer camps in Michigan and Canada. I also served as an assistant leader of a mission outreach recreational club program for indigent boys and girls in a Santiago slum area called “El Matadero.”
In guiding these young people of different cultures, nationalities, ethnic backgrounds, mother tongues and religious traditions, I became clearly aware of their commonality. All were human beings created by God and endowed by God with inner spiritual natures that enabled them to interact with one another in harmony. Goodness prevailed over badness, despite the varied environments from which these children and youths came.
Most of the century was spent mainly at university-level institutions in South America and the U.S.A., e.g., studies at the University of Michigan (A.B., M.A.) and UCLA (Ph.D.) and teaching at Occidental College, University of California, Davis, and University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where I devoted myself to learning and teaching a variety of liberal arts subjects. Also, at Purdue University in 1962, I helped train an early group of Peace Corps volunteers being prepared to participate in social work institutions in South America.
The fruition of my early years became fulfilled in my marriage to Mary Locher, a wife of high integrity, the love of my life. This eventually led to wonderful children and amazing grandchildren. My devotion to my family remains central to my life.
For 20 years, I served as the Chairperson of the Foreign Language Department of Elbert Covell College, University of the Pacific, in Stockton, California. This was the first and only four-year U.S. college in which all subject courses were taught in Spanish—except in the English as a Second Language program which I directed. At first, all of our students came from Latin America plus U.S. students fluent in Spanish to promote the ideal of inter-American cultural values as inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s “ Alliance for Progress.” My own overall course offerings included English and Spanish, linguistics, literature and pedagogy. In the fall of 1969 I spent a sabbatical leave in Mexico City, where I researched and wrote a complete study on the teaching of English in Mexico at all levels both in private and public institutions.
For the final five years, our department welcomed students from all parts of the world who were native speakers of such diverse languages as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Malaysian, Arabic, Turkish, Farsi and Pilipino. These students sought to strengthen their English language skills. My contacts with adult students of varied cultural backgrounds and religious faiths helped to enrich my understanding and appreciation of Earth’s human diversities. My travels to numerous countries on the five major continents did likewise.
Finally, my wife and I took early retirement from formal teaching to collaborate on writing projects, especially publishing local history books and assisting others for over two decades in writing their memoirs and reflections on life. We had moved to Southern California to remain close to our children and have resided there for over 20 years.
Now you know something of the path that I have been traveling for much of my 86-year span of life on Earth.