For many, a community college education often serves as the beginning of a career.
For Karin and Herb Meiselman, Jamestown Community College was just that, but it was also the start of something much greater. Although the institution has changed a lot in 60 years, the Meiselmans’ memories from there have not.
“We visited JCC at various times through the years when we come through Jamestown and we know it’s changed a lot physically, but we’re still fairly attached to our memories of it,” Karin says. “It’s something that, I guess you could say, is a part of our marriage; that we both have the memories of JCC, that it was a nice, small place where you got to know other students and the faculty.”
In 1960, Karin was a first-year student majoring in psychology at JCC. Herb was a sophomore, finishing his final semesters at the two-year institution focused on engineering. Though both of them were local Jamestown High School graduates – Herb graduating in 1958 and Karin in 1959 – they had never met.
That all changed in 1960 when both of them attended a JCC Jayhawks basketball game. There, they first noticed each other when brief small talk ensued between Karin’s group of friends and Herb’s corresponding collective. However, both admit they officially met at Mike & Sam’s, a pizza and beer parlor (during a time when the drinking age was 18), blocks away from JCC’s original location on Foote Avenue.
“He got to talking to me and eventually asked for my phone number, and that was the beginning,” Karin says.
Married in 1963, the couple now lives in California near Pasadena. Karin and Herb have two children, Sharon and Ben, and three grandchildren, Issac, Ilana, and Theodore.
In 2016, Karin concluded a career in psychology while Herb retired as a scientist and professor at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. A professor for 45 years, Herb taught physiology and biophysics at USC. Prior to transitioning to the role of teacher, he attended Caltech in Pasadena for a post-doctoral fellowship.
Focusing his research on the physiology of red blood cells and their flow through microcirculation, Herb is credited with more than 300 scientific publications. Through National Institute of Health grant funding, he was able to travel overseas for his work, often accompanied by Karin. Herb even visited Antarctica twice, studying blood flow in seals.
“I kind of hitched on to a lot of that travel,” Karin says of Herb’s work-related adventures, adding that the two of them were able to travel separately from work and on their own time, too.
Karin’s career as a private practice psychologist focused on the long-term effects of child sexual abuse. She authored two books and frequently lectured to professional groups on the topic. Karin was consulted by the actress Barbra Streisand about a role in the film “Nuts,” in which she portrays a sexual abuse survivor.
Though the two now reflect on a life and a career that was truly seeded in 1960 at JCC, Karin admits not knowing which career path she’d pursue at the time. But she also didn’t intend on meeting her husband of 57 years either. Though unexpected, she welcomed both opportunities at JCC.
“I had no idea what I was going to become,” Karin says. “I just started taking courses that I liked.”
After that night at their “favorite watering hole,” as Herb describes it, the two hit it off.
However, Herb, a year ahead of Karin, left for Michigan Technological University (MTU) in 1960 after graduating from JCC. He later earned a Ph.D. from MTU before heading to California.
Meanwhile, Karin began her second year at Jamestown that fall. Though separated, the moments they had at JCC would not soon be forgotten. They wrote to each other constantly in that year apart and the years that followed. Those letters consisted of the two “professing love” to each other and describing their coursework, as Karin puts it. Postage stamps only cost four cents at the time.
After graduating from JCC, Karin attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Herb graduated from MTU and was accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They returned to Jamestown to be married and shortly after moved to Boston, where Herb attended MIT.
They lived in “a little apartment, happily,” Karin says.
Karin worked at various proofreading jobs but her ambition for psychology would not go unfulfilled. The Meiselmans moved to Pasadena in 1966. Karin was accepted into a graduate program for clinical psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned her Ph.D. Meanwhile, Herb continued his research and expanded his career as a scientist and a professor.
Though continuing on from Jamestown to Los Angeles and around the world, their beginnings at JCC are not lost on them — and neither is the impact the college had on their lives.
“My experience was small classes, getting to know faculty members, and having a good social life while saving gobs of money,” Herb says of his experience. “JCC means good personal memories and a good start on my career path. I would definitely recommend it to today’s high school grads.”
Karin adds that JCC is the place where she learned her work ethic. While maintaining solid grades in high school, she admits she was mentally tested upon entering college. But the impact of those trials was only positive on her life and career.
“We’re deeply indebted to JCC for giving us the motivation and interest for pursuing our studies and working and getting eventual success,” she says.
They both distinctly remember one English professor, Robert Scharmann, after whom JCC’s Robert Lee Scharmann Theater is named. Scharmann attended the Meiselmans’ wedding and became a good friend of the family.
Karin and Herb recall the value of smaller class sizes, the personal interactions with faculty, and the ability to mature while not leaving her hometown right out of high school.
“JCC is a good place to sort things out to find out what you like and what direction you want to go like I did,” says Karin.