A Professor Says Goodbye to the Now-shuttered Marymount California University

Class dismissed.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Gail Phinney
  • Illustrated by
    Yuiko Sugino

It was a shock to learn that Marymount California University, a fixture on the Palos Verdes landscape since 1968, would be permanently shuttered on August 31. You may remember it as a Catholic junior college called Marymount College, Palos Verdes. In 2013 it was renamed Marymount California University (MCU) to reflect its expanded offerings as an undergraduate and graduate degree-granting institution. 

A victim of declining enrollment and pandemic-era financial woes, much has been written about what went wrong with MCU. As an adjunct professor in arts and media from 2013 to 2019, I’d like to reflect on what went right. Because what went right goes to the heart of what made Marymount, in all its iterations, so beloved.

In 2013 Marymount was in transition, and so was I. A newly minted professor, I was admittedly green. The faculty, administration and staff were always gracious whenever I needed assistance, and in my first year that was often. The culture at academic institutions can be fiercely competitive, but if that was the case at MCU, I never saw it.  

What I saw was a team of professionals dedicated to helping students succeed. “Meet the students where they are,” was my department head’s mantra, but sometimes they were struggling. 

One great carryover from its junior college days was an infrastructure designed to prepare students to transition to the rigors of a four-year institution. Small classes with individualized instruction were an important component; so were the resources at the library and Learning Center that supported students who needed a little extra help along the way. 

Art can be a controversial subject, and I wondered if my curriculum would be scrutinized at a Catholic university. In my six-year tenure at MCU, I was always encouraged in my efforts to expose students to a wide variety of artists with multiple perspectives on the world. It was an open learning environment.

More importantly, the school had a conscience. Messaging about social awareness was integrated into student life, and the commitment to environmental stewardship was visible in daily operations on campus. International students enriched the student body, making it a more global and inclusive community of caring.

So we bid adieu to MCU and its beautiful campus with ocean views. Your legacy lives on in the hearts of grateful faculty like me and the thousands of students who found their footing in your hallowed halls over the past 54 years.