Marlon Hall, MA '97
Hall uses early challenges to guide others
Marlon Hall (MA '97) has defied the odds and defined his life.
As a boy, Hall grew up in Chicago but dreamt of going to college in California. When he graduated high school in 1976, he found a college, got a bus schedule and saved money for the ticket. "I got on the Trailways bus and made the two-and-a-half-day trip. I haven't looked back since," Hall says.
Neither family nor classmates supported Hall's plans at first. He told his grandmother: "Look, you are either with me or not with me. I will either do this with your help or without your help," he says.
After earning an associate degree in journalism from West Hills College in Coalinga, Hall enrolled simultaneously at West Coast Christian College and California State University, Fresno, earning B.A.s in biblical studies and journalism/English. After finishing a credential in English, Hall completed an M.A. in education administration from Fresno State before starting a second master's degree, in reading, at FPU.
"Fresno Pacific pointed me in the right direction. Being in the program at Fresno Pacific opened a lot of eyes to what was going on in Fresno's diverse, urban schools. (Jean) Fennacy, Linda Hoff, (David and Yvonne) Freeman, Pam Smith and Bobbie Mason gave me the push to expand what I was doing," Hall says.
Today Hall is associate dean of educational services at West Hills Lemoore, where he is division dean over arts and letters, has charge of the educational programs at the Lemoore Naval Air Station and directs community and contract education classes. Hall also oversees 2 + 2 articulation, where high school students can get credit if they go on to Lemoore Community College, is involved with an accreditation committee and teaches when he can.
Before beginning his present assignment five years ago, he spent four years teaching English and reading at the Coalinga campus. "I came back to West Hills because I wanted to give back to the community college that gave so much to me," he says.
Hall had much to give back to West Hills by the time he returned. He taught and coached for 17 years in Fresno Unified Schools and one year each in Chowchilla and Tranquility. In his teaching, Hall felt frustrated because of the "drill and kill" of workbook-based lessons. He credits Fennacy with helping him expand what he was doing in his classroom, from rotating groups to silent sustained reading.
Hall's passion was evident to Fennacy, then director of the reading and language arts program at FPU. "He saw many of his peers succumb to drugs and gangs, but he chose a different path for himself," she said. "He strives to help community college athletes succeed and is a strong advocate for developing support systems for those students. His is a wonderful story of family support, personal determination, hard work and caring for one's students."
Mary (BA '03) Hiebert-Hall, his wife of 16 years, believes Fresno Pacific changed her husband's entire approach to education. "I could see the changes in how he educated his kids," she says. "When I think about Marlon, I think about commitment and dedication, which were two of the qualities that attracted me to him. That commitment carried over to our marriage," she adds.
A sign of that commitment to students at West Hills is Hall's implementation of learning communities to assist athletes in need of help with basic skills. Hall taught reading and writing and the head football coach taught physical education and health. A counselor taught a college success course and another football coach taught humanities. All courses were thematically linked to sports and all participating athletes moved up in their studies.
The learning communities became the subject of Hall's doctoral dissertation. He earned his doctorate in education leadership from Fielding Graduate University in 2007. "It took me about five years to complete it. When I started I was a faculty member at West Hills in Coalinga. I was teaching English at West Hills and I was an assistant men's basketball coach," he says.
Looking back, Hall knows his life could have turned out much differently. He grew up in a neighborhood surrounded by gangs and remembers waving to a friend walking down the street one afternoon and finding out that two hours later the same friend was shot in the back by a rival gang. "I'm proud that I was able to get out of the neighborhood and accomplish something," he says. "Even though I wasn't a deprived child, I am proud of the fact that I didn't go the wrong direction and made the proper choices in life."
Hall remembers Wakefield Everett, one of his professors at West Hills, telling him, "You have the ability to think. Use it." Hall has lived up to that challenge.