Until just days before he died from a stroke on July 15, Lyle Sladek, 88, was a familiar sight on campus, pedaling his bicycle across Kingsmen Park, stopping in the library to read the newspapers, and attending weekly faculty lunches. The former professor began teaching math at California Lutheran College in 1963 and served as department chair from 1965 to 1976. Although he retired in 1994, he continued his frequent rides around campus and his connections to CLU.
A reserved, dignified and somewhat offbeat figure, Sladek practiced conservation and “invented recycling before anyone knew what it was,” said former Graduate School of Education dean Allen Leland, who recruited Sladek to the college. The professor was seen on campus collecting cans for recycling during his last days. He is survived by his wife, Patricia, four daughters and three grandchildren.
The comments about Sladek included here have been collected from interviews, the Kingsmen Regal Facebook page, and other memorials and articles published on the Web.
“Lyle was a mathematician. He applied math to the world around him to help neighbors and friends in so many practical ways and to impart to his students a guide to teaching and using math in everyday living.”
Allen Leland, former dean, Graduate School of Education
“Dr. Sladek was kind and giving. He taught me an advanced math course during breakfast one semester when I was just not getting it from another professor. He said, ‘Michelle, please meet me for breakfast every day at 7 a.m. We will discuss the important topics.’”
Michelle (Campos ’92, M.P.A. ’99) Blas
“Lyle had a distinct place in my mind as an example of living with graceful simplicity, in harmony with the environment and being physically active. I never saw him in a car or rushing to a place or forgetting to say hi to everyone.”
Jamshid Damooei, professor of economics
“Lyle was on the first faculty committee of which I was a member when I first came to CLC in 1982. I learned then that we were both Army veterans and he shared his story with me briefly. I remember that he played pool with students in the SUB and because of his knowledge of geometry would usually win. He had a very dry wit and would laugh with his whole body.”
Michael Arndt, professor of theatre arts
“I still remember playing pool with him in the student union and it turning into a lesson in angles, etc.”
Mario M. Rodriguez ’86
“I remember that he had a great sense of humor. He always came into the geology offices to tell jokes. He was from South Dakota, so he loved this one: Q. What was the best thing about Custer’s Last Stand? A: He didn’t have to go back through South Dakota.”
Linda Ritterbush, professor of geology
“Bronze that bike and place it in Kingsmen Park.”
Cory Hughes ’86
“I would often run into Lyle at Trader Joe’s. He would pump his bike over there and park it. He wanted a fresh banana with no spots every morning.”
Mary Hekhuis, M.P.A. ’80
“I became curious about the old man in the cafeteria, the only one who came every morning. I was 56. At breakfast or at the library, we talked about politics, his life on the farm in South Dakota and his experiences. I visited him every time I came back to CLU.”
Masamichi “Michi” Kira ’03, former student from Japan