Professor Mike Wheeler Passes

Derek Stowe

At the height of his career as an associate professor of English, Michael McClave Wheeler passed away at the age 64 of natural causes in his Pasadena home after teaching class on Jan 3.

“Mike died with his proverbial boots on,” said GCC parent education instructor Amity Grimes when she learned he had taught right up to the last moments of his life. “I suspect that is the way he wanted it. He had a strong sense of justice and always put his students first.”

Born in 1946, Wheeler graduated from Webb, a college preparatory school in Tennessee. He got his Bachelor’s and Master’s in English at UCLA, which is where he met his wife Cyndia.

Wheeler became a full time teacher at Glendale in 1992. He was admired by his students for pushing them to do their best and well-liked by his colleagues for his devotion and generosity.

English instructor Lara Kartalian said Wheeler was a “wealth of information-whether it was about French food, great music or academics.”

Peggy Renner, a 15 year associate who co-taught a humanities class with him, said, “Mike tolerated little nonsense and had strong opinions. But some of our best teaching moments were the product of those arguments.the basis of real growth in helping students to think critically.”

Former student Luisa Salazar said, “Beneath that booming voice and somewhat gruff exterior beat a tender, thoughtful and sensitive heart.” In his 2004 class, Wheeler shared a heartbreaking childhood story illustrating how vulnerability and honesty are important elements of humanity.

English Division Chair Michael Ritterbrown said people should understand how important Wheeler was to the college. “There just aren’t a lot of people who are willing to give that much. It’s difficult to find an area of the college that [Wheeler] did not influence in some way.”

Wheeler initiated a program for the hands-on training of graduate interns; served on the senate; co-chaired C&I, (Contract and Implementation) one of the most important committees on the campus; and sat on the Budget, Campus Development, and Academic Affairs Committees.

Wheeler’s handbook, “The 120 Syllabus,” which is still on sale in the bookstore, is just one example of his writing. “Mike’s work is all around us in the policies of this college,” said Ritterbrown.

Many of the documents upon which GCC bases its policies have Wheeler’s stamp on them such as the Mutual Gains Document defining the responsibility between senate and division chair structure.

“[Wheeler] didn’t shy away from volunteering to re-write it though difficult, contentious and political,” said Ritterbrown. “Our appreciation should match the gift that he gave us.”

Wheeler went out of his way to improve Glendale College and the futures of all who attend. “I think there are very few people who match the depth of [Wheeler’s] dedication,” said Ritterbrown. “It’s really important that people understand that.”

Wheeler’s health had been failing for several months, but he never let that get in the way of his teaching or his work for the college. He passed away at home with his loving family by his side.

Superintendent/President Dawn Lindsay said Wheeler was cremated, and wife Cyndia plans to spread his ashes all over the world in all of his favorite places.

Wheeler lived his life to its fullest with a passion for family, teaching and for travel, especially to Paris.

He is survived by his wife, Cyndia; sister, Patrice; mother, Dorothy Imre; daughter, Caitlin; son-in-law, Kenyon Harbison; and granddaughter, Madeleine.

A fund was set up in Wheeler’s memory to carry on his care for students. His family would be grateful for any contributions. The mailing address is: Michael Wheeler Fund (5716), Friends of English, Department of English, UCLA, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095-1530.

The celebration of Wheeler’s life will be held on Feb. 12 at All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena. The service will begin at 11 a.m. All are invited.