Hefling looks back on a fast 42 years

Forty-two years — longer than half the U.S. life expectancy, more than two generations and, in Joel Hefling’s case, a career.p12-Hefling,-Joel

The assistant professor in speech and director of forensics at SDSU retired May 21, 2012, closing a college teaching career that began in August 1970. Looking back on the four decades spent on one campus, Hefling summarizes, “Wow, where does the time go?”

For Hefling, the time went so quickly because he was always busy with forensics from October to April. Virtually every weekend he accompanied students to tournaments in the region and occasionally outside of the area. He remembers in the 1980s he coordinated two charter buses to take Midwest students to a national tournament in New Jersey.

I made arrangements for students to dip their toes in the Atlantic Ocean because they had never been there. Then two weeks later at the American Forensics Association Individual Events Tournament in Seattle they got to dip their toes in the Pacific Ocean,” Hefling recalls.

In the late 1980s, one of his students worked for then-U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler. So when a speech tournament took the students to Baltimore, they were able to receive a preferred tour of the White House, Hefling recalls.

Through the course of 38 years of working with the forensics team, Hefling has traveled to most states in the nation.

The best part

But “the best part about it has been watching them grow and develop as individuals and communicators,” Hefling says. He adds that it has been “tremendously rewarding and exciting” to mentor the graduate assistants in the department.

In fact, one of his former grad assistants, Andrea Carlile, has replaced him as director of forensics.

Carlile says Hefling gave her the “options and opportunities to grow as an individual” in taking “the reins from competitor to coach.” For example, at the spring 2008 SDSU tournament Hefling let her, as tournament director, institute a “green” tournament by reducing paperwork and using PowerPoint, email and computer postings.

She says Hefling would share his “incredibly valuable” knowledge in collegiate forensics, but “he wasn’t married to tradition.”

Carlile called on him to judge at an SDSU speech tournament this fall and he also judged a meet in Minnesota as well as some high school oral interp contests. He says not going to the weekly speech meets has been one of the biggest adjustments to being retired because “it becomes your circle of friends.”

A new lifestyle

But overall it hasn’t been hard to break some 42-year-old habits and develop a new lifestyle.

Hefling, who also taught four years at the high school level and one year as a grad assistant, says, “I am doing a lot of things I didn’t have time to do when I was working, and I am realizing how much that is. I’m drinking an extra cup of coffee at breakfast without thinking about how I need to get to the office.

“I’m taking care of my grandchild, who is 1 year old. I didn’t have time to watch my own children when I was working.”

Dave Graves

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