Stepping into the office of Andrea Labinger is an experience that takes one back from the usual professor portrait at the University of La Verne.
Her office, located within the Honors House on Third Street, resembles more of a home den than a faculty office. Sitting poised and relaxed behind a neatly organized desk, the only trace of a teacher is evident through many framed diplomas and certificates.
Portraying a relaxed and collected attitude, it is hard to believe that one who has contributed such efforts to the University can possess such a calm disposition.
Labinger is responsible for initiating the Honors Program at the University. She is also a professor of Spanish.
She will be leaving the University after this semester, choosing to retire after 27 years of teaching at ULV.
Born in New York City, she graduated from Hunter College in New York with a Spanish degree, then earned her doctorate in Latin American literature from Harvard.
From her extensive academic pursuits, Labinger gained experience teaching at other institutions before coming to La Verne in 1981.
She taught at Simmons College in Boston and Notre Dame in Indiana, then settled at ULV to be an assistant professor of Spanish.
Upon arriving to teach at ULV in 1981, she took on the role as the only Spanish professor. She then proved a diverse force of the Spanish department by teaching various courses. Currently, she focuses on civilization culture and literature classes.
After seven years working at ULV, Labinger established the Honors Program from a desire to reach out to gifted students.
“It seemed like ULV helped the average student and athletes a lot, but there was nothing done to attract the Honors-level students,” Labinger said.
A committee was established and Labinger researched schools with existing honors programs for models. Students with a high GPA may apply at any year in school for the formal application process.
Students are provided with a scholarship in exchange for taking extra Honors Program courses and completing an equivalent to senior project for the program.
“The Honors Philosophy is that all knowledge is inter-related. What students learn in one class should transition to others,” Labinger said.
“More of what students learn is acquired outside of traditional classes, so the Program provides activity classes where the students partake in cultural activities.”
Additionally, Labinger installed Alpha Chi, an academic Greek organization for students who have a 3.75 GPA. Unlike the Honors Program, students are invited to join.
Al Clark, vice president of student affairs, has since taken over as the chapter sponsor.
Labinger is the founding director of the Honors Program. With her departure, Gerard Lavatori, professor of French, will continue the program.
During her time working for the Honors Program and the Spanish department, Labinger has also translated several novels and short stories from Spanish to English.
“I started translating after I fell in love with a book called ‘Le Bobe,’ Labinger said.
“I thought that many people would love to read the book, so I approached the author in Mexico and told her my intention to translate it,” Labinger said.
Since then, other publications have contacted her to translate additional books, a job Labinger enjoys.
Labinger will be a missed figure in the community, through her hard efforts and instigation of change at the University.
“ULV will miss her a lot,” Clark said.
“She provided an intelligent insight and strong voice for both tradition and change,” Clark added.
Labinger is most likely the best prepared faculty member to step foot in a classroom, Clark said, which is most likely why she won the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1994.
“Anyone who has been such an icon will leave a gap that cannot be easily filled,” Clark said.
Students, through her discussion-centered classrooms, are appreciative of her teaching style as well as her guidance with the Honors Program.
“She’s an interesting individual, and she brings in a lot of excellent courses,” said Brooke Gray, senior biology major and Honors Program student.
“She’s flexible and listens to what students want,” Gray added.
Labinger’s persistence is appreciated by students who are enrolled in the Honors Program.
“She’s been the active force in keeping the Honors Program alive,” Gray said.
Labinger’s future after ULV looks as if it will contain the same amount of diversity and initiative.
She plans to continue translating Spanish novels, and appreciates the increased amount of free time to devote to her translations.
“In my spare time, I plan to continue cooking, and will try to travel more,” Labinger said.
Though she will miss the experience of teaching and providing the school with proactive change, she will continue to appreciate the bonds she has made during her time as a faculty member.
“The best thing about my La Verne experience is the friendships I’ve made,” Labinger said. “A wide circle of students and faculty have come to me in a professional setting, and have evolved into lasting friendships.”
In addition to her friendships, Labinger will take with her one of the greatest lessons she’s learned while at ULV: patience.
“Everything takes patience in life. You don’t have to argue to get something accomplished your way, but a little diplomacy gets you a long way,” Labinger said.
Lesley Michaels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.