Stephen Sayles’ legacy honored at memorial

David Gonzalez
LV Life Editor 

Several of the late Dr. Stephen Sayles’ friends, family and colleagues reminisced about their relationship with Dr. Sayles in an emotional memorial Tuesday.

“In his western film class, Steve lectured a lot about the American cowboy hero,” said Kristen Howland, manager of the history and political science departments.

“In history and political science, we had our own gentleman cowboy in Steve Sayles. Protective, honorable, steadfast, honest, direct, humble, compassionate: Steve was all of those things.”

Greg Cumming, adjunct professor of history, knew Dr. Sayles since the 1980s. He first met Dr. Sayles when he was his student, but they later became colleagues and friends.

Cumming said that Dr. Sayles had a big impact on his life. Dr. Sayles and Cumming co-authored “The Symbionese Liberation Army and Patricia Hearst: Queen of the Revolution” together.

“I miss talking about this book with Steve,” Cumming said.

“I miss the intellectual discussions that we had working together. And I don’t have that sound anymore and I miss him terribly but those discussions will live with me forever.”

Cumming said that Dr. Sayles was all about finding what someone was passionate about, and that he was trying to pass that ideal onto his own students.

Many of Dr. Sayles’ former students also spoke, including Anne Collier, curator of ULV’s Cultural and Natural History Collections.

Collier said that Dr. Sayles connected with her immediately. Collier said that before meeting Dr. Sayles in person, she knew who he was through his emails.

“He did know his students, and he did interact with us well enough to know when something was wrong,” Collier said.

Howland said that Dr. Sayles’ classroom was like an old school learning environment, where Dr. Sayles would stand up and lecture without technology.

She added that when he spoke, everyone listened and wrote down every word he said.

“He made history interesting for all of us. He made it alive. He made it moving because it was all of that for him,” Howland said.

“When you left that class, you knew that you had learned that day, and that Dr. Sayles had just gifted you with something very special.”

“He had a work ethic and a commitment to this institution and his student that I think is unparalleled,” Howland said.

George Keeler, professor of journalism, recited what Dr. Sayles would write at the end of a letter of recommendation.

“The University of La Verne had something special in Steve Sayles. As you can see, I’m one of his biggest fans,” Keeler said.

Keeler called Dr. Sayles “the book doctor” because Dr. Sayles could recommend a variety of books about any subject when someone needed information.

Howland recalled the library of books that Dr. Sayles kept in his office.

Dr. Sayles could point to a book and could say what was in the book, his thoughts on it, why it was important and why it should be read, she said.

Dr. Sayles would call his wife before leaving his office and would say “I love you” every time before hanging up, Howland said. This was always said with intention, meaning, heart and sincerity, she said.

“Hearing Steve say that daily to Barb meant that the world was as it should be. That there was love and honor and respect out in the universe for all of us,” Howland said.

David Gonzalez can be reached at

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David Rafael Gonzalez is a senior journalism major and LV Life editor of the Campus Times. He has been a three-time editor-in-chief and has also served as editorial director, LV Life editor and a staff writer.

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