By Dorany Pineda
Retired professor of speech and communications Louie Sarracino, who taught at East Los Angeles College for 53 years before retiring in 2002, died on Oct. 23 at the age of 95.
Sarracino is remembered by family and friends as having been friendly and fun, and loved by all his students.
“Louie was really personable and funny,” Tom Atha, a speech professor, said. “He had a lot of humor…he was just a fun person.”
Atha first met Sarracino when Atha started teaching at ELAC in 1991. Sarracino was his speech mentor, so they got to know each other very well.
Atha recalled a time when he and Sarracino took a walk during a lunch outing at a Greek restaurant in San Pedro.
“(We) decided that we were going to take a walk because he was getting bored with waiting for the food. We took off walking and I had a hell of a time trying to keep up with him,” Atha said, “He was just racing.” Sarracino eventually became exhausted, Atha said, and that’s when they decided to walk back to the restaurant.
Atha said the way he spoke was just as energetic as his walk, which kept his students awake and engaged in the classroom.
Sarracino’s unique style of teaching is something journalism professor Jean Stapleton vividly remembers too.
“We used to see his students going around campus. He would be leading the first one, and all of (the students) would have blindfolds on,” Stapleton said. “They would all be holding on to each other and walking around campus.”
During these blindfolded walks, Sarracino would have his students smell plants or pay attention to the sounds of the campus.
“He was trying to get (students) to use all their senses … they just had so much fun because he did all these unusual, unconventional things,” Stapleton, also remembers that Sarracino would constantly be chosen as the teacher of the year.
“He made being a speech student not the scary thing where you have to stand in front of the class, but a fun thing where you got to experience a whole lot of things and explain them to your classmates. He was a great teacher,” Stapleton said.
But before Sarracino came to be known as a favorite professor at ELAC, he attended Los Angeles City College and transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he graduated at the age of 19.
Soon after, Sarracino was drafted into the Army during WWII. His wife Patricia said that Sarracino’s intelligence impressed a doctor so much, that via the doctor’s recommendation, he spent more than four years stationed in Texas working as a psychiatric social worker.
After being discharged, Sarracino earned his master’s degree and doctorate in speech from the University of Southern California while teaching at ELAC. His studies eventually led to two Fulbright Scholarships that took him to Iraq and the Netherlands.
In his spare time, Sarracino loved to camp and travel, Patricia said, and exercised and meditated every day. “Louie was a mentor to many … he was very interested in helping people and learning.”
Sarracino is survived by his wife, five sons, three daughters-in-law and seven grandchildren.
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I took speech classes with Louie at ELAC in 1968-69. His method of instruction was inspirational. I had just completed 4 years in the Marines and his understanding helped me get into my career path. He was engaging, clever and above all knowledgeable about things business. After graduating from Whittier College I joined the management team at the M&M Mars Kal Kan pet food Division located at that time in Vernon, Ca. The entire supervisor group on all three shifts were sent to Dr Saracino’s speech classes at ELAC. Later on instructors from USC were brought on sight to give additional classes to our manufacturing employees. I was at that time the Industrial Relations Manager and one of the first Hispanic managers with the Mars Group. Louie’s contribution to the development process allowed the company to increase traing at all technical levels . He was inspirational.