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It all began in the fall of 1958, George Bergstrom said.

“It” being the lifelong friendship he shared with Richard Gripp, professor emeritus in the San Diego State Department of Political Science. Gripp died of prostate cancer on Oct. 6. He was 88.

As a freshman at San Diego State, Bergstrom was one of Gripp’s first students during the first semester he taught at San Diego State. Bergstrom eventually became Gripp’s colleague when he joined the department himself in 1983. Their decades-long connection is because of Gripp's character, Bergstrom said.

“He is one of the top and most outstanding professors and human beings I have met in my entire life,” Bergstrom said. “He was a man of very distinct integrity, professionalism and very much a human being with a wonderful wit and a very fine sense of humor.”

Aura of learning

As a student, Bergstrom recalled the intensity of learning about politics and government in the McCarthy era when some Americans were accused of being disloyal, subversive or treasonous against the United States because of their possibly left-leaning beliefs.

“One of the main things as a student was that this was back in the McCarthy period,” Bergstrom recalled of his time as an undergrad.

“Things were very touchy to discuss politically and a lot of people were hesitant — even students — and yet always in Dick Gripp’s class, we had excellent discussions because he created an excellent aura of learning that people felt free to look into issues and to take stands on them.”

He was a man of very distinct integrity, professionalism and very much a human being with a wonderful wit and a very fine sense of humor.

Humor and wit

Gripp is widely remembered by colleagues for his humor and wit in addition to his excellence as chair of the department.

“I think of Dick in two ways — the consummate colleague and a possessor of the most wonderful dry, sardonic wit,” said Lou Terrell, professor emeritus in political science. “His humor was sneaky fast.

“Over the years, I cherished his friendship, and as chair, I learned to respect his advice and judgment.  He was a wise man. Dick will be missed.”

Judicious leader

Henry L. Janssen, professor emeritus in political science, regarded Gripp as a judicious leader during difficult times.

“Dick served as chair at a time when we really did not have a department, but more like self-interested individuals,” Janssen recalled. “It was a job similar to herding cats. He came through with the respect of the department — a major accomplishment.”

Gripp is survived by his wife of 63 years, Helen; his son, Jim, and his daughter, Joyce; and four grandchildren.

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