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Richard H. Dodge, 77; Taught English at Santa Monica College

November 03, 2003|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Richard H. Dodge, author and professor of English at Santa Monica College who joked that pronunciation-challenged Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger "enjoys telling people that I was responsible for teaching him all he knows about English," has died.

He was 77.

Dodge died of melanoma Friday at his home in Pacific Palisades.

"I was at SMC for 36 years and never worked a day in my life!" Dodge said after his retirement in 1992. Nothing that much fun, he explained, could be considered work.

Along with teaching Schwarzenegger and other famous entertainers who attended the college, Dodge managed a successful, if quiet, second career as a writer.

"I've written or co-written 20 books that run the gamut," he said in 1990. His contributions include textbooks on reading, writing and approaches to literature, as well as popular works. "I ghostwrote a series of three basketball books with John Wooden of UCLA and Bill Sharman of the L.A. Lakers back in the mid-1970s.

"I worked on a 'Star Trek' book that did very well."

He was referring to "The Wooden-Sharman Method," "Players Handbook" and "Coaches Handbook," all published in 1976, and to the 1975 "I Am Not Spock" by actor Leonard Nimoy, who played the pointy-eared Vulcan character of "Star Trek" television and motion picture fame.

Among Dodge's better-selling books was "How to Read and Write in College" first published in 1962 and frequently revised over the years.

Dodge, who taught at UCLA for a year before joining the Santa Monica College faculty in 1956, co-founded the UCLA Writing Project in 1977 and served as its co-director.

"We were classroom teachers from all over the Greater L.A. area," he said, "who dedicated ourselves to writing and the sharing of effective composing strategies."

During his tenure at Santa Monica College, Dodge taught at its Malibu campus for four years, was one of two teachers who inaugurated the college's study-abroad program in Guildford, England, and served as director of the Center for the Humanities at the college's Santa Monica Airport campus.

He also weathered national notoriety as advisor of the campus yearbook when it published a nude male centerfold in 1972.

"You have to remember this was back in the crazy days," Dodge told The Times' Only in L.A. columnist Steve Harvey in 1989, when the college celebrated its 60th anniversary. "The story was on the Walter Cronkite [CBS] news. I heard from friends back East who said, 'What the hell are you doing out there?' "

But college officials in the early 1970s, he added, "were more worried about people streaking nude across campus than nudes in magazines."

Born in Lawrence, Mass., Dodge earned a bachelor's degree at the University of New Hampshire and a master's degree at UCLA. He served in the Army from 1944 to 1946 and in the Korean War from 1951 to 1953, rising to the rank of first lieutenant.

He is survived by his wife, Corinne; two children from his earlier marriage, Ashley and Jason; and two grandchildren.

Services are pending. The family has asked that, instead of flowers, memorial donations be sent to the John Wayne Cancer Institute for Melanoma Research, 2200 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404.

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