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Frank Hernandez: A Living Legend

By Kayt Ludi
Political Science Instructor Frank Hernandez

Frank Hernandez was born in Saginaw, Michigan during the 1930s. He experienced racism and discrimination first hand throughout his youth and young adulthood. He served in the US Air Force during the Korean War. He has attended, and taught at prestigious universities.

Outside of teaching, he has also worked for the government in many different capacities over the years. He is a husband, father of three, and grandfather of two. And all of these things inform and enhance his teaching of Political Science at EMCC.

Hernandez grew up and lived in what he describes as having been a fairly ethnically diverse community in Saginaw. During the '40s, however, the level of violence increased. Stabbings, shootings, drugs, prostitution were all on the rise. Police brutality was also rampant. According to Hernandez, “The police would stop us, and by us I mean Blacks and Latinos, for no reason at all. They would demand ID. They would throw us against the car, search us, and if you protested, they would take out the night stick and beat you up.”

In trying to move out of the increasingly dangerous neighborhood in the '50s, Hernandez encountered what he describes as “severe discrimination.” He and his wife wanted to move their family to the safer environment of the West Side of Saginaw, but found that they were not entirely welcome. “Realtors would tell us that the house we were interested in was just sold when I gave them my last name.” Hernandez said.

Some realtors were openly racist, telling Hernandez, “We don’t want any Mexicans on the West Side.” Fortunately, a friend with whom Hernandez was discussing his difficulties, invited Hernandez to come to church with him one Sunday. At the church the friend introduced Hernandez to one of his fellow parishioners – an Irish-Catholic realtor who knew a bit about discrimination himself. The Hernandez family moved to the West Side.

Before he was married, Hernandez was briefly in the US Air Force during the '50s. He was stationed in Montgomery, Alabama just one year before Rosa Parks made history by refusing to give up her bus seat for a white passenger. When Hernandez, and a fellow Airman (an African-American from Detroit) attempted to ride a bus in Montgomery one day, the driver looked them both over and told Hernandez’s friend to go to the back of the bus. The friend protested that since he was in the military he shouldn’t have to go to the back of the bus, but the driver was unmoved. Hernandez suggested they get off the bus since, as he said to his friend, “We’re not in Detroit.”

Out of the military, Hernandez went back to Michigan and attended Central Michigan University on the GI Bill. He received his bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology. He worked as a substitute teacher at “a very tough” junior high school, then for the juvenile court system for about three years. Eventually he worked for the City of Saginaw as an adult probation officer and an assistant to the city manager. He was the Director of the City of Saginaw’s Work Relief program, and the city’s welfare budget – which his boss, the city manager, always sent Hernandez to explain/defend in front of the city council.

The Hernandez family then decided to leave Michigan for the better weather of California. They moved 25 miles outside San Francisco, where Hernandez found work in adult probation, juvenile probation, and family court services. He also attended San Francisco State University where he earned a master's degree in Education. Hernandez got a second master's degree in Public Administration from USC. At USC he also did everything, but his dissertation for his doctorate focused on the area of Family Court Services – which included a research project about reducing the negative impact of divorce on children. He developed what was called the Child Custody Supervision Program, which created a corps of people able to respond to any and all child custody issues 24 hours a day. The program became the model for counties across Northern California.

After retiring from working in government, Hernandez taught for about eight years in the Political Science Department at San Jose State, as well as in their MA in Public Administration Program. After that he taught about a year at San Francisco State in the Public Administration Department. Hernandez then moved to Arizona. He worked as a school counselor for the city of Tempe, and then taught Political Science for MCCCD campuses at Glendale, Paradise Valley and Estrella. He is in his 4th year now at EMCC.

Andrea Beltran, who is currently taking POS110: American National Government from Hernandez, said, “I would definitely recommend Mr. Hernandez class.”  According to Beltran, “It is certainly an eye opener. How he goes about teaching us is something new to me. He uses the Socratic method of questioning, whether he notices this or not, I’m not sure, but it is very effective. He lets you draw your own conclusions.”

Beltran, who is majoring in Journalism and Political Science, has long been very interested in politics. Though politics could be considered a very touchy subject, Beltran said that in the class, “Views, of course, do differ, but there is never real hostility, and everyone respects different views.” And when it comes down to whether or not Beltran feels that Hernandez’s life experiences add to his ability to teach Political Science effectively, Beltran said, “They really do. His experiences make up a lot of his lectures, and when he’s done questioning us and making us draw our own conclusions, he complements them with his own life experiences and stories that enrich his lessons like no other.”

Hernandez is currently writing a book, which he hopes will be finished next year. The subject of the book will be the world economy, and it will be largely based on a paper he presented at an international conference in Mexico City in the '90s. During the current spring semester, Hernandez is teaching both POS 110 and 115 at EMCC.