Soft-spoken, intimidating and effective.
These are words students have used to describe Mac Aipperspach, the radio and television professor at Del Mar College.
Set to retire at the end of the current school year, Aipperspach’s students said he is one of those teachers who impacted their lives and helped paved the way for their future.
FROM NORTH TO SOUTH
Originally from North Dakota, Aipperspach received his bachelor’s degree at John Brown University in Arkansas and graduated with his master’s at the University of North Texas. He has taught for nearly 42 years with 40 of them being at Del Mar College.
Aipperspach said he got into education at first for selfish reasons. His wife is from Australia and the two would visit there frequently causing them to leave their jobs behind. After vacating jobs left and right, the two decided to go into education to feel secure.
“I started looking for work in a teaching position in the spring semester of 1981,” Aipperspach said. “I came down here in May and was interviewed here.”
He had interviews lined up with other schools including Kansas and Wyoming.
“The person who was the chair at that time told me not to do anything foolish such as taking one of those jobs,” Aipperspach said. “So, I waited. Then July eventually rolled around and I made a call to ask on the situation and they said, ‘Oh, we’re going to hire you.’ I quickly started to make arrangements to move down here and get into teaching.”
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
Xavier Barrientos, a career and technology media teacher at Miller High School, is a former student of Aipperspach’s. He said Aipperspach is there to teach and students are there to learn.
“He doesn’t joke around and he’s real firm about that,” Barrientos said. “His teaching methods are straight-on. He wants to do it effectively and properly to get you ready for the business.”
Being at Del Mar College for decades, Aipperspach has gone through multiple forms of learning and teaching. The format of broadcast has changed over the years with new and innovative ways for production.
“It’s been a learning experience along the way,” Aipperspach said. “It’s been kind of fun because it always makes things different and gives you ways to be creative. Like shooting video; we have gone through five different formats.”
Along with new teaching plans, Aipperspach learned from his students how to be patient.
“It’s hard to do sometimes,” Aipperspach said. “Back in the 80s, there was some student who was comparing notes to someone else and they said, ‘Oh, he’s really mellowed since I’ve had him as an instructor.’ Sometimes you just have to bite your tongue because it’s not the right time to say something.”
Chris Ambriz, a communications specialist at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, took classes with Aipperspach in 1997 and served as his student assistant for a couple of years. He said Aipperspach taught him discipline of keeping himself in focus with what he’s doing with his career.
“I learned a lot from him about television production and the general ins and outs of being in the business,” Ambriz said. “A lot of my endeavors wouldn’t have been achievable without his help. He was one of the first people to give his students the opportunity to branch out and explore the mechanisms of television production.”
Aipperspach said he will miss seeing his students develop their skills and grow into their field of choice. He said some former students of his now work for CNN in Atlanta, the Weather Channel and a country station in Houston.
At Del Mar College, he has at least six former students: Robert Muilenburg, professor of journalism; Patricia Walter, department chair of foreign languages; Bob Klepac, assistant professor of architecture and drafting technology and program coordinator; Michael Bratten, communications manager; Jason Houlihan, digital services manager; and Robert Perez Jr., multimedia specialist.
Aipperspach said the fact he has touched students lives and impacted them to go into their career throughout his time at Del Mar College makes him proud.
“They can look upon the education they received here as a good foundation,” Aipperspach said. “For them to go into it and be prepared for any changes that may come their way, that’s fantastic. I tell students that a college education allows you to be more adaptable to do things that come along.”
ON HIS OWN TERMS
Not only does Aipperspach help students get into the broadcast business, he helps them get into radio. Radio personality Frank “Big Frank” Edwards with K-99 Country is one of Aipperspach’s contacts to help students find a job locally.
“I wasn’t a student of his, but for many years when we would have a part-time opening for someone to work on the weekends for us or any type of situation where we needed an extra set of hands, I’d get in touch with Mac because of his radio program,” Edwards said. “There was always students ready to get their foot in the door and he was real kind to send them my way.”
Edwards said he hates to say it’s going to be a great loss with Aipperspach’s retirement, but is happy he is doing it on his own terms.
“He has really made an impact with so many students who went through his programs, got in the media business and utilized what they learned from him,” Edwards said. “But he’s got to do what he feels is best for him and I got to support that.”
After 40 years, Aipperspach said he feels like it is his time to go. He still enjoys teaching, but he wants to do things he has been putting off for years.
“Somebody asked me one time, ‘What do you do all summer long when you have three months off?’ I do what I couldn’t do for the last nine months,” Aipperspach said. “There’s a lot of things that got constantly postponed.”
Aipperspach said he will have more time with his church, where he heads to TV ministry, do more reading and work on things around his house.
Two of his current students, Isaac Huerta and Alex Weister, both said Aipperspach is educational and hands-on with his methods. Weister said he’s the best teacher he’s ever had and Huerta said he’s never bored in his class because Aipperspach always makes learning fun.
“That’s my legacy right there,” Aipperspach said. “The sense that my students are the legacy that is out there based on what I’ve done here. That’s great.”
John Oliva covers education and community news in South Texas. Consider supporting local journalism with a subscription to the Caller-Times.