Gift of Goodwill

Charter class graduate Al Monetta remembers a much different Oakland University

Oakland University graduate Al Monetta holds a Michigan State University Oakland yearbook


icon of a calendarJune 6, 2018

icon of a pencilBy Robert Guttersohn

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Charter class graduate Al Monetta, SEHS ’63, remembers a much different Oakland University. In the early ’60s, he recalls, the University’s landscape felt more like a small-town high school than the internationally-acclaimed college that it is today. There were no dorms, and OU founder Matilda Dodge-Wilson’s farmland was within clear view. But the curriculum was rigorous.

“It was really nice then because you knew a lot of people even though most of us commuted,” says Monetta, who received his bachelor’s degree in secondary education in mathematics and history.

A tight-knit campus led Monetta to develop a close relationship with professor of mathematical sciences James H. McKay, Ph.D., one of OU’s first professors.

“I had a class taught by him almost every semester because there were only three professors teaching mathematics,” Monetta remembers. “He was my first professor there, and he was easy to work with. There was never an issue to directly ask Dr. McKay for help.”

McKay taught at OU for more than three decades before retiring. He passed away in 2012, but his legacy lives on through two endowments established in his honor to benefit students in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Now Monetta and Bruce Voss, his partner of 40 years and now husband, have apportioned a percentage of their trust to be bequeathed to McKay’s endowment.

Like most teachers, Monetta knew for much of his life he wanted to become a classroom instructor.

Oakland University alumni Bruce Voss and Al Monetta sit in front of a gold wall on campus
Bruce Voss and Al Monetta look at a vintage Michigan State University Oakland yearbook. Photo by Adam Sparkes.

“My mother was a teacher, and I really liked what she did. I knew in high school I wanted to teach, and mathematics was my favorite subject,” he says.

Still, his family didn’t have the means to pay for school outright. Scholarships helped ease the financial burden on his family and allowed him to finish school in four years.

“I applied for scholarships, and those scholarships paid for my tuition and books every year,” says Monetta, and his contribution to McKay’s endowment will do the same for other students. “I wanted to give something back to the University.”

Upon finishing his degree, Monetta taught mathematics in a junior high school in East Los Angeles for five years. While teaching there, he earned his master’s degree in secondary teaching. He moved back to Michigan after his father became ill and spent the next 25 years teaching mathematics and computer science courses at the high school level in Waterford. But he always made a point to drop in and visit McKay, his favorite professor.

Now retired, Monetta and Voss, who also attended OU in 1971, have been dedicated donors to the University and Meadow Brook Hall for almost 50 years.

László Lipták, chairman of the mathematics department, says he hopes their bequest inspires others to give back. “We are extremely grateful for this generous gift. Their commitment acknowledges the impact of the exceptional education the University delivers and will allow us to support a greater number of students for generations to come.”

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