Faculty & Staff

Progress | April 2011

April 2011

By Katelynn Christensen

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Twelve years ago, a young Pablo Hilario said goodbye to his friends and family in the Philippines and moved to the United States in pursuit of educational achievement. Upon arrival in the states, Pablo began studies at the University of Connecticut, where he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry.

As a graduate student, Pablo worked as a general chemistry teacher’s aide. New to the American culture and accent, the task of teaching freshmen students posed a daunting undertaking for Pablo; however, it proved an enjoyable learning experience.

Pablo describes his first semester as a chemistry assistant as “really challenging.” He explains, “I was scared; I didn’t know how to deal with students,” a sentiment to which most beginning instructors can relate. Even more than his questions of how to teach, Pablo was concerned with the challenge of communicating effectively.

By the time second semester rolled around, Pablo had found a solution to his woes. His tactic? “I decided to befriend my students and talk with them about their experiences at school, at home, [and] at high school,” he shares.

As Pablo got to know his students more personally, they helped him build on the English skills he learned in school in the Philippines. He feels that relating to his students on a more personal level improved his teaching.

After graduation, Pablo spent two years at Massachusetts General Hospital, part of the Harvard Medical School, doing post-doctoral research in cancer biology—focusing specifically on mutagenesis, the study of the origins and development of mutations.

Pablo considers himself lucky to have had the opportunity to learn and work in conjunction with an Ivy League university. “They do top-notch research there—especially cancer research,” he says. Pablo credits his post-doctoral research experience with rounding him out as a scientist, as it exposed him to many molecular biology techniques.

Even with a Ph.D. and an impressive research background, Pablo is not done learning. Pacific Union College’s ambitious new chemistry professor hopes to study Spanish, French, and art once he is more settled into his teaching position. The prospects of conducting research on the process of student learning, taking piano lessons, traveling, and participating in summer mission work also pique Pablo’s interest.

Pablo is happy with his decision to accept a teaching position at PUC and credits God and the warm welcome extended by the college community with that outcome. California’s climate and PUC’s beautiful Napa Valley surroundings certainly have not hurt either. In fact, Pablo is enthusiastic about spending the next chapter of his life playing with his son on the PUC tennis courts, tending a vegetable garden every spring, and continuing to make a difference as an exceptional professor.


Pastor Laffit Cortes, currently youth director of the New Jersey Conference, has accepted the position of PUC campus chaplain and associate pastor of the PUC Church. He will begin his duties effective July 1.

Joy Hirdler joined the finance office as director of college business relations, effective March 28.

Judy Ness joined the Career and Counseling Center as mental health counselor, effective March 23.

Lawrence “Freddy” Whiteside moved from the office of advancement to the office of student finance as a financial aid technician, effective March 21.

Colleagues & Departments

John McDowell had two works selected for the St. John's Art Festival religious and spiritual art show, "In Search of Grace." Scott Shields, the associate director and chief curator at the Crocker Art Museum, juried the show, which ran from March 12-20 at St. John's Lutheran Church in Sacramento.

Rachelle Davis will play a recital on violin at the White Barn in St. Helena on Sunday, April 3 at 4 p.m. The program is entitled “Fritz Kreisler: The Man and His Music,” and the venue owner Nancy Garden will accompany Rachelle on piano. Proceeds for the concert will benefit the Martin O'Neil Cancer Center at St. Helena Hospital. For reservations, contact the box office at the White Barn at (707) 251-8715. Lynn Wheeler recently chaired the accreditation team for the National Association of Schools of Music to Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Upon touring the school of music there, Lynn was impressed with two things: the large, elaborate music facilities, built with foresight long before the university had a notable music program; and the nuns, who have been praying perpetually for peace around the world for 130 years.

Physical Plant
On Sunday, March 20, the PUC Co-generation plant shut down its operation for a series of scheduled maintenance actions by the Kawasaki Corporation. Unfortunately, on that same day, PG&E had an incident taking down power to the entire community, putting the campus on back-up emergency power. Shortly after 4 p.m., there was a surge that caused an arcing fire on a PG&E pole close to the PUC main switch gear, activating an emergency shut-down of the generator and putting the campus in a black-out situation. Plant Services assessed the situation and notified Public Safety resulting in a response from the Fire Department and PG&E. When PG&E resolved their problem, PUC could resume generator power to the campus. Many individuals in the community were without electrical power for several days, while the PUC campus enjoyed the comforts provided by having a working back-up plan – with only an hour’s disruption.