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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Electronics professor says farewell after 31 years of teaching… for now

Professor Melvin Duvall offers advice on radio hardware during a test of a student-made radio antenna on Nov. 24. William Grubb | staff photographer
Professor Melvin Duvall offers advice on radio hardware during a test of a student-made radio antenna on Nov. 24.
William Grubb | staff photographer

During the Vietnam War, a City College student served as a U.S. Army engineer in Yuma, Arizona. This student was later deployed at an equipment repair facility in South Korea, returned to the United States to take classes at Sacramento State, and by 1981 obtained degrees in both electronics and environmental studies.

Electronics Technology Department Chair Melvin Duvall has been a professor at City College since 1984, a total of 31 years. On Dec. 17, he’ll retire from full-time teaching and leave a legacy of engineering expertise.

Electrical engineering was Duvall’s first major at City College. After a year, he switched his focus to environmental studies. By 1969, Duvall had been drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. He soon used his engineering skills to repair military vehicles in Yuma. One job involved the creation of a practice shooting target.

“They gave us a task… so we built a target vehicle,” Duvall explains. “[It was a] remote controlled vehicle [made from] a ’68 Oldsmobile, and all the electronics for braking and acceleration I built.”

After his brief tour in Korea, Duvall returned to the United States. Between 1971 and 1981, he finished an associate degree in electronics at City College, earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies at Sacramento State, and held jobs as a technician at Sound Tech Lab and Lombard’s Lafayette Radio Electronics.

Since starting a full-time teaching job in 1984, Duvall has been a prominent figure in the electronics technology department. He has taught every type of electronics course at City College, from photovoltaics to semi-conductors. Remnants of his work can be seen sitting in his office, including a software defined receiver in the form of a small, black flash drive.

In addition to teaching regular semester classes, Duvall has overseen the robotics program during the summer. While taking on such responsibilities, Duvall shifted control of entry-level courses to professors such as microwave specialist Wang Ng.

“We still would rotate it so we wouldn’t be teaching the same courses every semester,” Ng says. “But for the more advanced courses we would teach our own specialties.”
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Ng adds that this collaborative process was quite informative for him.

“[Duvall] was my mentor when I first started at City College 18 years ago,” Ng says. “He basically taught me everything about teaching.”

Duvall has worked to ensure that would-be technicians can obtain sustainable jobs through his information. He names McClellan Air Force Base and Sacramento Army Depot, now both inoperative, as places where his students have previously found employment.

“[I try to] help my students see that there are avenues where their expertise [and] internal skills can make it so they can earn a paycheck with what makes them happy,” Duvall says.

Despite Duvall’s impending retirement, Electronics Technology Department Dean Donnetta Webb says students won’t be seeing the last of him any time soon.

“It’s not like he’s going to disappear,” Webb says. “He hears from former students frequently. He’ll always be a mentor or guide.”

If Duvall has his way, he says he would officially remain part of the department. Even though he looks forward to spending time with with his wife and two children, hiking, and working on outdoor projects like greenhouses and gazebos, Duvall confirms that he wants to return to City College.

“And I hope to come back to continue teaching part time after I full-time retire,” Duvall says. “That way I’ll spend a little more time with the family and still do what makes me happiest inside.”

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