Emeritus professor of English Hal Marienthal died on Jan. 3 after a long battle with cancer. Until his death, the native of Germany continued his 63-year teaching career through teaching and mentoring students in the Humanities External Master’s Degree (HUX) program at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and taught screenwriting at the University of North Carolina, Asheville.
“Hal contributed to the success of several programs and countless CSU Dominguez Hills students,” says Margaret Gordon, dean of the College of Extended and International Education. “He loved mentoring students, and his students adored and praised him. They frequently commented on how they cherished the knowledge and skills he generously shared with them along with his keen critical sensibility and eloquence. His passion, wit, and encyclopedic knowledge will be missed by the HUX community as well as by all who were inspired by his remarkable vitality.”
Marienthal was a member of the CSU Dominguez Hills faculty from 1966 to 1988. He served as founding chair of the theatre department when the university was still California State College, Dominguez Hills and located at the original across Victoria Street. Marienthal directed several plays at the university’s original arts venue, the Playbox Theatre, including “The Threepenny Opera” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
While teaching in the English, theatre arts, and communications departments at CSU Dominguez Hills, Marienthal continued to work in various areas of the industry, including film distribution, writing for FM, a publication on radio, and Fine Arts Magazine, and writing and hosting a weekly half-hour show called “The Theatre Beat” on KCET from 1968 to 1982. He also produced “Great Conversations,” a KNBC program hosted by educational philosopher Robert Maynard Hutchins. Marienthal won the Lyle E. Gibson Distinguished Teacher Award at CSU Dominguez Hills in 1975 and in 2007, he received the Distinguished Teacher Award at the University of North Carolina.
“Hal was always responsive to students and enthusiastic about their ideas,” says Patricia Cherin, coordinator of the HUX program whom Marienthal had recently contacted with his wish to teach this spring. “Until the very end, he wanted to teach and share himself with students.”
Marienthal earned his bachelor’s degree at the Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and his bachelor’s degree in English literature and master’s degree in American literature from Northwestern University. He taught theatre history at UCLA in the 1950s, and had made many connections in the film and television industry. In 1966, he went on to earn his doctorate in communications at the University of Southern California.
Marienthal was the author of the autobiographical novel, “Good Germans,” an account of his childhood in Nazi Germany. He presented a talk and a book signing for the 2005 work last April at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He also published “Nicholas Icarus,” a novel about a man who could fly, in 2007.
Marienthal is survived by his wife, Sabine Marienthal, daughters Penny Marienthal and Alisa Groocock; sons Paul Marienthal, Tony Marienthal, and Kim Marienthal; daughter-in-law Barbara Marienthal; son-in- law Hugh Groocock; four grandsons and one step-granddaughter. The family is holding a private memorial in the spring.