She acknowledges herself as a late bloomer with a short, half-joking outburst of laughter. At the age of 49, CSUN graduate student Anne Huddleston is undergoing a rebirth.
Huddleston is nearing completion of her master’s degree in history and on Sept. 19 became CSUN’s academic poster girl when she was awarded the William Randolph Hearst Trustees award for history.
The award was given to 19 students this year from the CSU system. The award is presented, along with a $3,000 scholarship, to students who have had personal hardships and demonstrate the highest levels of personal achievement, charity and academic excellence.
Despite being faced with ongoing financial issues and multiple failed adoption attempts, Huddleston says her problems hardly compared with those of some of the other award recipients.
“There was one girl who grew up in a cult and ran away and lived in Seattle to live on the streets, where she met a man and had three children before she was 20,” Huddleston said. “It’s hard to compete with a girl who was raised in a cult!”
In addition to the Hearst award, Huddleston also received a 2005-2006 University Scholarship and a 2006-2007 CSUN graduate alumni scholarship, according to an Internet news release published by the CSUN public relations office.
Prior to her return to school, Huddleston’s younger life was earmarked with miscalculated career decisions and childish dereliction.
When she was a youngster, Huddleston says she “was way more worried about trying to fit in: boys, clothes and friendships. I didn’t plan very well for the future.”
Following the divorce of her parents when she was young, Huddleston lived with her mother, Leslie Tankersley, in many cities, ranging from Hollywood and Glendale to Westlake.
After she spent years rocking out as a vocalist/bassist for a 1980s rock band and graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, her father, Sheldon Allman, tried to convince her that the best choice would be to get a four-year degree.
“My dad said, ‘Why don’t you go to a four-year college?’ and I was so short-sighted that I said to my dad, ‘Oh my God, dad, I’ll be 32 when I get out!'”
Ultimately, though, nobody had more of an impact on her than her husband.
Huddleston says it was her husband’s passion for reading and writing that drove her to return to school.
“I tend to be a great reader, and I think that that was a magnet to her,” said Roger Huddleston, her husband.
He added that his wife is “just a passionate, curious, engaged woman” with a love for learning and an intellectual depth that she didn’t fully realize at first, but was later drawn to.
That passion was for a subject she often was interested in, but could never have foreseen herself diving into: history. As she learned more about history from her schooling, Huddleston developed some unique views of her own.
“All disciplines are encompassed in history,” she said. “I imagine myself going into the classroom and trying to help high school kids understand by bringing it down to a micro level.”
She explained that every time a person changes jobs, has issues with family members, or experiences a significant life shift of any kind, they “contribute to (their) own history. At the macro level it contributes to people’s behavior ? That helps you appreciate the history of the world, or the history of your country, or state.”
Having drawn these conclusions, Huddleston said she decided she wants to teach the subject herself because of poor teaching practices that turn off teenagers in the junior high and high school grade levels.
“People hate history because it is taught poorly with names, dates, et cetera,” she said. “History has to be taught with stories. Everybody can tell you the plot of their favorite movie or the lyrics to their favorite song.”
Her husband chose a historic legend of his own to explain her personal history. He likens Huddleston to Excalibur. As King Arthur lay dying, the Holy Grail was brought to him. Drinking from it he proclaimed, “I did not know I was thirsty until I drank.”
He was, of course, referring to his wife’s thirst for knowledge, something noticed by her professors as well.
Dr. Thomas Devine, Huddleston’s former professor, remembers her as being “enthusiastic, eager to learn” and “a voracious reader.”
Devine teaches a 20th century youth culture class. Huddleston previously attended his class and was moved by a video he showed called “Freedom on My Mind.”
“It’s good because the talking heads, the ‘I was there when it all happened’ people, they are all very colorful characters,” Devine said. He shows the documentary every semester because of the moving effect he said it had on him when he first saw it as well.
Huddleston was so touched by it that she began studying the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century.
She later attended a history course taught by Dr. Ronald Davis. During the semester, the class took a trip to Natchez, Miss. to search for thesis topics.
“That city had the second largest slave market in the South,” Huddleston said. She added that because of their positive reaction to the Union soldiers marching in after the battle of Vicksburg, the town was spared. As a result, it remained intact both physically and in spirit.
It’s here that she is currently studying a group of people who sympathized with blacks in the face of Jim Crow, and participated in many civil rights activities despite the risk to their own personal safety and property.
“One of the areas that doesn’t have much historic scholarship is among liberal whites in the south,” she said. “White people were taking a huge chance in these communities for having anything to do with the freedom movement.”
Huddleston remains proud of her academic standing at a school that she considers to be on par with Ivy League universities. In this regard, she shares a similar opinion with CSUN’s provost, Harold Hellenbrand, who has compared the quality of education at this university with Harvard.
In Huddleston’s opinion, CSUN students have a great opportunity for an education because many of their professors graduated from universities such as Yale and Harvard. Students here, however, have the added benefit of small classes and lessons actually taught by the professors and not their aides.
Her advice to students is to “excel in what you’re doing right now” as opposed to just making plans to do well in the future, and to “do everything (your professors) tell you to do and take advantage of all the possibilities.”