MORRIS SCHONBACH, PH.D
December 27, 1921 – April 18, 2013
Morris Schonbach, teacher, historian, and friend to all who knew him, passed away in Santa Monica, California, on April 18, 2013. He was 91 years old.
Professor Schonbach was born in Wellsville, Ohio, the son of Abraham and Rose Schonbach. He grew up in Wellsville with his brother Sanford and sister Dorothy. When the Schonbach family moved to California in the 1940s, Morris enrolled at UCLA, where he went on to earn his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in American history. Throughout his academic career his focus was on American intellectual and social history, with emphasis on radical movements and extremism. In 1959-60 Morris held a research fellowship at the Harvard University Center for the History of Liberty in America, and was mentored by the eminent historian Oscar Handlin.
Following his post doctoral fellowship Morris taught at UCLA before moving east to teach at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York from 1960 to 1964. In 1963 Morris joined other academicians and concerned citizens in participating in the Selma, Alabama freedom march to protest the withholding of minority voter rights in Alabama. By 1964 Morris decided it was time to return to California, and accepted a professorship at California State University at Northridge. While at CSUN, he received the Distinguished Teaching Award based on his efforts to establish an Afro-American Studies department during the turbulent social atmosphere of the 1970s. Later Dr. Schonbach helped to establish a program for the study of Jews in U.S. history. His interest and research into radicalism in America led him to publish the book Radicals and Visionaries: A History of Dissent in New Jersey. In 1992 Morris retired from CSUN with the status of Emeritus Professor.
Those who knew Morris knew his life entailed much more than his academic interests and pursuits. Buoyed by the career of his brother Sanford, who was the principal violist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Morris was a classical music enthusiast and enjoyed listening to orchestral and operatic recordings with his close friends. He was an avid sports fan, most particularly of tennis, baseball, and UCLA athletics. He was an accomplished tennis player who relished his trips to Wimbledon, while being an ardent follower of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. He was often seen in Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills either playing tennis or enjoying pickup baseball games. His love of animals was reflected by his care and adoration of his adopted "children" Guinevere and Buzzy.
While Morris took his academic pursuits seriously, he always had a wonderful sense of humor and never took himself too seriously. He was kind, friendly, and respectful of his peers and many friends. He never ran from the opportunity to provide humor at his own expense. He proudly maintained dozens of letters and cards from decades of former students, each thanking Morris for making his classes meaningful, engaging, and thought-stimulating for them.
Morris is survived by nephew Alfred and his wife Theresa of Santa Monica, and niece Judith Schonbach Landgren and her husband Peter of Cincinnati, Ohio. No mention of Morris' life would be complete without acknowledging and thanking his caretaker, Pressy Bustillo, for her tireless and persevering care and attention to Morris in the final years of his life. Services will be private.