1955 Graduates

1955 Benjamin Student Donald Robert Paulson

Donald Robert Paulson, attended Benjamin School from second through sixth grades (Fall 1950 through Spring 1955), and Wheaton Jr. High School for seventh and eighth grades. He graduated from West Chicago Community High School (1961), earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Monmouth College (1965), a doctorate degree in organic chemistry from Indiana University (1968), and was a National Institutes of Health post-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago (1968-1970).

Family Ties: Elizabeth Ann Paulson, wife, married 48 years and also a West Chicago Community High School graduate; two sons, Matthew Paulson, 42, Andrew Paulson, 38; and six grandchildren ages 9, 9, 7, 6, 5, and 3.

Career Highlights: From 1970 until retirement in 2006, Paulson was professor of chemistry at California State University, Los Angeles. He chaired the department from 1980 to 1990, had a large research group of 10-15 students each year, published over 50 scientific papers and held several dozen research grants totaling more than $4,600,000.

Today: Paulson’s hobby has always been the history of railroads and mining in Colorado. Since retirement from Cal State LA in 2006, he has been the curator of the Ouray County Museum in Ouray, Colorado. He recently published three books on the history of southwestern Colorado. In addition, he has given many talks, and has written more than 70 articles on the history of mining and railroads in southwestern Colorado.

Golden Memories of Benjamin School: For my first four years at Benjamin School we were taught in a one-room school with a water pump in the front yard and an outhouse in back. In 1955, a new and larger building was built that separated grades 1-4 and 5-8 with two teachers.

Back in the early 1950s Zip-Lock bags and plastic wrap had not been invented, so our mom's would back our lunches in paper bags with sandwiches wrapped in old-fashioned wax paper. Every lunch period we would pool our wax paper and rub it on the slide to see how fast we could slide down. I remember the slide as one of the largest I had ever seen. It was one straight shot and very steep.

I remember we dressed up for Halloween and wore our costumes to school. There was not any opportunity in farm country to go trick-or-treating on Halloween so school was it.

A single teacher taught 12-15 students in the first through eighth grades. If you got bored with what third grade was doing you could always just do what fourth or fifth grade was doing. So, as young as second grade I was continually exposed to what the older kids were doing. I think that provided me with a curiosity and love for difficult topics. We had a Benjamin School Cub Scout Pack and my mom (Florence Paulson) was the den mother.

How did Benjamin School prepare me for the Future? The education I got a Benjamin was outstanding. I learned to interact with other students who were either much older or much younger than myself as well as peers. The teacher did not keep you doing your own grade level assignment but let you work as far ahead as you were able even if it was one or two grades ahead. We helped each other in class because there was only one teacher and many small groups were doing different lessons. I think I fell in love with teaching at that point. We did a lot of reading at Benjamin and I remember my parents’ friends being amazed at the books I was reading in early grade school.