Library Special Collections Project Documents Work of Renown Ph.D.

From the time he joined San Diego State’s philosophy department in 1962 until his 1985 retirement and beyond, Professor Emeritus Allan W. Anderson, Ph.D., made a lasting impact on the students he taught.  Now the life and work of the founder of SDSU’s Religious Studies Department will be documented by the SDSU Library’s Special Collections and Archives with the assistance of a dedicated group of Aztec alumni.

Professor Emeritus Allan W. Anderson.
“We’re looking for his students and any others whose lives he affected,” says Robert Ray, head of Special Collections and University Archives. “A general idea of what we’re looking for is whatever would document his teaching and his effect on his students.”

Anderson’s effect on his students was and continues to be significant.  Just ask Bruce Hanson (’76), Ph.D., a Fullerton College philosophy professor who estimates he took at least 25 of Anderson’s courses as a San Diego State student and in the ten years after completing his undergraduate program.

“I would say Dr. Anderson was unique, he was one of a kind,” assesses Hanson. “He had a huge, huge following of students – always an overflow in each class, including some of the other professors on campus.  What attracted all of us to him, I think, was his authenticity as a person and the authenticity of his teaching.  He spoke to the essence of religion.”

Hanson was an economics major when he took his first class with Anderson.  He ended up with a double major in philosophy and credits Anderson with inspiring him to become a philosophy professor and influencing his teaching style.

“Dr. Anderson never had lecture notes, so unlike many other teachers who would come to class with at least an outline of what they wanted to talk about, he never did,” Hanson recalls. “He would always speak from the heart, if you will, and he would raise a question then ponder it from different angles.  Then he would read a passage and ponder it from different angles.  I’ve tried to emulate that and I don’t think I rise to that level, but for the most part I can lecture without notes in most any class.”


Hanson and former student Mary Hicklin still keep in close contact with Anderson, who turns 88 this month.  They have helped their former professor collect materials and publish some of his recent works.  Hicklin, a systems engineer, created a website where Anderson’s readers and former students can get updates on the professor and share their own thoughts and observations of his work.

“We’ve got people signed up on the website from all over the world.  It’s just fantastic,” Hicklin says. “People say things like, ‘You changed my life.  Thank you so much.’ His influence is really far-reaching.” 

Hicklin is using the website to help Ray reach out to alumni about the Special Collections effort.

“First of all, he was from San Diego State,” she explains in analyzing the project’s significance.  “He received a distinguished teaching award from the state of California.  They regard him as a university treasure.  All of his students value so much what he offered us and that’s why we want to preserve that legacy.”


Ray hopes students from Anderson’s many classes over the years including religion and spirituality, philosophy and psychology of religion will examine any class materials they may have retained.  He says graded papers with Anderson’s written comments or any recorded lectures would be especially welcome.

“We have all his published work, but he doesn’t have his own personal archive so we don’t have much illustrating the way he guided and taught students,” Ray explains, “and for many of them that is evident in the comments he made on their papers.”  

At least one former student has already come forward with some papers illustrating how Anderson helped her through a subject.  Others are reaching out to former classmates to find more.  The effort after so many years exemplifies how highly Anderson is esteemed.

“As far as a teacher, as an educator and someone who cares about his students, I would say that he’s the pinnacle,” Ray summarizes. “He reached the highest form of virtue, I think, in that realm and his students will agree.

“The mission of the CSU is supposed to be teaching and I would say for many of his students there was no one better.  They just adored him.   He spent time with people.  He actually explored things with them.  He talked with them.  He gave of himself.  These papers from this one student and others, hopefully, will show that caring.”

If you have class notes from a course with Dr. Allan W. Anderson, please contact Robert Ray of SDSU Special Collections and Archives at