People of PTK: Michael Husser

California alumnus Michael Husser has been doing one thing all his life: learning.

In 1964, he graduated high school. In 1995, he enrolled in community college. But the years between were an education in their own right, as he played bass guitar for such legends as Little Richard and worked on NBC’s The Tonight Show.

Today, he’s helping others learn how to navigate college with his book, Husser’s Hints for College Success.

“College is daunting to those who haven’t done it,” he said. “This book is there to help everybody. I want to help those coming to school and those coming back to school.”

Michael grew up in the East Bay area of California in Richmond. He was always interested in sound — when he was 10, he designed a recording studio to be grafted into his parents’ home. He was typically in charge of the sound board at events, but he also performed.

After high school, he began taking guitar lessons — “I wanted to play folk songs and meet girls,” he said. But he discovered that his little finger on his left hand didn’t quite work, so he traded in his guitar for a bass. Three years later, he was on stage playing for Little Richard.

“My friend had an interview for a job as an assistant, and he was nervous about meeting (Little Richard),” Michael said. “So, I went with him and brought along my bass and amplifier.

“Suddenly, I had three days to learn the songs for his next show, and there I was on stage.”

Michael played with Little Richard in the Bay Area and traveled with him to Los Angeles, but he declined to go out on tour. He joined a band with a friend who knew singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, and he recorded a live album with her in 1968.

He calls it his most memorable performance.

Michael spent the next seven years earning a living as a musician. He played backup for various groups in the blues and R&B worlds. He performed some shows with Hoyt Axton, who wrote “Joy to the World (Jeremiah was a bullfrog).”

In 1971, while working at a recording studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he took a job as the “audio guy” at the local NBC station, kicking off a 21-year career in television sound editing that included work on Super Bowls, the Olympics, Days of our Lives, and The Tonight Show.

When General Electric purchased NBC in the early 90s, Michael was offered and accepted a buy-out. He returned home where his sisters — both teachers — encouraged him to go to college.

In 1995, Michael enrolled at the College of Alameda, although it wasn’t easy. He had to quickly navigate the course catalog to make sure he was taking the right classes; he had to learn what the FAFSA was. But after 14 months, he had a 3.5 GPA and was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa.

“The advisor for my chapter was very encouraging,” he said. “There was a very big sense of community at the college.”

Michael transferred to the University of California, Berkeley and graduated with a degree in American Studies. He also received his teaching certification, so he began teaching high school courses in psychology, economics and government. Most of his students were seniors.

He was a popular teacher — many students asked to eat lunch in his classroom so they could talk about government. He hung a banner in class that read, “I believe in you.” As he talked with his students, he recognized that they weren’t sure how to navigate college.

“They didn’t really know what to do after they’d chosen a college,” he said. “They didn’t know what the process was.”

Michael began working to prepare his students for college. He talked to them about the benefits of attended a two-year college, and he encouraged them to join Phi Theta Kappa. He eventually worked as a school-to-career coordinator.

And, all the while, he kept notes, which he turned into Husser’s Hints for College Success. The book covers basics like financial aid, choosing classes, and buying books, and each chapter has pages to add notes. And, it’s full of simple tips that prove important for first-time students:

  • Find two routes into the parking lot.
  • Find two entrances into your building.
  • Go in and touch the door of the classroom you’ll be in.
  • Try to separate your classes by one hour.
  • Try to take classes relative to each other, like history and reading, or sociology and geography.
  • Always know the deadlines for filling out the FAFSA, and know that they come around every year.
  • Park as close to the location of your last class as possible.
  • Show up early.
  • Always read the preface and foreword of your textbooks — they tell you how the book is laid out.

“These things will help reduce your stress,” Michael said. “College should be relaxed and educational.

“I had instructors that were so good that the class would applaud. That’s what you want.”

Michael is now retired from teaching and is living in the small town of Scott’s Mills, Oregon. He’s working on a book about his life as a musician, which isn’t over yet — he’s recorded three albums and is working on a fourth.

Over the years, Michael has been in front of a lot of people — he once played in front of a crowd of 55,000. But it was the audience he found later in life — his high school students — that really had an impact.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “To spark somebody…to help them find what their real, true calling is…it’s truly an honor for me.”