Armer, a CSUN Distinguished Teaching Award winner who taught in the Radio-Television-Film Department from 1980 to 1999, said he chose to make the gift largely because of the fun he had teaching at CSUN.
"I was lucky, I taught fun classes like writing and directing. Every year there were new movies and television shows to talk about, stuff the students were interested in," Armer said.
"I really enjoyed the students, they were very much alive. Each day I went to class, it was like looking in a mirror. They would see themselves -their excitement for what we were doing - reflected in me and I would see reflections of me in them."
The Alan and Elaine Armer Irrevocable Charitable Remainder Trust will pay for the 120-seat screening room in the new College of Arts, Media, and Communication Building, currently under construction and designed by renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern. The screening room will be named for Armer and his wife Elaine.
The gift was announced recently at the launching of the universityıs new capital initiative, CSUN Rising, which has a goal of raising $10 million to restore and upgrade the universityıs teaching facilities, instructional technology, laboratory equipment and instructional furnishings.
Faye Ainsworth, development director for the college, said Armerıs gift is particularly significant because it is the largest the university has ever received from a faculty member.
William Toutant, interim dean for the College of Arts, Media, and Communication, added that Armerıs gift will be greatly appreciated by the students, faculty and staff in the college.
"It is especially meaningful that a faculty member has chosen to give back to his department in such an eloquent way," Toutant said. "It also underscores the importance of the campus community in the capital initiative."
Judy Marlane, chair of the Radio-Television-Film Department, called Armer "an outstanding teacher who was able to combine the vast professional experience he possessed with student needs to make learning meaningful."
"The new screening room will make it possible for our students to study some of the great films in the history of the discipline in their original format, and in an appropriate setting," Marlane said, adding that the campus has lacked such a facility until now. Student films also will be screened in the new facility, she said.
And, in a potential benefit for the entire campus, Marlane said companies in the movie industry have offered the university first-run screenings of new feature films once the new venue becomes available. The department hopes to equip the room with 35mm, 16mm, video and computer projection capabilities.
Armer, who lives on the Westside of Los Angeles, received his bachelorıs degree in speech and drama from Stanford University and a masterıs in theatre arts from UCLA. He started his entertainment career at a radio station in San Jose where he worked as an announcer for about a year.
After moving to Los Angeles in search of a radio job, Armer began working at an advertising agency that specialized in a then-new form of communication technology: television. In that role, Armer later wrote, acted in, directed, narrated and edited television commercials.
From there, Armer and a friend were able to create their own television show, "Lights, Camera, Action," which aired on the local NBC affiliate for three years. He later was hired by the station as a floor manager and then director. He went on to Fox, where he wrote, produced and directed several television series, including "My Friend Flicka."
Armer later became executive producer for the award-winning Desilu production of "The Untouchables." He subsequently joined Quinn Martin Productions, where he produced "The Fugitive" (for which he received an Emmy), "The Invaders" and the first year of "Cannon." "The Fugitive" recently was inducted by the Producers Guild of America into its Hall of Fame.
It was only then, after occasional forays into lecturing at Stanford and USC, that Armer became a CSUN faculty member in 1980. "I guess I was suffering burnout at the time," Armer said of his transition from television to teaching. "Nearly everything I had worked on had been successful and I had won a lot of awards. But I just wasnıt happy anymore. My wife asked me why I kept doing it."
About that time, Armer received a call from the chair of CSUNıs R-TV-F Department. "He asked me if I wanted to teach a writing class. I asked him, When do I start?ı And he said, How about the day after tomorrow?ı " Armer recalled. "I loved it. It was great fun and the kids were just wonderful."
Armer started teaching part time, and eventually shifted to full-time status before becoming a full professor. He retired last year and now writes poetry and consults with people writing screenplays, but admits sometimes missing working with students. "I enjoyed every minute I spent working with those kids," he said.