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Marvin Gerst ’62

Marvin majored in psychology at Reed and wrote his thesis, Operant Verbal Conditioning in Client-Centered Therapy, with Prof. Carol Creedon [psychology 1957–91]. He earned a PhD in psychology from Stanford, and did postdoctoral research there in the social ecology laboratory. One of his interests was in perceived environments and their relationship to behavior—particularly with regard to university residential facilities.

Marvin held joint positions in San Diego as a professor in the department of psychology at the University of California School of Medicine and as staff psychologist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. While at UCSD, he met and married a woman with whom he invested in nursing homes. After they divorced he continued to run the nursing homes, using the proceeds to retire. But he became bored with retirement and began buying accounts receivable from construction companies during a construction boom in the San Diego area. When a recession hit the area following defense contract reductions, he diversified into manufacturing companies.

Marvin was a staunch defender of San Diego’s open spaces. He was an advocate for the preservation of rural landscapes in the San Dieguito River valley, served on the Del Mar Mesa Community Planning Board for more than 10 years, and chaired the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve Citizens Advisory Committee.

In 1982, he purchased a horse ranch next to Carmel Creek north of San Diego. He and his beloved Appaloosa horse, Scout, enjoyed riding through the Carmel valley, Torrey Hills, Pacific Highlands Ranch, and Del Mar Mesa. 

In the 1980s, the conventional wisdom among builders was that horses were a thing of the past. But by the 1990s, an industry study showed that homeowners’ top priority was access to trails and open space. Marvin played a key role in the establishment of the Carmel Valley Restoration and Enhancement Project trail, which ran along his ranch. When the plan for the trail was being developed, he insisted that he would only cooperate if the trail traversed all the properties in the valley, connecting the east end to the west end. 

He got his wish. Today the trail is traveled daily by bicyclists, joggers, horseback riders, and walkers, and his longtime friends hope the anchor pathway he helped create will one day be known as the Marvin Gerst Trail.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2016

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