100th publishing anniversary this year, we are featuring interviews with fellow centenarians throughout 2013. If you know a La Jollan who is 100 years old, please e-mail
By Ashley Mackin
The things that 101-year-old Leona Adler loves about living in La Jolla seem to be the reminders of things she loves from her career, interests and life experiences, as well as the “better” traits people had in yesteryears.
She and her husband, now deceased, moved here in 1975.
The retired biology teacher said she loves living near universities and research centers, and appreciates the cultural events in town because exploring other cultures was a big part of her life. She also said the friendliness of La Jolla is a reminder of the sense of togetherness she experienced in younger days.
“We have wonderful research going on here,” she said. “Most people don’t realize it, but we are one of the (most) important research centers in the country. It’s funny they don’t connect San Diego with it, but we have Qualcomm, we have biological research, we have the Salk Institute.”
Because jobs were limited during the Great Depression, Adler said she opted to focus on school, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts, completing a pre-med major. “But I decided I wouldn’t be a good doctor. ... So I got my master’s at Teacher’s College (in 1936) and taught biology first,” she said.
The beginning of her career also marked the beginning of her marriage. She met her husband Norman in her senior year of high school, and kept in touch with him through college. The two wed after they graduated.
She continued to teach at various schools, taking a brief break to raise her children, John and Louise. When she resumed her teaching career, she taught biology and sex education until 1972.
She said it was through her sex education classes that Adler witnessed the change in sexual attitudes and relationships. “There was a rather sudden change between 1968 and 1969 ... the change was more openness. In the movies, there was a sudden jump at that time (that) you could feel.”
However, she said there is less of that openness now, possibly due to the advent of the Internet. “For me, the Internet is not the same thing as eye-to-eye contact and feeling each other’s psyche or whatever, face to face,” she said. “It’s a different thing.”
As opposed to turning to the Internet to keep her mind sharp, Adler said she reads and explores cultural events. She likes to read about politics and attend concerts at her Pacific Regents home, and particularly enjoys the opera, symphony and live theater.
Her appreciation for different cultures comes from traveling the world and seeing so many of them. Through her husband’s many jobs — including lawyer, executive for Columbia Records and agent in the antitrust division of the U.S. government — the Alders traveled to London, Japan, Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean, Hawaii and others.