SANTA MARIA, Calif. -

Mark Herrier reflects on the summer he spent with Robin Williams back in 1973 when both were students at Allan Hancock College's PCPA in Santa Maria.

"He was a force of nature, he was really, really brilliant", Herrier says, "we did I think all three shows together, we did The Music Man of which he played Marcellus, the sidekick to The Music Man."

Herrier says Williams and other PCPA actors would stay up all night honing their craft.

"About four of us lived in a house just off of campus here, its now the home of the AHC Police Department for the campus", Herrier says, "we would go from about 11 at night until about 4 in the morning just trying to make each other laugh, we would just take turns, just doing bits and schtick."

"I knew then that Robin, he's always been funny, a genius, he already had some of his characters he would wind up developing", Herrier says.

News of Robin Williams sudden death came as hundreds of PCPA Alumni and supporters had gathered for a weekend 50th Anniversary celebration and Gala Dinner Monday night.

"There were pictures of him and we were going to be talking about him, and as we were rehearsing during the day and we were just getting to the slides where I was going to say 'all these people were in the chorus of Most Happy Fella, all these people went on to go to Broadway", Herrier says, "just as I am starting to reference that, somebody handed me a phone that said Robin Williams was found dead."

Herrier says it was tough getting through the evening.

"We have no explanation, especially in the context of all of these people, we were all together, in the celebration last night, it was very sad that we found out at this time of celebration", Herrier says, "it was surreal, I'm still kind of getting my hands around it."

Herrier says Robin Williams was relentless, brilliant, a comedic genius and a great, serious actor.

"He was a serious actor", Herrier says, "I mean you think of him as a crazy, wild and crazy comic, but he would up going to Julliard, did very well there, obviously he won many Oscars for serious performances."

"Its one thing to be funny, there are comedic geniuses, but I can't think of another actor who was as funny as him and yet as potentially dark as him and intense as him and as good as classical actor as he was", Herrier says, "I mean he did Shakespeare."

Herrier says the cold, hard reality of Robin Williams' passing is just starting to sink in.

"We have been celebrating this remarkable institution and its been hard to do both", Herrier says, "its hard to both celebrate and to grieve at the same time so I think that the grieving process will start now."