The campus officially separated from Los Angeles State College to become San Fernando Valley State College in 1958. Over the next 30 years, enrollment would grow from 2,525 to 31,575. In its first decade, "Valley State" saw the erection of many landmark structures, among them the South Library, the Speech-Drama, Administration, Engineering and Physical Education buildings, and the Sierra Hall classroom complex. As the college's physical plant grew, so did its academic offerings: the first Master's Program in Chicana/Chicano Studies in 1978, Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science in 1990, the planetarium in 1990, the first Central American Studies program in the nation in 2000.
1928: The landscape at this time comprised mainly fruit orchards -- oranges, lemons, avocados -- and farmland. In 1910 the land was subdivided for residential development and named Zelzah, a biblical reference to an oasis. The area had many natural springs and proximity to the Los Angeles River and the California Aqueduct. It was also the only valley stopping point for the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1915, Zelzah was annexed as part of Los Angeles, and renamed "North Los Angeles" in 1929. Nearly a decade later in 1938 it was officially renamed “Northridge.”
1949: Northridge continues its urban and economic development. Streets and homes can be seen taking over areas that were once farmland. At the corner of Devonshire and Zelzah you can see the beginnings of Devonshire Downs, a race track, as well as a venue for concerts and other gatherings. It is still 4 years until Assemblyman Julian Beck introduces the original legislation that will eventually result in establishing a San Fernando Valley Branch of Cal State Los Angeles. The site that is to become CSUN remains relatively undeveloped.
1960: In 1957 the first five permanent buildings were designed and funded for construction: the South Library, Natural Sciences, Fine Arts, Music and the Cafeteria. On January 4th, 1958 groundbreaking was held for the new Valley campus, a satellite of Los Angeles State College. The 165-acre site, much of it farmland, was purchased for $6,000 an acre. Construction was completed on the South Library in 1959 and the Speech-Drama and Fine Arts buildings in 1960.
1989: Northridge has grown quite a lot since 1960. CSUN's enrollment in 1988 reaches a record 31,575 students, along with 1,764 faculty. In 1967 Devonshire Downs becomes an official part of campus. In 1972 the campus officially becomes California State University Northridge. In 1973 the Oviatt Library opens. In 1989 Jeanne Chisholm Hall opens as the home of the National Center on Deafness. What was once groves of fruit trees is now a diverse and active community.
2002: Many campus buildings have undergone major repair in the wake of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, but by that time CSUN has grown far beyond its humble beginning as a satellite campus. Since the university's founding in 1958, CSUN has provided credit classes to more than 500,000 students and awarded degrees to about 190,000 graduates. Today California State University Northridge has more than 34,000 students and 4,000 employees.
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The first President of San Fernando Valley State College, Ralph Prator, attended the University of Colorado where he earned a BA (1929) and MA (1931) in History. In 1940, he joined the staff at the University of Colorado before WWII, and subsequently joined the U.S. Navy, serving from 1942 to 1945.
In 1947, Prator earned an Ed.D. degree in Educational Administration from the University of California, Berkeley. He went on to become the President of Bakersfield College, Bakersfield, California in 1950 and remained its president until 1958 when he was chosen to be San Fernando Valley State College's first President.
President James W. Cleary took office in a brief, quiet ceremony on October 21, 1969, amid ongoing civil rights and anti-Vietnam protests on campus.
"A native of Milwaukee, [Wisconsin], Cleary obtained his BA in philosophy and MA from Marquette University and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, majoring in communication and public address with a minor in comparative literature." (California State University, Newsline, May 9, 2007)
"[Dr. Cleary] expressed his willingness to meet with small groups or organizations on campus to discuss any problems they are facing." (The Daily Sundial, October 3, 1969)
“Under the leadership of President James Cleary, the physical plant of the campus was built, and the demographics of the campus began to reflect the increasing cultural, ethnic, and racial heterogeneity of the greater Los Angeles area.”
(Jolene Koester Inaugural Speech April 19, 2001)
President Blenda J. Wilson became President of CSUN in September 1992. Wilson expressed her dedication to the campus community by tackling the major issue on the campus at the time: budget cuts. Wilson obtained a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Boston College. She received a BA and MA from Cedar Crest College and Seton Hall University.
Wilson was "the first woman and the first African-American to hold that office. Appointed chancellor of the University of Michigan, Dearborn in 1988, Wilson was the first woman in the State to head a 4-year public college or university. . .." (The Daily Sundial, September 2, 1992)
Dr. Jolene Koester began serving as the fourth President of California State University in July, 2000. Dr. Koester earned a BA from the University of Minnesota in 1971, an MA in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1972, and a Ph.D. in speech communication from the University of Minnesota in 1980.
Dr. Koester began her career as an assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1980, then moved to California State University Sacramento's Department of Communication Studies in 1983. In the years leading up to her appointment as CSUN President, Dr. Koester served as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at CSU, Sacramento.
The President's Medallion is a traditional academic symbol of the authority and responsibility of the presidency. Typically, a President's Medallion is presented at the President's Inauguration signaling the beginning of a newly appointed president's tenure in office and passed down from one president to the next.
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Displayed on the podium at major campus events, the official seal depicts the San Fernando Valley's heritage of mission settlement, the mountain ranges that bound the Valley, the sun, and a crow quill pen and paper.
On July 4, 1958 the Los Angeles City College "Diablo" was ceremoniously hurled into a bonfire to kickoff Independence Day festivities as the new SFVSC voted the Matador as its new mascot. The Matador is the official mascot of the Cal State Northridge Matadors sports teams and is to be used primarily in association with athletic programs and events.
Located at the intersection of Zelzah Ave. and Nordhoff St., the abstract "environmental sculpture" spelling "CSUN" was designed by Art Department graduate student John Banks. The design - standing seven and one-half feet high and thirty-one feet long -- was selected from a field of competitive works and chosen by the department's faculty and Campus Planning Board. The abstract sculpture can be read from two specific views.
Columns of the Oviatt Library
From 1992 until 2001 the columns of the Delmar T. Oviatt Library served as the logo for the university. The Library has 45 towering columns, 55 feet high, and weighing 40 tons each and symbolize the enduring testimony to the power of knowledge. The logo was designed by Rodger MacGowan, CSUN Graphic Artist.
Flag, buttons, cups, and related memorabilia were placed in the 1983 Time Capsule as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration of the University. On August 20, 2008 the items were ceremoniously removed to mark the beginning of CSUN's 50th Anniversary.
One of the many items included in the time capsule was the 1983 Sunburst yearbook featuring then president James Cleary on the cover.
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The University Library was the first structure built on the campus. The original building was considered "very small" by Head Librarian Norman Tanis in 1969, and new architectural plans were drawn to "provide a habitat which would promote scholarship and learning and the love of books." The first library building eventually became the home of the Computer Center and Campus Administration. In 1994, the building was condemned after the Northridge Earthquake damaged it beyond repair.
Delmar T. Oviatt was the first executive officer at the SFV campus of Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences. As an educator, he was vitally concerned with young people, innovative, experimental and forward looking, and a man of uncommon good sense. He was a courageous man who stood for educational values and standards as well as for meaningful change and adaptation, even when these values, standards and change were unpopular and under attack. Because of his commitment to educational excellence, the Library built in 1972 was named in his honor.
On May 19, 1971 the ground-breaking ceremony was held for the construction of the new Delmar T. Oviatt Library. Those present included Warner Masters (far left), director of campus planning; Dr. James Cleary (second from right), University President; and Norman Tanis (far right), Dean of Libraries.
The first phase of the Library - the main central structure, or core - was completed on October 24, 1973 at a cost of $7,494,130.
Phase II, which added the east and west wings, including the first library Automatic Storage and Retrieval System in the nation, was completed on October 25, 1991 at a cost of $18.4 million. The architect was Leo A. Daily and the contractor was Kiewit Construction. The announcement for the dedication ceremony was hand-printed on the Washington Press by the Library.
In the January 17, 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the Oviatt Library core suffered repairable structural damage and reopened in August. Severe structural damage to the wings required that they be demolished and rebuilt.
During reconstruction, some Library services were relocated to temporary buildings elsewhere on campus. Reconstruction was completed during the summer of 2000.
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