Steve Ford, Alumnus

My name is Steve Ford. I graduated in January 1985 in Speech Communication, which is today Communications Studies, but I was proud to be a Speech Communication major, and initially began as a marketing major, but wanted to be into Communications for broadcast and/or, marketing agency work, like advertising agency and public relations agency work.  So I crafted a special option in the speech communication department which allowed me to have a triple major: one third journalism, one third marketing, and one third speech.

My dad was a professor of Sociology here from 1958 to the late ’80s or early 1990s — I don’t know the date that he retired. But that let me really grow up on this campus.

People think Speech Communication is all about talking and standing at a lectern, you know, and blabbing away on rhetoric. I found the Speech Communication Studies program to be fantastic from the standpoint of understanding writing for broadcast, understanding rhetorical discourse, writing to persuade, advertising writing, interpreting and evaluating communication and understanding the theory of communication, world views of communication and all the theoretical things that you don’t think you would get, and I say that just to give a plug for the depth and academic side of Communications Studies. Really powerful information.

It actually makes me feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle, you know, to come back here today because I blink my eyes and wake up and I come back in 2009 and there’s nine new buildings. I parked my car over in the parking lot that’s east of the University Student Union, and I recognize the parking lot, but you know, I walk no more than twenty-five, thirty seconds into the University Student Union and I see a dramatically different structure. I was on the board of directors of the University Student Union in 1984 and 1985.  I was very involved there. So I have both affection for what I see on the campus today and also sort of shock and dismay because many of the open, green-lawn walk areas are now concrete buildings. But it’s tastefully done, and I still see the orange grove, so I must tell you that so long as the orange grove is here on this campus I will forever allow and bow to the expansion of the campus to build more concrete. But that orange grove has to stay.

When I look back at the difference between me today and what I would have been, say, if I hadn’t gone to Cal State Northridge, that education that I was describing — with the unique major that I had through the Speech Communications department — enabled me to do everything I’ve done in the 25 years since then. I’ve been in management, advertising agencies, public relations agency work, I’ve hosted a national TV show on the Home & Garden television network, I’ve done radio, television, print journalism, using the journalism I studied here. I continue to be motivated and excited about my career with the studies that I took here that have enabled me to be a better communicator, professionally, and make a living at it in the years since graduating.

CSUN makes a powerful difference. You are influenced by what was positive here at CSUN far beyond what you are aware of when you are going to school here. It takes you forward to open options and awareness that you didn’t know — you didn’t have — until you got here.  And then by whatever studies you go into, suddenly a whole new world opens up and, depending on how much vigor and enthusiasm you bring, CSUN meets you and pulls you forward.

Virginia Elwood-Akers, retired Library faculty

Virginia Elwood-Akers
Virginia Elwood-Akers

Ok, I’m sitting in my original office which I just think is fascinating, because lots of people have been here since. I was hired in August of 1972, just out of library school (Oregon is where I went to library school). But I wasn’t young, I mean I wasn’t a brand new “baby” librarian because I had had other careers first, which was the reason they hired me, because I worked in public relations. And they wanted somebody who had a background in public relations because Norman Tanis — who was the director of the library at the time — was starting a development program. And he founded a group called the Bibliographic Society, which was kind of the precursor of the Friends of the Library. So it was called the Bibliographic Society and the first president of that group was the head of the Southwest Museum [Carl Dentzel], so it was very prestigious. And they needed somebody who could write press releases and newsletters and brochures, and that was me, so they hired me.

Anyway, so they had programs they invited poets and writers and famous scientists, like Francis Crick. They invited people to come and speak and they had — we had, I should say — a publishing program called the Santa Susana Press, which published gorgeous books. And everything was swell and fine as long as there was money. And then the money began to get tighter and tighter, and I know one person who used to say that the state university used to be supported by the state, and now it is acknowledged by the state. Probably in the early 80s the money just started to dry up. It was probably connected to Proposition 13, when education money dried up all over the state. And so the Bibliographic Society gracefully died, but not totally. The press went on and they still published beautiful books.

Well there was the great library party of — I can’t remember what year — when Ward Ritchie, the publisher — do you know Ward Ritchie? Well, Los Angeles used to be very famous for fine press books. Glen Dawson did one, Ward Ritchie was a printer who did one. Anyway. . . they did an exhibit of Ward Ritchie press books, and his girlfriend, — using the word “girl” very, very loosely — was Gloria Stewart, that was in Titanic. They were already in their eighties, I believe. Anyway they had this party out in the lobby that was just wonderful. It had music, it had dancing, it had drinking, it had raucous wonderfulness, it was a great party.

Betsy Stelck, founding History faculty family

Betsy Stelck and DeWayne Johnson (interviewer)
Betsy Stelck and DeWayne Johnson (interviewer)

I decided — along with a lot of other faculty wives who’d just arrived — that it would be wonderful if we could get together as a family and get our children playing together, and maybe taking swimming lessons together, and doing those kinds of things. So we organized the Faculty Wives group. And everyone was very, very eager to participate in this, and we had wonderful activities. We had a huge Christmas party for our children, and we had swimming lessons, we had parties. . . And then we had our faculty band, and we had our own parties at the Cafeteria — decorated the Cafeteria beautifully. Char Sellers, one of our very artistic members would decorate this so beautifully, and that’s where we would have our Christmas party. And we were so fortunate to have that, because we were all very, very broke. . ..

Well, we decided that there were many students that wanted to come to this University, but just didn’t have the money, and if we could help them in any way– So we decided we were going to give scholarships, but we didn’t have any money to give the scholarships, so we’d bake cakes. We had a lot of bake sales on the campus. The cookies went so fast, and the cakes went so fast, that we could hardly get them on the campus before they were gone. And then we decided to give rummage sales, and they were very, very popular. So we were able to raise quite a bit of money, and we had to turn it over to the [University] Foundation, and the Foundation invested it for us, and it was a very, very good time for investments — they did a very good job. And before long, we were ready to give our first scholarships, which were $100 scholarships. And for years and years, now we have given four scholarships of $1,500 each.