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.

Natalie Holtzman, Alumna

I wouldn’t be anything without it (education).  When I see a person and they tell me, “Hh, I can’t go to school because…”  You know, just go, because I want everybody to be educated.  I just– I adore people being able to think.  They think– they think that they’re going to really learn something and it’s going to make them be something and do something.  That’s not what it’s about.  It’s about learning how to learn.  It’s opening up the doors and showing you where to go to get the learning that you need, so that you can develop the thing that you want.  So that you can get the thing that you want.  So that you can think about the thing that you want.  I promote that constantly, I’ve never lost that.  I have a great love for knowing everything there is to know.

I was on the campus newspaper, and I advise everybody to do at least one semester on the campus newspaper.  I advise my grandchildren.  One semester is all you have to do, because you will get to know everybody and everything about how the school works, and that’s what I adored about being on the paper.  I was on the Pierce [College] paper also, and I was on the paper here [the Sundial].  I was on the magazine [Scene Magazine] and the magazine we put out. . .  I believe was either the first in the country, or at least the first for CSUN, that was dedicated totally 100% to women, and it was at the height of the latest women’s movement, because the women’s movement never stops.  It’s ongoing.

DeWayne Johnson, founding Journalism faculty

DeWayne Johnson with Betsy Stelck (interviewer)
DeWayne Johnson with Betsy Stelck (interviewer)

I was on the tag-end of the first wave [of faculty], or the front end of the second wave.  And it was quite a thing to recognize it when I came on campus.  There were a lot of people with fine backgrounds that were already in the nucleus of the faculty that was of San Fernando Valley State College.  I was hired by a man by the name of Erling Erlandson. He was the founder of the Journalism department here,  and he had come from USC, where he was on the faculty, and had been honored at USC as a distinguished professor in journalism.  So he came here, and he indeed was a distinguished professor, and it was an honor to join Erl in that experience.  So there were the two of us who were beginning the journalism program here. 
. . .
I was hired by Ralph Prator, and Ralph Prator was a fellow who was easy to know.  He was so outgoing. From the beginning, as a faculty member, I respected the administration, but was not in awe of the administration — they don’t know all of the answers.  But Ralph was really a wonderful man to know, and he treated me as a friend, and well as a faculty member.  But if I had opinions as a friend or as a faculty member, he was a good person to talk to.
. . .
(addressing Mrs. Stelck) You went as my guest at the 50th anniversary gathering of journalism alumni.  It was on the pier on Santa Monica, in the shadow of the wonderful merry-go-round.  One of my former students, Russ Bernard, owns a restaurant right adjacent to that merry-go-round in Santa Monica. So we went there for the 50th anniversary gathering.  And — I don’t know how many — it seemed, hundreds of students, but in that noisy restaurant — I  just stood there by the [bar], but the former students came round to shake my hand, and say how great it was to see me, and to my credit, I remembered them  Sometimes I had a little help on their names, but, coming back, 50 years later, here are people and they’re — “what are you doing now?” Well, they were newspaper publishers, they were writers, they were  any number of exalted positions — public information officers. . . I tell you, just a cross-section of journalists in this country were there.  And it was just great, because I would recognize them, and then — “what are you doing?” and boy, I tell you, it was just wonderful.