Art History

Dean reflects on the past, plans big goals for the future of the College of the Arts

August 27, 2007

By Pam McLaren

Jerry Samuelson, dean of Cal State Fullerton’s College of the Arts, recalls his first walk on campus nearly five decades ago, and thinks of all he still wants to accomplish.

This long-time faculty member and administrator has served the university for 45 years and has seen the campus grow from the Golleher House and some temporary classrooms to the vibrant and still-developing campus it is today.

In early 2006, Samuelson saw his long-awaited dream of a new Performing Arts Center with several theaters, a large concert hall and studio spaces come to fruition.

When he first came to campus in 1962, however, Samuelson was simply seeking a job. After three years teaching at his alma mater, UCLA, in a non-tenured position, he started looking elsewhere and interviewed with the late John W. Olsen, who came to the fledging Fullerton campus in 1962 to create an art department.

“He hired me as an instructor, a position below that of assistant professor,” Samuelson said with a laugh. “But, I moved up quickly.”

The move from UCLA to Fullerton was dramatic.

“There was not even a local art store. It was pretty primitive in those days,” Samuelson said, adding that the department was made up of five faculty members.

He quickly got into the thick of things.

“Olson was an excellent planner. To be able to work with him in planning the art complex in a very close and positive way really was the best thing to happen to me,” he said.

Samuelson served as chair of the Art Department for eight years before becoming dean of the college in 1976.

“Our goal was to build a collegial and warm department,” Samuelson explained, “and it is something that we’ve always tried to maintain.”

Building the early foundations of the college was a challenge, “but what we’re doing now is far more exciting,” he said.

“I really want to be able to maximize what we have,” said Samuelson, mentioning the growth of the MAMM Alliance,a campus support group that underwrites special guest artists, performances, programs and instruments for the college.

The College of the Arts introduced guest artists last year
to develop a broader audience base and broaden the education
of arts majors, he said. “Guest artists perform on stage with students. They also give master classes that enrich the educational experience.”

The dean’s other goals include developing a summer program, working with students and alumni, and expanding the visual arts building. “I think we can put in a little addition of about six classrooms and some offices,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

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