50 Years and Counting

August 27, 2007

By Mimi Ko Cruz, Debra Cano Ramos and Gail Matsunaga

Marking its half-century anniversary, Cal State Fullerton kicks off a year of celebration the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with a university-wide open house, concerts, elephant races, fairs, fireworks and other festivities.

“It’s going to be a great year,” said President Milton A. Gordon, “one that will see completion of Mihaylo Hall (the new home for the College of Business and Economics), an award-winning student recreation building, an advanced nursing laboratory and countless new programs, including additional graduate degrees in social work, nursing and education.

“Together, these accomplishments reflect our 50th anniversary theme: ‘Discover, Innovate, Achieve,’ ” Gordon said.

“There is something monumental about the half-century mark,” said Vikki

Vargas, (B.A. communications ’81), Orange County bureau chief for NBC/4-TV, and honorary chair of the anniversary planning committee. “This is our year to brag, boast and acknowledge the university’s accomplishments over the last 50 years, and the promise of the years ahead.”

Following the formal start of its 50th year at a university convocation Friday morning, Sept. 14, the celebration kicks off with a weekend of entertainment.

Fireworks, Music and More

The general public will throng the university campus Friday evening, Sept. 14, for dining al fresco, followed by a special anniversary-themed Concert Under the Stars, at which international opera star Rod Gilfry will perform.

Gilfry, who graduated from CSUF with a B.A. in music-education in 1981, has starred as Stanley in André Previn’s operatic adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Nathan Landau in Nicholas Maw’s “Sophie’s Choice” and Edward Gaines in Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison’s “Margaret Garner.”

He will be joined by the Preeminents, CSUF’s talented troupe of musical theatre students, as well as by the University Jazz Ensemble, Advancement Vice President Pamela Hillman, and theatre and dance alumni from Hollywood, Off-Broadway and abroad, including Brooke Aston, Landon Beard, Rafael Duran, Jennifer Hubilla and Erin McNally.

After highlighting five decades of music stretching “From Hula Hoops to iPods,” the show will conclude with a fireworks extravaganza. For more information, visit: www.fullerton.edu/concertunderthestars.

Campuswide celebration

The festivities continue Sept. 15, when the university throws a campus-wide open house for the community, including alumni gatherings, exhibits displaying historical milestones, a gigantic birthday cake and the first intercollegiate elephant race of the 21st century.

And away they go!

On May 11, 1962 the world’s “First Intercollegiate Elephant Race in Human History” was held on campus, putting the little-known Fullerton campus of Orange County State College on the map.
Alumnus Jack Hale, who was an original mahout, or rider, in the 1962 races and helped organize them as president of Sigma Phi Omega, recalled how the novel idea started.

“Back in the 1960s, we wanted to set tradition and establish some roots, and it was important that tradition be set by the student body and the Greek organizations,” said Hale, a member of the Class of 1962. After a meeting between Greek and non-Greek students, the elephant race was born.

First Elephant Race
The “First Intercollegiate Elephant Race in Human History,” held in 1962, attracted contestants from as far away as Harvard University, 10,000 spectators and 89 reporters from around the world.

The elephantine pursuit drew entries from Harvard and other universities and colleges from across the country, and news spread around the world. The Titan tradition continued with races held in subsequent years. The last one was in 1991, when Gordon, students and faculty members rode the giant mammals as part of homecoming festivities.

Sixteen years later, the university will revive the tradition on with a 21st century version featuring electronic and human-powered pachyderms.
“Animal safety issues have put an end to using live elephants, but we still want to celebrate Titan pride and our mascot, Tuffy Titan,” said Kandy Mink Salas, dean of students. “We want to relive our early years and a fun part of our past.”

The mock elephants will run from noon to 1 p.m. in the Quad, and be judged on speed and visual appeal by members of the university’s original Elephant Racing Club. Students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science are building electronic elephants for the first race. In the second race, sorority and fraternity members will create and decorate three-wheeled, human-powered vehicles that look like elephants. The third race is geared for children who can race “stick” elephants.

Recognizing the benefactors

The weekend celebration also will see the inauguration of the Legends & Legacies gala on Sept. 15, honoring the university’s principal benefactors — individuals, foundations and corporations whose generous support can be seen in the library expansion, baseball field, Performing Arts Center and the scholarships that promote excellence in every area of the university.

Hosted by President Gordon and the Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors, the event will fete supporters whose respective contributions total $100,000 or more.

The evening will include special tributes to donors who have given $1 million or more, including alumni Dan Black, Steven G. Mihaylo, and James D. Woods; emeriti Giles T. Brown, and P. June Pollak and her husband, George; Paul Folino, executive chairman of Emulex Corp.; Jerry and Merilyn Goodwin; Kathryn McCarty; Vaughncille Joseph Meng; Michael Reagan; and organizations Archstone Foundation, Boeing Co. and Kaiser Permanente.

Divas to perform

The Mariachi Divas will wrap up the weekend with a special concert in Downtown Santa Ana on Sept. 16. The untraditional all-female mariachi band has 20 core members of Cuban, Swiss, Argentinean, Colombian, Panamanian, Puerto Rican, Samoan, Anglo and Mexican descent. Cindy Shea, a Cal State Fullerton alumna, is the leader of the popular group that has produced three albums — “Dulce Daño,” “Así Somos” and “My Grown-Up Christmas List.”

The noontime concert is part of the university’s “Querer es Poder” (If you have the desire, you can achieve) campaign, highlighting CSUF’s contributions to the Latino community. It will be held in conjunction with Santa Ana’s Fiestas de las Americas celebration.

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