First-elected student body president leaves his mark

Reanna Delgadillo

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Frank St. Denis, first-elected associated student body president’s portrait as it hangs on the A.S. wall in the University Student Union.

Frank St. Denis attended San Fernando State College at a time when the price per unit was only $29 and there were only 1,000 students enrolled.

St. Denis was involved with the Sunburst yearbook and the Daily Sundial. Because he was already involved in so many projects on campus, his fellow classmates encouraged him to run for president of Associated Student Body (ASB).

“I was the first-elected student body president,” St. Denis said. “The election was for the whole year from September through June of the following year. So I was in it for the entire year, 1957 to 1958.”

St. Denis looks back on those early days as fond memories of new beginnings.

Once he was elected president, he and his student council officers knew there were certain things that needed to be done to get the school’s foundations laid.

His running mate Ken Kearsley, the first student to graduate with a master’s degree in geography, said they had to invent ASB.

“We set up the election for the colors and the election for the nickname Matadors. We had five names actually, but it (Matadors) won,” St. Denis said.

St. Denis said the vote for the official colors to be red and white won, with red and black in a close second place.

The ASB had received many submissions and they narrowed them down to include the Titans, the Rancheros, the Vaqueros and the Matadors.

“We had a very nice painting donated of a Matador and I think people thought of the Matador as a very noble sports figure,” St. Denis said.

Along with the colors and mascot, St. Denis helped to set up the constitution of the schools and the bylaws. He added that the ASB was a great team and that everyone on the student council got along very well.

“The school was quite small,” St. Denis said. “There was just a great camaraderie between students, faculty, administration.”

St. Denis had some great words about the advisor of student council, Robert Lawrence, who at the time was the associate dean of students.

“He worked so closely and so well with us he was like a student himself. He guided us and advised us and joked with us,” St. Denis said. “He was the epitome of what an advisor should be for the student council.”

Kearsley said he respected St. Denis because aside from being the student president, St. Denis had children at the time and going to school and earning a degree was critical to him.

Kearsley said St. Denis had a wisdom that helped the student council.

“Frank was a Korean War veteran, going back to school on the GI Bill,” Kearsley said. “He had a lot of world knowledge that I didn’t have. I was a surfer and I liked to party. He kept us level.”

Kearsley said they balanced each other out, and that St. Denis is the nicest guy anyone will want to work with.

When CSUN began offering a health administration department, St. Denis returned to teach as part-time faculty for 10 to 12 years.

“When President Cleary was president, I worked on what is now called the President’s Club, it was called President’s Associates then,” St. Denis said. “I came back and served on that board and served as president for two years.”

St. Denis was the Alumni Association president for the years of 1964 to 1966. In 1988, St. Denis was awarded a distinguished alumnus award. St. Denis is now retired and is living in Rancho Mirage, California.

“Everything we did that year was the first time in history, so we called it the ‘Year of Firsts.’ We did quite a bit. It was really exciting,” St. Denis said.