The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN having fun at 50

Family was the key word commonly used by many CSUN Alumni as they gathered to help celebrate CSUN’s 50th’ anniversary Grand Reunion this weekend.

The San Fernando Valley Banjo Band took center stage and played a few tunes as former CSUN students walked around the Oviatt Lawn visiting special reunion booths sponsored by 31 CSUN departments and clubs.

Many alumni took campus tours lead by student ambassadors, viewed the ‘Fifty and Fabulous’ exhibit, or played with their children in the Kid Zone playground sponsored by the Child and Adolescent Development Student Association and Alumni Chapter.

As the Alumni arrived they were provided with sticker nametags on which they were prompted to put their name and year of graduation.

At 7 p.m., President Jolene Koester greeted an audience of about 3,500 who were crowded on University Lawn cheered her welcome. Larry Twersky, President of the Cal State Alumni Association, expected the attendance to be about 2,500 people but over a thousand more showed up.

The president’s welcome to the Grand Reunion ceremony preceded the unveiling of the CSUN time capsule, which was unearthed last fall just to commemorate this occasion.

President Koester then displayed the many items to be buried in the capsule; DVD’s, sweatshirts, CD’s, and other items that are memorabilia of present-day CSUN which are to be frozen in time for future students to release 25 years from now.

What couldn’t be contained was the palpable energy and spirit the event inspired and the sense of community, pride, and kinship felt by those who attended the university. Koester said it best when addressing the capsule’s plaque: CSUN is ‘the intellectual, economic, and cultural heart of the Valley.’

‘I’m very excited to see how loyal the alumni are to this school and that this school has such distinguish alumni coming here,’ Twersky said.

Amid the food, fun, and festivities were a colorful history of the university told through the eyes of its senior members. Nostalgic former students recounted stories of forged friendships, college sweethearts, old clubs and fraternities, and their fond memories of Northridge that is known to older alumni as San Fernando Valley College.

Alumni swapped stories and shared memories, many of which included a particularly admired alum-Dorothea ‘Granny’ Hietz.

‘She was an incredible woman who taught us girls about school spirit and someone who really cared about this campus,’ Sue McElvogue said of ‘Granny’ Heitz.

Leanna Bakken-Berns, an alumnus who was one of the original ‘Granny Girls’ in 1967, an all-female dance team started by a spirited’ ‘Granny’ Heitz.

Heitz was the oldest student attending school at that time.

‘We danced at all of the football games,’ Bakken-Berns said. ‘Including the Junior Bowl at [the] Pasadena Rose Bowl. We would wear red and white outfits that looked like granny dresses.’

It was a comedy routine where the girls would rip away their Velcro dresses to reveal miniskirts underneath.

Heitz was the women who led the charge to improve school spirit on campus. She and her ‘Granny Girls’ were unofficial campus ambassadors who donated bright red outfits, volunteered at orphanages and who were there to liven up any campus activity.

Mary Jo Gilbert, a special education teacher and former granny girl, said Heitz made her feel nothing less than a part of the family.

‘Granny made me feel at home and told us we can do it if we just believe in ourselves,’ said Gilbert.

Today the university gives the Outstanding Volunteer Leadership award in her honor.

Others can relate, referring to the campus community as being a family base for them.

Margarite Drexelius, a graduate of the class of 1977, and former Alpha Phi sorority sister, said she felt a strong sense of community during her years on campus.

‘The connections made with people, that family connection, really gives you a place to call home,’ said Drexelius. ‘You feel more secure because you have that support, it was an amazing experience.’

This was a sentiment that was echoed by many of the alumni preset at the reunion.

Debbie Marks, a former major of speech communication with an emphasis in Radio,
Television, Video and Film department (RTVF) said her fondest memories include playing a few sports and singing a song that is familiar and important to many.

‘Playing Volleyball here at CSUN and singing the National Anthem at one of the games I have to say are a couple of my fondest memories here on campus,’ said Marks. ‘Just being on this campus really brings back a lot of positive memories.’

Marta Gonzalez, president of the Child and Adolescent Development Alumni Chapter (CADAC), said there was a great turn out despite the number of people who were reserved to attend.

‘We had close to 100 reservations through Alumni association of families who signed up to enjoy in the festivities put on for the children,’ she said. ‘We with parents and kids but the flow of it is running smoothly.’

Joanne ‘JoJo’ Jones, a graduate of the class of 1995, said her fondest memories are being named Homecoming Queen in 1997 and running into people she went to school with.

‘Just seeing those old but familiar faces again,’ said Jones. ‘I am enjoying myself. It has been a fun-filled reunion weekend.’

Chuck Blankenship, one of the first students to set foot in the new classrooms back in 1959 and who was part of the first graduating class, said he was around when there were still orchids and orange groves making up most of the campus grounds and when the school used to go by a different name.

‘There were only 12 buildings and this (CSUN) used to be called Los Angeles Valley College,’ said Blankenship. ‘I was part of the first Associated Students.’

When asked about the campus in comparison to when he first attended, Blankenship had only one word to describe what he felt, ‘overwhelming.’

Michael Weinper, class of 1969 and one of the first graduates of the department of Physical Therapy and Health Sciences, said what he found most appealing about this campus were the friendships that he formed.

‘There is that camaraderie and wonderful spirit and support from students,’ he said. ‘Everyone is so close.’

William Watkins, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said he is very happy with the way the event turned out.

‘It has been a huge success,’ said Watkins. ‘Those who haven’t visited the campus recently are very impressed with the growth and maturity of it.’

A trio of alums from a financials study group that called themselves ‘The Five Fins’ reunited after 12 years since their graduation from CSUN. Curious to the whereabouts of the other two ‘Fins,’ Shephard Girion and Michael Cohen who graduated with the 97′ class, their friend Budd Rude who graduated a year later, still managed to keep in touch with one other. They were happy to be back at their alma mater.

‘We have CSUN to thank for the professional direction of our lives,’ Cohen said as the three mingled near the Alumni Association tent.

Many alumni found love on campus, like Mark and Diana Cooley. Mark, then a basketball player for the university, met his wife more than 30 years ago at the ‘Bull Ring,’ a snack bar that used to sit near where the Matador Gym now stands. When the two met, they remember the campus having mostly bungalows.

Zeta Beta Tau fraternity member Richard Bliss met his wife Dana, an Alpha Omega Pi pledge, and fell in love in 81′ while they were attending CSUN.

‘We met in the tapestry room’hellip;which doesn’t exist anymore,’ Bliss said.

Richard and Dana found out about the reunion through Facebook,
which was how a lot of the university’s Greeks from the 80’s and 90’s found out about the Grand Reunion.

As the celebration continued, Moxi played for the crowd. The rock band featured CSUN art majors Eric Wilkinson as the lead singer and Myke Stuart as guitarist. The two are from the fraternity Sigma Chi, and one of their former members asked them to perform for the occasion.

‘ ‘I think it’s a great opportunity that we got to play for this event,’ Stuart said.

‘When I have hard days, I actually go back and reflect on my days at CSUN,’ said alumnus Chrystal Lee. ‘[They] were the most fulfilled, most happy, carefree days ever. I’ve learned a lot here’

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