Cal State Los Angeles turned 40 gracefully at a black-tie dinner that celebrated four decades of education on this urban campus.
"If life really does begin after 40," university President James Rosser said, "then I think we're in the forefront of educational institutions."
A relaxed Rosser, in his eighth year as president, greeted guests as they filed into the Beverly Wilshire hotel's grand ballroom Thursday night. Among the 400 attending were 38 out of 40 honorees chosen to receive Golden Eagle Awards.
The Guest List
The group was made up of locally prominent alumni and/or university supporters, including: philanthropist Anna Bing Arnold, Lilly Lee of Lilly Enterprises Inc. and a founder of the school's Chinese-American Women's Scholarship Fund; Joe Pichardo, vice president, community outreach for Home Savings of America and vice president of Cal State's Hispanic Support Network; Ted Short (class of '65), a founding director of the campus' Black Support Group; singer Florence LaRue (class of '66), CPA Gilbert Vasquez (class of '64) and county Supervisor Mike Antonovich (classes of '63 and '67).
Also in the crowd was Glenn Dumke, former chancellor of the California State University and Sylvia Mosqueda, who placed second in the women's division of the recent Los Angeles Marathon. She is a sophomore at Cal State L.A.
University officials hope to raise $100,000 from the event, which will go toward the school's entering-freshman honors program.
Marilyn Hudson, co-chairwoman of the event with Sophie Chao Wong, said the 40 honorees are "representative of the L.A. community and reflect the ethnic makeup of the school. When we were selecting these people, that was important to us."
The minority enrollment of the school was a point stressed throughout the evening; the campus has a mix of about 32% white, 29% Asian, 24% Latino, 12% black and a portion of foreign students from 100 countries.
Guests mingled at two receptions: one outside the ballroom, where two white-faced mimes entertained, and a VIP gathering in a small room elsewhere in the hotel that had to be emptied out periodically to allow people to breathe.
Antonovich rattled off the involvements that contributed to his rise in politics outside of school: president of his Sigma Nu fraternity, member of student government for four years, class president and president of the Young Republicans. And what was the mood of this campus during the turbulent '60s? "There was a small element that was dissatisfied," he said, "but the majority who were attending were there to get an education and to better themselves."
Putting Something Back
Terry Humphreys (class of '71), recalled feeling a void in his education. "Because of the tremendous student load," he said, "the classes were oversized and the administration was remote. . . . A lot of us were there during the Vietnam War period, and we were looking for more than a way of avoiding the draft. We wanted an education. But then (my classmates and I) thought that if were going to take shots at the university, we should put something back into the system."
Humphreys, who is with Bay Distribution in Redondo Beach, has done just that since 1979, serving on the University Development Board and chairing the scholarship committee.
Lilly Lee, dressed in a silk Chinese robe, said her involvement with the scholarship program was to let Asian women know "that there is attention paid to them. I grew up in an era when women were not supposed to attend school."
But the campus still suffers a bit of an inferiority complex, with UCLA and USC usually being the first two local colleges associated with Los Angeles. "It's great thinking of those two," Rosser said, "but it's appropriate to add a third leg to the triangle. When you think of the impact we've had on the city, the school shouldn't be judged in comparison to the other two, but should stand on its own merits."
Mayor Tom Bradley addressed the crowd during dinner, emphasizing the school's link with the city, calling it "a true partner of the City of Los Angeles." Emcee Larry McCormick read a congratulatory letter from President Reagan.
Entertainment was provided by the Cal State L.A. jazz quartet and members of the cast of the TV show "Fame." One singer, making small talk with the crowd, looked out at the sea of a few hundred faces and said, "This is a great hotel. You all staying here?"