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It Was Jewel Cobb's Day to Sparkle--at Retirement Banquet

June 07, 1990|PAMELA MARIN | Pamela Marin is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

Jewel kept her cool.

Through a long cocktail hour of hugs and kisses and flashing strobes. Through a dinner she barely had a chance to eat for all the table-hoppers stopping by to chat. And through the speeches--more than 20 of them, lasting more than an hour. Her voice didn't crack once when it was her turn at the podium.

On Sunday at the Disneyland Hotel, Cal State Fullerton President Jewel Plummer Cobb told the nearly 600 guests attending her retirement banquet: "I have had a ball."

The party marked the end of Cobb's nine years of service as head of the sixth largest campus in the state university system. She will officially retire July 31.

Among guests were Cobb's administrative colleagues, students and faculty, community leaders and a handful of the retiring chief's longtime friends, who came from as far away as New York and Connecticut, Chicago and Arizona.

"We were in the crib together," joked Lucile Ish during cocktail hour on a hotel patio. Ish met Cobb when they were both undergraduates at Alabama's Talladega College in the '40s.

"We committed all the same crimes," chimed Mamie Hansberry, who knew Cobb when she was growing up in Chicago.

Before dinner, three local singers sang selections from Broadway shows, then Cobb's daughter-in-law, Suzzanne Douglas, was invited on stage for what proved to be one of the evening's most emotional moments.

Douglas--who starred in the movie "Tap" with Gregory Hines, and who was featured in the recent Broadway production of "3 Penny Opera"--was near tears as she faced the banquet crowd. "I had no idea I would be like this," she said, her voice thick with emotion. After a minute of joking with the crowd she was able to sing.

Then came the speeches--and a truckload of plaques and citations.

With President Cobb standing center stage for all to watch, the procession to the podium began.

Fullerton Mayor A.B. (Buck) Catlin told the crowd that the first time he met Cobb, she cooked him breakfast. "I want to tell you, she's a very good omelette-cooker!"

Robert McDonald, Statewide Alumni Council president-elect, praised Cobb's skills on the tennis courts--"She once played (Olympic team member) Althea Gibson!"--and presented her with a Prince racquet.

A comic moment developed when Jim Simon, president of the university's Associated Students Inc., told Cobb the student group was raising money to donate to a scholarship fund in her name. They wanted to give her a plaque, too, Simon said, but it wasn't done yet. "Hey--we're students," he mumbled. Then, as the audience laughed, he added: "So I guess I'm asking for an extension , Dr. Cobb. . . ."

In other speeches: Advisory Board member John Rau announced that he was heading a drive to raise "$500,000 minimum" for a Jewel Plummer Cobb endowed chair in science; Acting Chancellor Ellis McCune said the university's dormitory complex would be named for Cobb; and Robbie Nayman, of Student Services, described the scholarship fund to be established in Cobb's name.

Net proceeds from the dinner, an estimated $14,000, will go into the Cobb scholarship fund.

Also attending were former university president L. Donald Shields and his wife, Patty; former acting president and founding faculty member Miles McCarthy and his wife, Martha; CSU Trustees Claudia Hampton and John Kashiwabara; State Sen. Diane Watson, Assemblywoman Teresa Hughes, Orange County Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez, Marjorie and Richard Stegemeier, Diane and William Bridgford, Evelyn and Donald Bauman and Carol and Stanley Chapman Jr.

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