CSU, Chico News

California State University, Chico Celebrates 125th Anniversary

Date: 02-07-2012

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

When Chico founder John Bidwell donated eight acres of his cherry orchard for a new state teacher’s college, perhaps he had some inkling of how important that act would be for thousands of Californians in the years ahead.

“Every citizen must consider it his duty to do everything he can for the cause of education and his community,” Bidwell said, addressing a group of Chico residents gathered to thank him and prepare for the building of a college in their town.

The date was June 8, 1887.

In 2012, California State University, Chico is celebrating its 125th anniversary as the second oldest CSU campus in the state. A school that began as the Northern Branch of the State Normal School with 90 students and five faculty members is now one of the West’s top-ranked public comprehensive universities, with more than 15,000 students and 100 majors and options.

“As one of California’s first public universities, Chico State has had the privilege to serve tens of thousands of students in the North State, across California and throughout the world,” said President Paul Zingg. “Our faculty, staff, students, alumni and many friends and supporters have much of which to be proud, as we take the opportunity this anniversary year to highlight our legacy and achievements and look ahead to an exciting and ambitious future.”

To commemorate its 125 years of service to the North State and California, Chico State is planning some important initiatives and special events that emphasize the University’s long-standing commitments to student success and service to the community.

Zingg announced the 125th anniversary plans at his Spring Address to campus today, Feb. 7, in Laxson Auditorium.

One 125th anniversary initiative is My Service Counts, a campaign to track the high volume of volunteer hours performed by members of the campus community. Students, faculty and staff are pledging to reach 125,000 hours of service in 2012, and are challenging alumni and parents to do likewise. The My Service Counts website (http://www.csuchico.edu/125/special-projects/service-hours) will tally the hours and post stories from volunteers about why they help others.

A service project sure to rack up many volunteer hours is the Patrick Ranch Museum Project. Construction management students, along with many other volunteers, will be building a visitors center at the historic Patrick Ranch outside Chico as the latest in a string of Chico State community service projects.

Another effort timed with the 125th anniversary is the North State Initiative Task Force. Chico State’s service area, comprising 12 counties and 32,000 square miles, is the largest of any CSU campus, and the University has a long history of innovative and extensive ties to the North State. This task force will propose new ways to work with, and work for, the people of the region.

Close community connections will be highlighted at Chico State Expo 125, a major 125th anniversary event to be held Saturday, April 14, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. This community open house will offer local and North State residents campus tours, displays, performances and opportunities to meet Chico State’s students, faculty, staff and administration.

Campus will also host an ’80s Party – 1880s, that is – for the community Saturday, Oct. 6, featuring town ball (a precursor to baseball), old-time music and fun history lessons with campus hosts dressed in period attire.

The Chico State Expo 125 will take place during Founders Week, the University’s annual spring celebration of campus history and achievements that dates back to Charter Day in 1909. The ’80s Party will take place during Chico Experience Week, a fall campus and community celebration that aims to bring together students, alumni, parents and friends for fun, education and reconnection in Chico.

One way campus hopes to connect with people during its anniversary year is through the Wildcat Cruiser – a one-of-a-kind, retro-styled bicycle with design by artist and alumnus Jake Early. The Wildcat Cruiser will appear at events – including Chico Velo's Chico Wildflower Century Ride/Wildcat 125 on April 29 – and a limited number may be available for purchase later this year.

All upcoming 125th anniversary activities are posted on a special website www.csuchico.edu/125 that has been designed to highlight events and provide information and videos about the University’s past and future. The site also includes a timeline detailing the 125-year history of the campus.

After the sole normal school in California burned to the ground in San Jose in 1880, the state Legislature spent years debating where – and how many – subsequent normal schools should be located. Eventually a normal school was rebuilt in San Jose, another was opened in Los Angeles (later to become UCLA) and a site was sought in the northeastern part of the state. All the North State communities contended for this prize, and Chico was chosen on April 7, 1887.

Construction on the new school in Chico began at First Street and what would soon become Normal Avenue on Nov. 1, 1887.

Chico State has had three name changes during its history. In 1921 the normal school became Chico State Teachers College. In 1935, the name was shortened to Chico State College, and then in 1972, the school officially became California State University, Chico.

Chico State is fortunate to have an outstanding “town and gown” committee leading the 125th anniversary effort – 20 community members and 35 faculty, staff and students, many of whom are alumni. The University also will be hosting several large alumni reunions during 2012, including a special tribute to alumni as well as student and community veterans on Nov. 10, the day before Veteran’s Day.

“One of Chico State’s great strengths is how much students, faculty, staff, alumni and community people care about the school,” said Rick Ellison, vice president for University Advancement and chair of the 125th anniversary committee. “We hope the 125th anniversary leads to lots of fun and memorable occasions for campus and community members to come together.”

Several commemorative publications are planned during 2012, including a 125th anniversary edition of Chico Statements magazine this spring, an updated President’s Report; a new Alumni Directory with 125th anniversary features and a special newspaper insert during Founders Week.

Chico State’s long history of service and achievement will be noted in a number of ways throughout the year, including history segments on KCHO, a historical display in the BMU produced by the Library Special Collections and new interpretative signs for locations on campus of note, such as the Rose Garden and Old Hutch’s Plaza. The University’s 122nd Commencement, May 19 and 20, will also feature a special video of historical and current images of campus.

“For anniversary events, the committee has tried to highlight history as well as current activities, and do so in ways that utilize existing events and resources to be as cost-conscious as possible,” said Ellison.

A new 125th anniversary logo is used on the Chico State website as well as new banners around campus and in many other expressions. The black area at the bottom of the logo is in the shape of the donated cherry orchard – Bidwell’s gift that launched a university in 1887 and ended up transforming thousands of lives.