In 1957, the California Legislature passed a bill establishing a state college in Orange County. This decision was prompted by the need for teachers for the state’s rapidly growing population and schools. This mission to prepare teachers was expanded by the University’s first president, William Langsdorf, who pushed to include a liberal arts curriculum. From this core, Orange County State College evolved into California State University, Fullerton, a comprehensive university with a broad array of programs for academic and professional success. These were reflected in a growing number of degrees, culminating in the recent establishment of doctoral programs in education and nursing.
In the early 60s, Orange County also needed educated personnel for the many businesses that were being established. Business administration and engineering programs were created to meet the needs of the region's aerospace industries during those early years. As the University expanded, so did its degree programs. In 2006, an impressive new building, Steven G. Mihaylo Hall, named for the alumnus who helped fund it, was dedicated.
The past 60 years have seen remarkable changes in the population of Orange County and this campus. CSUF grew from 452 students in fall 1959 to more than 40,000 by 2017. More striking has been its growing diversity. Orange County evolved from a predominantly white community into a county in which no single group is a majority. CSUF's student enrollment also reflects the range and depth of the county's population. The latest presidents — Mildred García, Milton Gordon and Jewel Plummer Cobb — furthered the efforts begun by their predecessors, William Langsdorf and L. Donald Shields, to promote programs and activities to encourage and support students of all backgrounds. In 2016, CSUF was sixth in the nation in awarding baccalaureate degrees to underrepresented students.
CSUF also has had a significant impact as a cultural center. Its music and drama performances were public events from the earliest years and increased with the expansion of the Performing Arts Center in 2006, adding the Meng Concert Hall and the Young and Hallberg theatres, then dedicated in 2009 for Joseph A. W. Clayes III, a former student body president. Grand Central Art Center was founded in Santa Ana in the late 1990s, offering studios, graduate student housing, exhibition spaces and a theater.
By 2015, the men's baseball team had won 29 Western Conference championships and four College World Series. Women's softball and soccer were among other CSUF teams to compile significant records. Sports facilities were expanded with the completion of the Titan Sports Complex and Goodwin Field for baseball.
Naturally, there were challenges over the years. Today, more than half of Cal State Fullerton's bachelor's degree recipients are first-generation university graduates. For some, this created a growing achievement gap when looking at graduation rates. To address these issues of student success, President Mildred García established offices for retention and graduation in each college. By the mid-2010s, these efforts had significantly increased the percent of students completing their degrees in six years.
Several aspects of traditional college education have substantially changed in recent years. Some courses, text material and even a few degree programs are now online. The role of venerable components such as the library would change. Individual study, book storage and quiet behavior shifted as the library became "the living room of the University," where students, faculty and library staff engage in multi-modal group learning.
Over the years, the University has grown to eight colleges: College of the Arts, Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, Communications, Education, Engineering and Computer Science, Health and Human Development, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
These examples are just a fraction of the programs, structures and activities that have undergone seismic changes at CSUF over the past 60 years. Combined, these changes represent a legacy of service to students, the community, and to learning that will continue to be enriched as it is celebrated.
Lawrence B. de Graaf,
Professor Emeritus of History