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The party is — finally — over

POSTED September 18, 2010 12:04 a.m.

After three years, California State University, Stanislaus’ 50th anniversary celebration is finally coming to an end.

The celebration began in 2007 to commemorate the founding of the university in 1957 and ran through 2010 in honor of the campus’ opening in 1960.

Over the past three years the university has held two gala events — the first featuring Gary Sinise, star of “CSI New York” and the second being the infamous Sarah Palin visit, which became a focal point for a new California public information law that would include state university foundations. Cal State Stanislaus has also celebrated its golden anniversary with a variety of arts, music and sporting events, which were more focused on highlighting student and faculty achievements.That is a lot of celebrating! Some may think a little too much. But if you talk to those who remember Turlock before Cal State Stanislaus came to town, it is amazing what has happened in a relatively short period of time.I have had the privilege of talking with a few of the early professors and students — my uncle being one of them. They all say the same thing. “There was nothing there but farmland.” In fact, the campus wasn’t built until 1965. The very first students attended class at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. The university, which was nicknamed Turkey Tech, was a godsend to Central Valley students who couldn’t afford to travel far from home for higher education. The idea of bringing higher education closer to students in the poorer region of the state was new and innovative and many state legislators were shocked at the response.Stanislaus’ opening day student count of 719 dwarfed those seen in Hayward (312) and Orange County (460). The effect the campus has had on Turlock and its residents is even more amazing. In 50 short years, Turlock has gone from being a primarily agricultural area to a true college town.The university is now a key component of Turlock’s make-up. Many professors and staff members live in Turlock. They send their kids to school here, are members of service clubs, church groups and civic organizations. Their expertise in a variety of disciplines makes Turlock a more vibrant community in which to live.University students not only give Turlock a much-needed sales tax boost during the academic year, but they also volunteer in the community and give the town a multi-generational feel that is evident at any Starbucks.The university itself offers lectures, youth programs and a variety of arts events that are open to the public. The beautifully landscaped campus is also a Mecca for walking enthusiasts and families looking for a place to teach their kids how to ride bikes on the weekends.

Before I go on listing the positive influence Cal State Stanislaus has been in the community, I must admit that I am biased. I am a Stanislaus alumna.

For me personally, Stanislaus was the perfect place to continue my education. The professors I worked with urged me to strive for excellence and showed me how to get there. They always had time to talk with me about assignments and quite a few of them inspired me with their community service.

While I am glad that Stanislaus is done celebrating its anniversary, I also look forward to the university’s next 50 years and hope to be around for its centennial celebration.

I can only imagine the controversy that the next anniversary gala speaker with bring to town.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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