García inducted as fifth CSUF president

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Photo by Robert Huskey
Photo by Robert Huskey

Last updated at 3:11 p.m. on Feb 6, 2013 to omit a factual error in a quote.

Chancellor Timothy White joined students, faculty and alumni on Friday morning to inaugurate Mildred García, Ed.D., as the fifth president in the history of Cal State Fullerton.

García, who began her presidential duties in June, was appointed CSUF president by the California State University Board of Trustees in January 2012.

White officially named García as CSUF’s president at the inauguration ceremony, which took place in the Clayes Performing Arts Centers’ Meng Concert Hall.

The ceremony was the first in 20 years when President Milton Gordon, who was also in attendance, was inaugurated.

“Choosing a person to lead a campus is … I was going to say ‘perhaps,’ but actually is undoubtedly the most important task of the trustees and the chancellor of the (CSU),” said White in his introductory speech.

White said García has a strong background in working collaboratively and understands the intricacies of working within a state budget.

“Dr. García has a deep reservoir of optimism and enthusiasm and a determination to succeed—not for her, but for you, and that’s a real key piece in being a leader,” White said.

The ceremony included greetings to the president on behalf of the CSU Board of Trustees, student leadership, alumni, faculty and staff.

Jack Bedell, chair of the CSUF Academic Senate, who spoke representing the faculty, invited García to the podium during his speech.

“Presidents and faculty should be close,” he said.

García’s inauguration speech focused on minorities and the importance of education.

“For as our country becomes more diverse and the need to educate all Americans more critical, it is imperative that we live up to our promise—our promise of educational opportunity for all,” said García.

García praised the campus’ diversity by focusing on under-represented students, citing rankings based on U.S. Education Department data that puts CSUF No. 1 in California and No. 4 in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Latinos.

“We know full well higher education is not only a private good, it is an essential public good for our country,” García said.

Emeritus President L. Donald Shields, CSUF’s second president (from 1970 to 1980), said he and García both share a priority for engaging students in undergraduate research.

“I’m 77 years old and I’ve heard a lot of inauguration speeches all over the country in my years, and I thought that was one of the better ones today, I thought she nailed it,” said Shields.

Shields started teaching at CSUF in 1963 when the campus had only one building and began his presidency when the campus numbered 9,000 students, he said.

More than 500 people attended the inauguration, including about 200 students, faculty, alumni and visiting CSU dignitaries who walked in a cap-and-gown processional.

Among those involved in the procession was Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), a Titan alumna.

“I really appreciate hearing Millie’s personal story of where she came from … to pursue the education dream of coming from Puerto Rico … to now becoming the first Latina (president) of the largest Cal State in the system,” said Quirk-Silva.

About 25 members of García’s family attended the inauguration. White said he met with her family to find out García’s personality traits around the home, where she’s known as Millie.

“So from that conversation I came away with three words … One is strong, the second is persistent, and the third is compassionate. And the fourth, fifth and sixth will come tonight after a lot of alcohol. … Maybe even number seven,” White said.

ASI President Dwayne Mason Jr. said he is impressed with García’s student-centered campus involvement since García participated in the Homecoming Week pep rally and fashion show.

“One thing that I really learned about Dr. García working with her is that she really does lead by example,” said Mason.

The ceremony was completely funded by private donations and in-kind gifts, campus officials said, although an exact cost has not been released.

The inauguration has helped the campus raise funds for García’s new Strategic Fund, which focuses on fundraising and friendraising to promote Titan Pride, according to Michele Cesca, associated vice president of Central Development and Major Events for the university.

The university has raised $150,000 in cash and pledges toward the fund in the course of the inauguration planning, Cesca said.

There are no set CSUF laws regarding when a president can be inaugurated, but most ceremonies are typically done within a year of when the president arrives to a campus, according to Ann Camp, García’s chief of staff.

García’s inauguration was planned for Feb. 1 since it fit in with Garcia and White’s schedules as well as to coincide with Homecoming Week, said Camp, who served on the Inauguration Steering Committee, which planned the logistics of the ceremony.

“(The inauguration) is a great opportunity to just sort of sit back and enjoy everything that the campus has accomplished and look to those new things that we’ll accomplish under President García,” said Camp.

By Tim Worden

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