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Personal Memories

Below are memories that have been submitted by CSUDH community members in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of California State University, Dominguez Hills.


Beth ShibataBeth Shibata, Class of ’90, M.A., Linguistics/ESL
Photographer, Writing and Poetry Instructor,
South Bay Area of Southern California

Going to CSU Dominguez Hills meant graduate school, where I undertook the program in linguistics, which entailed much work and much joy. After being in the workforce for more than 10 years, entering campus for classes was a wonderful break most of the time.

In classes with Drs. Duncan-Rose, Mohr, Wenzell, and Gianotti, among others, I discovered the beauty and processes of language. And it led to fulfilling a personal wish. As far back as high school I wanted to study “Beowulf,” but it wasn’t offered in the classes I took [as an undergraduate]. When I started studying early literature in English, I was delighted to find “Beowulf” was the text, only to realize we were to read it in the original Old English.

Strangely enough, this came in extremely handy when studying James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” when I was able to apply my limited knowledge of Old English to analyze and decode a section of Joyce’s text which amazed both me and my professor in what it unlocked. The bonus: after studying Old English, medieval literature is a snap.

Beth Shibata is a photographer whose images have captured the natural beauty of locations from nature reserves in the South Bay to sacred gardens of Japan. For a look at her work, click here.

Luis De Castro, Class of '95, B.S. Business Administration
Manager, Universal Studios Hollywood

I had at CSUDH many great professors, but I will always remember two of them in particular: Dr. Julie Britt (Marketing) and Dr. Baseer (International Business). Their outstanding knowledge and expertise in their areas created in me a passion for my marketing career.

Anne Edwards, Class of '73, B.A. English
Owner, Children's Garden Montessori School, Houston, TX

A fond memory is going to an English class that was conducted outside and reading poetry on the hill. Small classes, great professors.

Natasha Matlock, Class of '01, B.S. Business Administration and Finance
Human Resources Professional, Greater Los Angeles Area

My most memorable professor, who had the largest impact on me, was Dr. Ulivi. His finance class was the most challenging, yet most interesting, class that I could have taken at CSUDH -- the knowledge that he shared with his students was priceless.


Loretta AdikhaiLoretta Adikhai
Former Director, Event Scheduling and Planning

I spent the majority of my professional career at CSU Dominguez Hills – 25 years – and am a very different person now than when I arrived on campus in the fall of 1981. My first position was as a part-time secretary in the biology department. There I met someone who would have a great impact on me both personally and professionally, Dr. Carol D. Guze. The first day she breezed into the biology department was like experiencing a tornado. I did not realize just how much energy she had until I became her assistant when she served as associate vice president for Academic Affairs. She became my unofficial mentor and taught me so much. She insisted that I know everything she knew, and taught me to always ask questions.

Carol treated me as her equal and always made me feel like I had something important to say. She never forgot she came from the faculty ranks and always had the students and her colleagues in mind when she made administrative decisions. She taught me about loyalty, dedication and professionalism. I am so honored to have worked with one of the true pioneers of Cal State University, Dominguez Hills.

Ron BergmannRon Bergmann
Associate Vice President, Information Technology

Twelve years ago I was working at CSU Monterey Bay designing one of the first digital multimedia language learning labs in the CSU system. One day I received a phone call from Arnold Haskins at CSU Dominguez Hills, who wanted to know if I would assist him in replacing the language lab in LaCorte Hall.

I met with Dr. Miguel Dominguez, Victoria Almeida and Arnold and toured the outdated language lab. I recall the mixed emotions of apprehension and excitement on their faces as I described the digital technologies and the world of MP3 audio that was just at the forefront of what today is seemingly commonplace. The staff embraced change and moved forward, creating the digital language lab that is still used today.

A few years later while I was working at the Office of the Chancellor, assisting all CSU campuses in the development of digital multimedia labs, I received a second call from CSU Dominguez Hills, this time from Frank Paine, who wanted me to assist in redesigning the Instructional Media Lab in the University Library. I met with Frank, Gene Dipple, Don Castro, Sharon Lebot and members of Associated Students, Inc., and we embarked on the redesign of the Instructional Media Center and developed the first six enhanced technology classrooms on campus. Upon my return for the third time to CSU Dominguez Hills, to take my current position, I found more than 100 enhanced technology classrooms and a significant increase in student use of the Instructional Media Lab.

What I find most interesting and valuable as I continue to work at this beautiful campus is a family atmosphere, with people who are true pioneers of change who embrace the future.

Lillie Cottrell in Red PantsuitLillie CottrellLillie Cottrell
Former Administrative Assistant, University Library

I was employed as an administrative secretary in the University Library at the time of my retirement after 37 years at CSU Dominguez Hills.

As a measure for women's rights and for the rights of female faculty and staff at CSU Dominguez Hills, we wanted to wear pants to work. However, there was not a policy in place that allowed women do this [in the late 60s and early 70s].  After much discussion between faculty, staff and the administration, a vote was rendered that allowed us to wear pants, but it would have to be a pantsuit. Most staff members were reluctant to wear one even after approval from the administration. As a daring person back in those days, I was the first person to wear one in wool: a red tunic with off-white sleeves and collar with a red tie belt, with off-white bell bottom pants. In those days, I had the body to fit the outfit!

I was also the person that received the call from Peter Ueberroth of the Southland Corporation regarding the construction of the 7-Eleven Olympic Velodrome on the campus. The Velodrome was used as the cycling venue during the 1984 Olympics and was also used to host graduations at CSU Dominguez Hills.

Bill DelucaBill Deluca
Professor, Theatre Arts

In 1994, I was working with the Educational Opportunity Program. Gayle Ball-Parker, who was EOP director then, gave me a clipping about Bessie Coleman, the first black female aviator who was a contemporary of Amelia Earhart but who didn’t share the same limelight. We both thought it would make an interesting idea for a play about facing obstacles.

I could not think of a student who had the skills needed to construct even a short 20-minute play that could tour local schools with Teatro Dominguez, our multicultural theatre company. But, I decided to take a chance and approached Lethia Cobbs, a young African American student who hadn’t excelled in any of my classes, hadn’t been in any of our shows, and never took a playwriting class. I thought I’d give her two weeks, and if she came up with nothing, then I’d find someone else to write the play.

Lethia was in my office at least five times in the next two weeks, sharing with me the details she discovered about Coleman’s struggles and her own enthusiasm for the project. In less than a month, she had a first draft of a one-woman performance that was not only an informative piece about Coleman’s life, but a theatrical, insightful, and inspiring call to action for young black women to “stand up and steer” their own life. We found a terrific actress to play Bessie, and the show toured local middle and junior high schools with great success.

The many Lethias I’ve been blessed with during my teaching career at CSU Dominguez Hills have taught me to not expect excellent students to show up at my door, but rather to give students the opportunity for achieving excellence by offering them challenges.

Salim FarajiSalim Faraji
Assistant Professor, Africana Studies

I arrived at CSU Dominguez Hills in the autumn of 2005. My journey to becoming a faculty member was rather serendipitous. I was a doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University in the fall of 2003 working for Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. My office happened to be located on the corner of Central Ave. and the 91 Freeway. One afternoon as I was driving past Dominguez Hills, a small, quiet voice within me said, “Stop by the university they may have a job for you.” I ignored the voice in a rush to return to work and once I got back to my office I noticed an email titled, "CSUDH Faculty Announcement," which was either a surprising coincidence or cosmic destiny. The faculty appointment was for a position in Africana Studies. 

I paid an impromptu visit to Dr. Bill Little, then-chair of Africana Studies, in order to introduce myself and he encouraged me to apply. I applied, but unfortunately I was denied the position because I had only become a doctoral candidate in the spring of 2004 and was not far enough along in the process. Luckily for me the position was suspended until the following year and I reapplied. I was hired in the fall of 2005 and in the spring semester of 2006 I defended my dissertation and graduated with my doctorate in history and religious studies with a focus on Africa and the African diaspora. I was able to stay focused even while teaching because I always had Bill and Munashe (Furusa) encouraging and challenging me. 

I am proud to be a faculty member of a department where I was mentored by the founding chairs and provided with the opportunity to develop our students into scholars, thinkers, and leaders. Like many of our students, I too was a first-generation college student, coming from a working-class, urban community in West Philadelphia. 

I love seeing the Dominguez Hills 50th Anniversary banners along the Avalon corridor between Del Amo and Carson Streets and I want to tell people, “Hey, I teach at that University!”

Larry GrayLarry Gray, Class of '70, B.A. English
Former Director, Office of Student Development

I am a CSU Dominguez Hills alumnus and worked for the campus for 38 years before retiring in December 2008. My last position was serving as director of Student Development for 31 years.

When I was a senior in high school, my counselor told me about a new college that was being started in Palos Verdes but told me to stick with the big schools to which I had already applied. Of course, I had to check out the new school. It took a while to find it; it was in a bank building. The first person I met was Mary McFall, secretary to President Leo Cain. She introduced me to President Cain, who told me about the plans and new location for the campus in the fall. She then introduced me to some of the students, who were all so friendly.

While I was accepted at all of the colleges, I chose Dominguez Hills because of the warm, friendly caring attitude of the faculty, staff, and students. I didn’t expect to spend the next 42 years here. I love that I had a job where I was able to provide students with the same friendly, helpful experience that I had.

Gilah Yelin HirschGilah Yelin Hirsch
Professor, Art

When I first arrived as a fledgling studio art professor in 1973, I left the 405, and drove east on 190th Street through seemingly endless pastures of cattle. The tiny campus was situated in the heart of what looked like “Marlboro Country,” as proclaimed on billboards punctuating the bucolic landscape. My studio art classes were held in both the chemistry lab in what is now the Small College Complex, as well as in a basement room of the library.

Neither the farm-like nature of the pioneer campus, nor the quaintness of the studios taught me the unique nature of this campus which was to be my home for the next 38 years. Rather, it was a Nigerian student in my first drawing class who had just arrived and was experiencing culture shock in Los Angeles. This older distinguished gentleman always wore splendid colorful robes and head dresses; and I had to listen hard to capture his words as they rolled out mellifluously in musical and rhythmic intonations.

For his final project I asked him to make three drawings that best represented the difference between his African tribal village home and Los Angeles. Within two days he reappeared with his insightful observations: a television on, a telephone ringing, and a potted plant. Profoundly educated by this visual testament of cultural differences, I was initiated into my continuing journey to live in and investigate the beauty of cultures worldwide; and simultaneously to welcome and encourage the beauty of indigenous cultures in the art of my students.

Joyce JohnsonJoyce Johnson
Emerita Professor, English

For those of you who already know my story, sit tight. For those of you who don’t, I am a CSU Dominguez Hills alumna. Back in 1968, I was in a failing marriage and desperately trying to figure out how I was going to support myself and my then eight-year-old daughter. At that time our university was called Cal State College, Dominguez Hills and was located at the original Watt Campus, a small apartment-style building across the street from where we’re now located and moments from my home.

When I first visited campus, I was greeted by Dr. Abe Ravitz, who was then chairman of the English department. He encouraged me to enroll as an English major. I was 32 years old at the time and scared to death. You see, when I graduated from high school in 1954, my track record was less than stellar. My teachers had even taken bets on whether I would graduate at all! After I had earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Dominguez Hills, I was supported and encouraged by people like the late Dr. Marvin Laser, then dean of Humanities and Fine Arts, who encouraged me to go for a doctorate at UC Irvine. In 2007, I retired from the English department after 38 years on the campus that literally changed my life.

Helen OesterheldHelen Oesterheld
Associate Professor and Department Chair, English

For more years than I care to mention, I was a hungry, freeway-flying graduate student at UC Irvine doing the hour-plus commute from L.A. to Orange County. For a few more years beyond that, I was an even hungrier job-seeking post-doc, still sweating it out on the 405 from Venice to Irvine. It wasn’t all bad. I never had a wreck, enjoyed the company of some good carpool companions, spent plenty of quality time with the radio, and a short part of that long commute always pulled me out of the monotonous drive, into another place. I’d see the freeway sign reading “CSU Dominguez Hills,” and I’d think to myself, “Now, wouldn’t it be great to have a job there? It is so close!”

Imagine my delight, then, when a job for an eighteenth-century British literature specialist – a perfect fit – opened at this very place, this imagined haven from commuter purgatory. I applied, got the job, and suddenly, had less than half the drive. A weary traveler’s happy ending, right?  Kind of.

You see, the real happy ending is not about those saved miles and hours. It is about how right I was those innumerable times I wished I taught at Dominguez Hills. I didn’t know it then but understand now that this place has a way of drawing a deep commitment from the people who staff it, teach at it, and attend it. Over time, I have come to know these individuals, each strongly connected to this unique institution, and I have learned with much humility that some of them have undertaken much, much longer drives to be here than I ever imagined and that they have done so for decades. 

It has been happy indeed to be part of such a community, far-flung geographically, perhaps, but united in purpose.

Linda Pomerantz-ZhangLinda Pomerantz-Zhang
Emerita Professor, History

I began teaching at Dominguez Hills in 1972 after having taught at Cal State Fullerton and UCLA while I was finishing my doctorate in modern Chinese history at UCLA. I have been fortunate to have had my professional home at Dominguez Hills until I retired in 2008 – that's 36 years, which were very full and fulfilling years.

In my classes in history and interdisciplinary courses I came into contact with many students, some fresh out of high school but mostly somewhat older and with a rich store of life experience that they brought into the classroom. I hope I helped enrich their lives intellectually; I know that they enriched my life immeasurably. I have always identified with my students, mostly first-generation college students and often children of immigrants, as I am. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to be part of the extraordinary learning community that is Dominguez Hills.

Sharon RaphaelSharon Raphael
Emerita Professor, Sociology and Gerontology

I was a doctoral candidate going to school and living in Cleveland, Ohio, when I started to look for job openings at various universities in California. A position at CSU Dominguez Hills caught my interest as it described itself as a university with a diverse population located in the urban Los Angeles area. I also remember the words in the ad, “new faculty, multidisciplinary, and experimental” being a draw for me.

I received offers from several other California State Universities but Dominguez Hills was the only one located in a major city. I did not see the campus before I was hired, but was interviewed by Donald MacPhee, former dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences, who came to meet me at the Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

When I arrived on campus in June of 1970 to meet my colleagues, I came too late to see the cows grazing on the Carson-Watson-Dominguez Land Trust. I did see a campus that consisted of two adjoining two-story apartment buildings with a ping pong table on the lower patio. The surrounding area was open fields and oil wells. There wasn’t much else around.

Dominguez Hills opened up a world for me full of rich experiences and wonder. Although I had come from a perspective that valued the richness of complex and competing ideas of various cultures and peoples, it was here that I came to feel really at home with myself and others. I learned every day from my students and how to teach not from a formal academic perspective but from a down-to-earth place. It worked.

In 1971 and without tenure yet, I became identified both as a feminist and as a member of the Gay Liberation movement. Coming out and identifying as a feminist was a big step for me and I felt supported from the very beginning by students and others in the Dominguez Hills community. Not everyone was happy with my decision to be “out,” but the administration here stood by me and I will forever be grateful for that.

It is always awe inspiring to realize what so many Dominguez students have overcome to have a higher education. I am also struck by the contributions of seemingly more privileged students. There are many stories they have to tell that reflect great diversity and their desire to overcome racial and ethnic divides.

Wherever I go, when I run into Dominguez students, there is instant recognition whether they know me or not. They know I am [from] Dominguez so I must be okay. And that is how I feel about them and always will.

Carolyn VeekCarolyn Veek
Evaluator, Admissions

I took my first class at CSUDH in 1984 as an 11th grade Carson High student. I believe I was part of the first group of high school students from LAUSD who were able to take college level classes at Dominguez Hills.  I decided to take History 101 since I was taking U.S. History at Carson High – thought it would make it easier for me.  You can just imagine what it was like to sit in my 11th grade U.S. History class and then come to Frank Stricker’s History 101 where he used Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” for a textbook.  It was a very eye-opening experience hearing two different perspectives of the same history.

I officially became a CSU Dominguez Hills student in Fall 1985.  Registration was still done in the gym at the time with punch cards – oh, the long lines in the heat and the hoping and praying you were able to get your classes. 

I became very involved with campus activities, including joining the Model United Nations team, which today as then brings many awards back to campus, and the Association of Political Science Students. In May 1998, I became the first in my immediate family to graduate from college, in the last graduation ceremonies held at the Olympic Velodrome.

In September 1998, I joined the staff in the University Advisement Center (UAC). I was the assistant to the director of the UAC and the program assistant for the Faculty Mentoring Program (FMP).

In 2001, I joined the Office of Admissions as an evaluator. And with a little mutual prodding and pushing through the program here with Tracey Haney, Theresa Stanberry, and Kim Larson, I received my MPA in 2005. 

I have met my best friends here at CSU Dominguez Hills and have definitely grown from my experiences here. I am a very proud alumna and staff member and every chance I get, I try to recruit students. I believe we really are the gem of the CSU system.

Sydell WeinerSydell Weiner
Chair and Professor, Theatre Arts

I came to Dominguez Hills as a professor of theatre in 1984, after finishing my doctorate at New York University. As an actress and director, I was fascinated by character development, especially in terms of understanding human motivation. When Hal Charnofsky, founder of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program, became an avid supporter of our Theatre Guild, we found we had much in common.

In 1992, I married fellow theatre professor Rex Heuschkel. Since it was my second marriage, I was determined to make it work. Hal talked me into enrolling in the MFT program and exploring my lifelong interest in human relationships. I was impressed by the high quality of instruction. Not only was the course content stimulating, but my fellow graduate students became my friends and future colleagues. I received my master’s degree from CSU Dominguez Hills in 1996, and now have a private practice in Torrance as a Marriage and Family Therapist. I also teach in the MFT program and have a special relationship with the students, since not too long ago I was one of them and am able to relate to their experience of taking classes while raising families and working full time.

Although I did graduate work at Yale and NYU, nothing has come close to my experience as a student at Dominguez Hills. And I am happy to report, I finally got it right: Rex and I have been married for 18 years!