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Memories of SSU

Wesley Burford

First Director of Campus Development, 1961

(Excerpted from an interview with Daniel Markwyn, 1989)
Left to right: Lois Stephens (plant operations), Wed Ebert (biology), and Wes Burford (executive dean)

Left to right: Lois Stephens (plant operations), Wed Ebert (biology), and Wes Burford (executive dean)

           My basic responsibility was planning of facilities here on campus. I had several sites on a map around Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Rohnert Park. A three-member Public Works Board in Sacramento chose the sites. After getting my recommendations and information about each of the sites, they came over and visited all the sites. When we got back to the official meeting, the chairman said, “Gentlemen, which one’s the cheapest?” One of the fellows said, “The one in Cotati.” I moved and it was all done; a very effective way to do it. It turned out all right. At the time there were some other sites I thought would have been preferable because they were closer to transportation for the local people, like in Santa Rosa. However, we started to work on this particular site. We brainstormed about what could we do with it, how we could develop it, what is it going to need?

            The other sites were Optical Coating and a downtown shoe factory in Santa Rosa, located near Third Street. Hugh Codding recommended that we start on what’s now Coddingtown. They were just beginning to take the trees off the area to develop it into a shopping center and he wanted to put the campus there. There was another site in the northeast part of town, in Rincon Valley that was then, I think, a mobile park. Another location was just south of the golf course in Santa Rosa and another north of Napa about ten miles or so.

            Cost was a factor. They had about $200,000 and worked out an arrangement with the owner. Paul Golis was beginning to develop Rohnert Park at this time. There were 325 people in Rohnert Park when we first came down to the temporary campus. A month before classes were to start, we got approval from the Department of Finance to build the buildings for us to move in. They were built on slabs, and constructed into temporary two story buildings. They were knocked down after we moved out and they wouldn’t have stood the least bit of a shake. We opened on time and lived there for several years. The development of this campus was beginning then.

            We moved in 1966. When it started to rain, nothing was developed outside. There were just the buildings, and wooden pathways to the buildings where we could walk. The field house was the first to be constructed because we had to offer P.E. to the freshmen on campus. We developed a bit of the basement area of Darwin and Stevenson and the big ditch between the two. There’s a big area down there that’s six or eight feet deep and maybe eight to ten feet wide, under the sidewalk that goes between the two buildings. It’s for pipes and that sort of thing.

            We had dog pens for awhile on campus. They were in back of the cafeteria. There was a flap about dogs on campus and the problem was finally resolved.

            We bought about six acres of lake property north of the campus from Benson at a later date so we could make a new main access. It’s on the other side of Copeland Creek. The Department of Finance said we didn’t need it yet, “You’ve got a good entrance. You can use that for a while.”

            The general atmosphere was one of growth, but we had a sense that it would end. It’s interesting to me to be able to talk to somebody and get an idea and then see it on paper and then see it in concrete and steel and know it’s going to be there for a long time.