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Memories of SSU

Lucy Kortum

Intermittent Student 1961-1989
Staff, Department of Nursing 1972-1989

            Unable to resist the chance to experience the new Cal State Sonoma in its very first year, at the temporary campus, I enrolled in just one course — 20th Century History with John Pfau, soon to become president of the even newer state college at San Bernardino. Were I not enrolled then, I wouldn’t have known about George McCabe’s and Chuck Rhinehart’s talk on “traveling light with backpack and burro” which introduced our family to a new way of camping and friendships with the McCabe and Rhinehart families.

            Later I began taking courses in the credential program. But when I finally received my credential, reading specialist jobs were scarce. I investigated employment at the then Sonoma State College and was hired for a new half-time secretarial position in Natural Sciences in anticipation of a soon to be established nursing department. Mary Searight had conceived of a program for registered nurses with an associate degree or a hospital nursing diploma with all State College transfer requirements. With advanced nursing courses and electives they could obtain a BS in Nursing in two years. Many who had expected a traditional nursing program were disappointed, but the program was cheered by many nurses seeking to advance their nursing education.

            Mary faced many challenges before the first students could be enrolled. The state funded four faculty positions. Mary wrote a grant to fund three additional faculty and also all seven for the month of August to develop the curriculum. She next had to convince the California Board of Registered Nursing that the students were already registered nurses, and convince the very traditional National League for Nursing to accredit the first of its kind program. Talented, adventurous and ambitious students began the program without knowing until graduation whether the vital NLN accreditation would be granted.

            To strengthen the program’s acceptance in the community and the college, Mary formed two committees: one of chairpersons from the five community college nursing programs in the service area; the other of community members from related fields including hospital administration and insurance, and faculty from Sonoma Sate: Mildred Dickeman, John Dunning, Francisco Gaona, Vic Garlin, Wyman Hicks, Dorothy Overly and Red Thomas. In the first year courses were taught in conjunction with Chemistry, Biology, and Physics departments, while a communication course was taught by Management and Psychology together with Nursing. A required course was developed in the Ethnic Studies. Carol Turner and I dealt with many changes, including rapidly advancing computer technology, while our office was a busy center of activity and information for students and faculty.

            Meanwhile I continued to take occasional courses and learned that Dennis Harris was launching an interdisciplinary Public History program with Anthropology and Geography. A few more prerequisites and I was in the MA program in Public History. There were many opportunities to participate in outside projects including historical evaluation of buildings, a study of the Preston community north of Cloverdale, and as my master’s project, a study of all of California’s Carnegie library buildings, 87 still serving as libraries, museums, and in other public and private uses, 57 no longer standing.

           After my retirement, Sonoma State has continued to play a big role in our lives with friends, events, projects, political and environmental issues, Osher Lifelong Learning, and as a community volunteer in historical research. I have continued to appreciate and enjoy my SSU experiences.