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Memories of SSU

Wally Lowry

Professor, Business Administration
Director of the Wine Business Program
1969-2001

            In May of 1969, I received a telephone call at 11:30 p.m. My wife answered and said it was for me. After a few swear words about who would be calling that late at night, I picked up the phone. It was Del Valleau, then-chair of the Management Department at California State College – Sonoma (CSU-S). He asked if I would be willing to teach at CSU-S as a temporary faculty member on a one-year appointment. Well, needless to say, my late call anger immediately turned to one of complete cordiality.

            In my first few years at SSU, our college was small enough for me to be able to meet several (also now retired) faculty members from other departments. Those contacts continued throughout my 32 years as a campus professor. I enjoyed those contacts, but I believe that the most important thing I cherish and will continue to do so was the individual and personal contacts that I had with my students over those many years. From 1971 forward to retirement in 2001, I was the faculty advisor to the “Accounting Forum” student organization, and therefore was able to get to know the students outside of the classroom. To have them in class, see them develop into young professionals, graduate, start out as trainees in every field one can think of, follow-up contacts on individual advancements within their fields, and hear from employers of their personal successes is really the most rewarding thing that I can imagine for any professor throughout his or her teaching career.

            The memories of acting as the faculty advisor for the “Accounting Forum” still favorably resonate in my mind after so many years. The students had their own elected officers. I worked with them to obtain permission and coordinate speakers, field trips, banquets and “meet-the-firms” events. They had meetings every other week with off-campus speakers representing various aspects of the business world. One to two off-campus field trips were planned for each semester. The field trips were conducted when most students did not have class (Fridays), and we used personal cars for traveling. The field trips were to such interesting businesses as the following: all “big 8” CPA firms in San Francisco, several “middle 8” CPA firms, small local CPA firms, various Sonoma County wineries, Skywalker Ranch, Lucas Films, Ltd., Marin County, Bank of America and many more. A “meet-the-firms” was held off-campus each semester, as well, where students mingled with potential employers who were located within our service area, including San Francisco. We also had an end-of-semester banquet (two per year), which was also held off-campus. It does not take too much imagination to see how SSU has opened many doors and provided opportunities for its students.

            During my first five years of teaching accounting, the School Registrar’s Office reply to off-campus inquiries seeking an accounting program would  be “No accounting is taught on our campus—it is too vocational.” Later, the University accepted the concept of business as being an integral part of its liberal arts emphasis. The Management Department’s name was changed to the “School of Business and Economics” (SBE). The SBE has become the largest program on campus and is responsible for generating a significant number of dollars for academia, research and publications.

            I remember when an instructor had his students bare their bottoms, add paint, then run and slide on a strip of butcher paper. On another occasion when Dr. Wagner was our President, I was conducting a campus tour with a potential female instructor for our Management Department. We approached the student dorms, walked through the cafeteria and headed for the President’s meeting room adjacent to the cafeteria. I was talking with our candidate and did not notice a posted sign on the door. I threw open the door, and we made a few steps into the room. I heard some screaming and turned to scan the room, and there in full view (standing, sitting, lying down and waving their hands frantically) was a room full of naked women. We made a hasty retreat. I found out later that it was a regularly scheduled class on the appreciation of the female body. I thought about registering for the following semester.

            There also was the time – during the free speech and anything goes period – that our Management Department hired a work-study student as an office helper. She showed up for work in just a man’s long tank top. We all found multiple reasons for visiting the office. At noon, she would go out on the lawn between Stevenson and Darwin Halls, remove the T-shirt and dance (no music to accompany the dancing however). Suddenly, that lawn area became a popular outdoor lunching area.

            My stay at SSU was so long that I witnessed substantial growth of the campus landscaping. My office was on the second floor of Stevenson Hall facing south. I observed the first planting of trees outside my window (one could leap over them at the time). They grew to almost block my view beyond their branches. Then, the trees were cut down, followed by another new planting. I observed these new tree plantings grow to again block my second floor window. I took this as an omen that perhaps it was time for me to retire.