University celebrates 65 years

California Baptist College, established in 1950, looked vastly different from the California Baptist University students know today.

The first graduating class consisted of eight graduates out of a class of 54. The only buildings were the W.E. James Building and the Annie Gabriel Library. The remainder of the current campus was full of cows

This year, CBU will celebrate its 65th anniversary of existence. Along with increased student population, the addition of new buildings has also extended the campus from Magnolia Avenue to Diana Avenue, and from Adams Street to Monroe Street. Women can wear shorts, and CBU is an accredited school that no longer doubles as an official air raid shelter.

“Coming back as an adult with certain responsibilities here and little interaction, it’s a whole different ball game,” said Vi Estel, alumnus of the graduating class of 1964 and current archivist at CBU.

When Estel first attended CBU as an English major with a music minor in 1960, the only two buildings that existed were James and the library. The James building served as the girls’ dorm, dining hall, music practice rooms and post office, among several other things. The school itself was not accredited.

“We really all of us owe a debt to those first students who gambled their education on graduating from an unaccredited school,” she said.

She remembered the day the accreditation committee came to visit the school to determine whether or not it could be accredited. There was a special chapel, and she said everyone was on their best behavior. School president at the time Dr. Loyed Simmons announced the news to students at the chapel service, which was held in what is now the Staples Room.

“He said, ‘It’s a great day,’ and we all knew what that meant,” Estel said. “We were crying, we were laughing, it was a very special day. I graduated from an accredited school although I didn’t enter one.”

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, CBU was recognized as an official air raid shelter because the March Air Reserve Base was active at the time and Riverside was considered a potential target. Estel recalled having one or two drills where the girls would gather up their already packed overnight bags and head down to the basement.

“There were gallons of water in big barrels (down there),” she said.

The rules of campus also looked quite different from what they are now. The girls had more reservations than the boys did, with lights out at 8 p.m. on weeknights and a rule that required them to sign in and out when leaving campus. There were two or three days a year where those of the opposite sex could visit each other’s dorm rooms.

“Guys would come when they wanted to get their girlfriends and throw rocks at the window, and we would raise the window and either talk to them or we would come down,” she said.

Estel is not the only faculty member that has spent many years as part of the CBU family. Allen Johnson, dean of admissions, Dr. Gary Collins, professor of psychology who will be honored this year for 50 years of service at Homecoming, and Gail Ronveaux, director of alumni and parent relations, have also spent a significant amount of time at the school.

Ronveaux first began as resident director of Simmons Hall in 1978 and then came back shortly after school president Dr. Ronald L. Ellis’ arrival in 1994 to work with graduate programs. Her husband received his master’s degree from the school and taught psychology, and all three of her kids attended CBU.

“I never lost contact,” she said. “I was always connected. It’s a part of who we are.”

About Bekka Wiedenmeyer


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