Community leaders, elected officials and alumni came together on Saturday, Dec. 3, to consider the future of California State University, Northridge and bid President Jolene Koester farewell during a daylong event that included tributes to the president’s “drive,” “vision,” “inclusiveness” and “kindness.”
The day started with the Inaugural Volunteer Leadership Summit, co-chaired by former Hawai’i Gov. Linda Lingle ’75 (Journalism) and CSUN Foundation Chair Earl Enzer ’83 (Finance). The summit was conceptualized by the Special Task Force on Engagement, an 18-member group of prominent alumni. It was planned by a broad-based team of deans and senior volunteer leaders who embraced the task force’s recommendation that it is “time for the university’s stakeholders—alumni, parents, friends and employers—to take greater collective responsibility for the university’s future.”
“It’s time to awaken, expand, engage and enrich,” said task force member Jim Berk ’81 (Music), Hon. D ’11 (Fine Arts) to more than 180 senior volunteer leaders, deans and other campus administrators. He said Koester had laid the “roadmap” for how Cal State Northridge can achieve its goals.
Berk, an entertainment executive, summed up the comments of other alumni and community leaders who credited Koester’s leadership in beginning this examination of how the university can better engage volunteer leaders. The afternoon event included six presentations that represent some of the university’s exemplary programs, including “Student Films: From Campus to Cannes,” “Hi-Tech Hunt for Wetlands,” “The Intelligent Ground Vehicle,” “Student Investors Get Results,” “Collaborating for Health and Wellness” and “Improving PK-12 Education through Preparation and Partnerships.”
That evening, immediately following the summit, more than 300 community leaders, elected officials, alumni and others gathered for a tribute to the president, “A Legacy of Leadership: Celebrating the Presidency of Dr. Jolene Koester,” in the Valley Performing Arts Center. The tribute on Dec. 3 was one of the last before Koester retires this month after nearly 12 years as president.
Some of those who paid tribute to Koester’s leadership included attorney and civic leader David Fleming Hon. D. ’09 (Laws) and member of the university’s Foundation Board of Directors and the Special Task Force on Engagement, who served as master of ceremonies; Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander; Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel; former CSUN Foundation Board Chair Phil Magaram Hon. D. ’03 (Humane Letters); Mohammad Qayoumi, president of San Jose State University; Debra Farar ’75 (English) and M.A. ’87 (Education) and CSU Board of Trustees member; Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield; Sen. Alex Padilla; Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; and CNBC commentator Bill Griffeth ’80 (Journalism). She was saluted for her openness and accessibility and the many advances the campus has made during her tenure, including the improvement in both retention and graduation rates, the development of doctoral programs in physical therapy and education, and the conception and creation of the Valley Performing Arts Center.
Magaram described Koester’s skill as a fundraiser. “I can’t remember a time that Jolene ever asked me for money,” he said. “She just described the need and the next thing I knew, I was trying to meet that need with a donation.”
Qayoumi, CSUN’s vice president for administration and finance and chief financial officer from 2000-06, called Koester a mentor who was respected by other university presidents.
Alumna Farar said CSUN has become “a star and a campus of choice” under Koester’s leadership.
“She is someone who gets things done for the right reasons. She knows how to get from A to Z and knows how to explain how critical it is. She has enabled me to be an effective advocate for this university,” said Blumenfield.
At the end of the day, Koester said those who had gathered for the two events represent “the hands held together” that hold up Cal State Northridge and share the university’s success with the larger community, region and world.
“Tonight, I ask you to continue to support the university and its next president. To give her or him the same time, energy, support, financial and emotional commitment you gave to me,” Koester said. “I ask that you become loud about the excellence of this university.”
In honor of Koester’s leadership, donors have established the Jolene Koester Presidential Scholarship Endowment. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a member, or members, of the university staff or administration pursuing a degree in any field of study. Contributions to the fund now exceed $210,000, including a $100,000 match by the CSUN Foundation. The fund remains open for additional gifts. For more information about the fund, visit http://www.csun.edu/president-scholarship/.
CSU officials had originally hoped to have a replacement by January. However, officials announced last week that the search for the next president had been extended for 90 days to allow additional candidates to be considered.
Under the new timeline, candidate interviews originally scheduled for Dec. 15 have been canceled. The committee will conduct a second closed session Jan. 20 to consider candidate qualifications and determine which candidates to advance to the next level.
The panel anticipates conducting candidate interviews on Feb. 22, with the CSU Board of Trustees scheduled to conduct interviews and name the new president at its March 20 or 21 meeting.
Chancellor Charles B. Reed is expected to announce an interim president to serve until a final candidate is selected.