Our History


California State University, Bakersfield was originally known as California State College, Bakersfield. Through the Donahoe Higher Education Act of 1960 the “California State Colleges” became an established system with its own board of trustees and a statewide chancellor. The Donahoe Act assigned different functions to the University of California, California State Colleges, and California Community Colleges. The primary function of the State Colleges was broadened to include undergraduate and graduate instruction in the liberal arts and sciences, in applied fields and in the professions; doctoral degrees were authorized if offered jointly with a University of California.

The southern San Joaquin Valley had been interested in having a four-year institution of higher education in this area since the late 1950s. In the 1960s a four-year college strategy was in progress in Delano, California. A decision had to be made about the geographical location for the four-year institution. The county choices for the institution included Kern, Kings or Tulare, as these counties were at least 100 miles from the nearest higher education institutions. A steering committee, headed by Ernest Stahlberg, chairman of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and the mayor of Delano, was formed to work with the university in making this difficult decision. In the end, Bakersfield was chosen because it was the largest isolated metropolitan area in the United States without a senior college or university. Governor Edmond G. Brown of California signed a bill passed by the California State Legislature and Senator Walter W. Stiern then appropriated funding to establish a state college in the Southern San Joaquin area.

The next hurdle was to find an appropriate location in Bakersfield for the new college. More than one site was recommended. Tejon Ranch was willing to donate 400 acres in the southeast area to build the new college. Situated near Arvin, “The White Wolf Grade” stretched between Bakersfield and Tehachapi and would have been a prime location because of the breathtaking view of the mountains and the easy access for commuters to Highway 58. Another location, offered by George W. Nickel, Jr., was south of the Kern River by Highway 178 just east of Lake Ming Park.

The location selected for the new college site was a 370-acre gift by Kern County Land Company. The company donated the land to the state of California in 1962 with the express purpose of having a state university campus in Bakersfield. The campus would be situated in southwest Bakersfield on Stockdale Highway, approximately five miles west of central Bakersfield.

The State College board of trustees gave the green light to start preparations for construction of California State College Bakersfield in 1965. CSB, as the campus would come to be known, was the 19th and newest member of the state college system. On July 27, 1967 the board named Dr. Paul F. Romberg as the first president.

July 1967 Paul F. Romberg named first president of California State College, Bakersfield

Gov. Ronald Reagan April 1969
Formal groundbreaking ceremonies held with Gov. Ronald Reagan on hand to turn a spade