|September 20, 2005
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138, email@example.com
George Hibbard remembers when California State University, Bakersfield “was 375 acres of sugar beets,” and that was it. No Marketplace shopping center, no Haggin Oaks neighborhood, only agriculture.
“And about a half-mile or so south of us was a feedlot with 50,000 head of cattle,” he recalled. “Boy, you could sure smell it!”
That was in January 1968, when Hibbard had just arrived from Michigan State University, where the Boston native earned a bachelor’s in history and economics, a master’s in counseling and economics, and a doctorate in higher education and sociology.
Now 38 years later, Hibbard has retired, after witnessing the campus groundbreaking in April 1969, every one of the university’s 35 commencements, and seeing the community eventually growing out to CSUB and now well past it.
He remembers then-CSUB President Paul Romberg recruiting him to come to the campus that didn’t exist yet. “He told me, ‘I need you, George.’ I told him I’d be there as soon as I could.” That was Oct. 10, 1967; after concluding his obligations at Michigan State, Hibbard began his new job at CSUB.
“I think the most important thing is that we established a university that had the commitments of the staff, faculty and community,” he said. “We created a comprehensive regional university that was philosophically outlined in the Donahoe Act in 1960. (Bakersfield Assemblywoman Dorothy Donahoe carried the bill that became the state’s master plan for higher
“In order to be successful, we had to create a broad series of academic programs with a lot of emphasis on teacher education. The School of Education needed to play and continues playing a major role in the area we serve. The schools of education in the CSU impact the communities they serve in a terrific way. They’re tremendously involved in local elementary, junior highs and high schools in their areas.”
Hibbard says the programs that were developed continue as the mainstays of the university’s curriculum. “I think that the strengths of our programs are psychology, English, mathematics, sociology and political sciences.
They’re a tremendous asset to this institution. Even in our first year, 96 percent of the faculty had advanced degrees, and their time was devoted to excellent teaching and research.
“We had relatively small classes, and the faculty had time to interact with students on a continuous basis. Currently we have about 8,000 students enrolled at the university both full and part time, plus we have about 1,500 eligible to return at any given time, who for whatever reason – family, jobs – can’t attend every quarter. If you add that plus the services that Extended University provides, that’s more than 10,000 students being served by the university.”
The biggest change he’s witnessed has more to do with community attitudes than anything else. “The incorporation of the university into the daily lives of people is the biggest change I’ve seen,” he said. “We have 28,000 people who have graduated from CSUB, many of whom live within a 50-mile radius. The university is incorporated in their daily lives. You see it in how people come to athletic and cultural events – the Jazz Festival, Party in the Park. People feel proud and good about their education.
“Even though technology has played a major role in how we do things – and will continue to do so – it is very important that students have access to faculty, staff and that they have the opportunity and benefit of the mentoring these people can provide.
“The fun thing is people who have graduated are bringing their children and grandchildren by to see me.
“I think the community wants us to be successful, and the more community involvement we have at all levels the better. The difference between a good university and a great university is the level of community involvement.”
He sees alumni involvement as another critical aspect of the university’s growth. “I would say this: the development of the alumni association will continue to grow and I think in the future we will see larger gifts to the university in this particular area. The alumni relations area needs to be staffed and promoted in the next 10 to 15 years.”
Hibbard feels one of the most important developments at the university is the prospect of moving to NCAA Division I. “The biggest major development in the next 10 to 15 years will be the university’s move to Division I,”
he said. “It’s more than just athletics. It’s the establishment of new partners … which means, if it’s approved by all the different constituencies, that it would be a tremendous asset to this institution.
Such a move affects all levels of government within the institution. It affects every single thing we do from top to bottom. It creates goals the university and the community can benefit from. The students have recognized the potential for change, and have increased their assessments considerably to meet the new challenge. And I believe the community will step forward.
“In order to meet the challenges of the future and attract new people who are coming here, we need to make sure our athletic program is the best we can possibly offer. We need to be an excellent university in terms of all our programs. The resourcefulness of the university, both athletically and in its academic curriculum is the key to maintaining a viable inspiration and enthusiasm in the community. We must play a leadership role in change and provide an educated citizenry that appreciates these changes and utilizes their education to improve the community we serve.
“Its in the process, it’s all happening now. But it takes time to become established. The partnerships in the next 10 years will increase immensely. The question is how can the university and the community become more effective in a time of change? An example is a closer relationship between the hospitals and our nursing program that could involve shared costs and other factors.”
The three most important things that Hibbard sees happening to Bakersfield in terms of their impact are the downtown Rabobank Arena, the soon-to-open new terminal at Meadows Field airport, and CSUB’s athletic program moving to Division I. “Those are growth and maturity factors,” he said. “They shape who we are as a community and who we’re going to be. Bakersfield is a great place to live and raise a family, and people who live here know that.”
And that’s why Hibbard and his wife, Anne, who is also a Michigan State graduate, are planning to stay in Bakersfield after he retires. He likes it here. Plus he plans to teach a class for the School of Education. “I’m looking forward to teaching and helping young people improve their professional lives.”
In that regard, he is proud of an award he received in 2003 from Michigan State, that university’s Crystal Apple Award “for dedicated services to education and for being representative of excellence and commitment.”
He plans to travel during retirement. An avid fisherman, he wants to “go to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I’ve never fished there, so I’m looking forward to it. Plus Anne and I want to go to St. Petersburg, Russia, and see the fine arts and cultural things there. Russian history is very interesting.”
He’s also looking forward to spending some time with his sons and their families. His eldest son, Barry, works in commercial real estate; Brad, the middle son, works for a software company in Los Angeles; and Dan, the youngest, works in security in Las Vegas.
“It’s been a great 38 years,” Hibbard said, “fantastic.”