The History of the Alumni Association
Alumni activities have been a part of Cal Poly since 1907, a year after the school’s first students graduated. Back then, with Henry Wade—a 1906 grad—serving as CPAA’s first president, the emphasis was on informal reunions as members of the earliest classes returned for picnics and barbeques.
Today, the association includes more than 140,000 members and 15 regional and special interest chapters. Some 30 to 40 activities are coordinated annually. Alumni activities run the gamut from barbeques and wine tastings to professional sporting events, decorating the Cal Poly Rose Float and trips to see Pageant of the Masters. A popular favorite is the annual get-together at Homecoming Weekend.
But CPAA offers much more. Our purpose is to provide a communication link between the University and its graduates. In addition, we offer alumni an opportunity to remain close to the University by participating in their local chapters.
Alumni activities are funded, in part, by membership dues. By joining CPAA, a member receives such benefits as access to California State University libraries, group insurance and Cal Poly Continuing Education discounts, entertainment discounts, and invitations to alumni activities. CPAA assists the university in recruiting top students by providing scholarships. It also provides financial support for the university’s faculty recognition program to honor outstanding professors.
Growth has been nothing new to CPAA. Looking back, one benchmark occurred in 1975 when the association appointed Steve Riddell as its first full-time director. With a very active chapter program, the CPAA planned a lot of activities to welcome President Warren J. Baker when he arrived on campus with his family in 1979.
Another CPAA benchmark was organizing a statewide CSU Alumni Council in 1971, under Lew Litzie, a 1950 architecture grad, who served as CPAA president from 1968 to 1972. With a seat for an alum representative from each state university, the Alumni Council strengthened the voices of universities state-wide. The Council served as a catalyst. It gave us a voice in the university system and united the alumni associations of all schools. And the Council won a seat for an alumni representative on the CSU Board of Trustees in 1978.
The CSU Alumni Council continues to serve an important role; Jim Considine, a 1968 Cal Poly business graduate, can vouch for that. Considine was elected as CSU’s alumni trustee in 1991—the first from Cal Poly—on the CSU Board of Trustees. “Alumni are probably the largest most under-utilized assets in the CSU,” says Considine. “We’ve got almost two million alumni—can you imagine what you could do with that force?”
Read about Cal Poly's history as a university
1907 – First Alumni Association formed informally
1936 – Reorganization of Alumni Association
1940s – First Senior Breakfast held in conjunction with Homecoming
1948 – Another re-organization and new constitution
1949 – First edition of Green & Gold alumni publication
1962 – First edition of Cal Poly Today published
1967 – Alumni Association separated from Cal Poly Pomona’s with split of campuses
1971 – Statewide CSU Alumni Council established.
1975 – First full-time director of Cal Poly Alumni Association
1978 – First alumni representative on CSU Board of Trustees
1991 – Reorganization of CPAA. First Cal Poly alumnus to serve on CSU Board of Trustees
1997 – GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) Program approved by Alumni Board
|Year(s) of Service||Name (*deceased)||Degree||Grad Year|
|1939||Alta Fae Baker*||HE||1922|
|1949||Herbert BrownleeI||AG (MS)||1958|
|1950||Carl Gil*||AG (MS)||1921|
|1960-61||Donald "Dutch" Van Harreveld *||ME||1950|
|1962-63||Donald K. "Buzz" Sawyer||BUS||1961|
|1978-82||M. Richard Andrews||SOC SCI||1956|
|1986-88||R. James Considine||BUS||1968|
The founding of California Polytechnic State University, with its "learn-by-doing" philosophy, began when local journalist Myron Angel gathered a group of citizens in 1894 to lobby for a state school in San Luis Obispo. For a complete history of Cal Poly visit the following online University Archives History pages:
Cal Poly History
Cal Poly Directors and Presidents
Highlights in the History of Cal Poly - by decade
History of the Poly P
Tragic Flight: The 1960 Football Team Plane Crash
Cal Poly's Rose Float Tradition