Alumni

  • CSUN graduates cheering at commencement

History and Tradition

In recognition of CSUN's 50th anniversary, the Alumni Association began to capture our university stories and traditions online to acknowledge the profound impact the university has had on students, alumni and the surrounding community over the last 50 years.

Visit our Timeline of Historical Events

Visit the links below to read about other historical university traditions:

The Matador name

In March of 1958, students selected the school colors or red and white and “The Matadors” as the official mascot for San Fernando Valley State College. According to history professor, James Sefton, there were 158 nominations and ideas for possible nicknames. Matador was selected from five finalists; the Apollos, Falcons, Rancheros, Titans and Matadors. The election announcement was made at the Blarney Ball, given by the Honor Society ad Newman Club. Since that time, we have had a chance to discover what an excellent choice they made. Just months after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, there was discussion and student vote to consider a change of the school nickname to “The Quakes”. The students voted to keep the Matadors mascot name by a margin of 1,334 to 392. In the early 1990’s, the 43 year old, 1,600 seat gymnasium was nicknamed “The Matadome”. It is the home to all men's and women's basketball and men's and women's volleyball contests.

Alma Mater and Fight Song

“Hail to the Matadors”

The university alma mater and fight song was written by alumnus Richard Kaufman who received his B.A. in Music in 1977 for Cal State Northridge. Both the alma mater and the fight song share the same lyrics

Hail to the Matadors, and to our school so dear,
As we move along the road of life, let us keep from doubt or fear.

For the knowledge which we find here, For all who urge us on,
The spirit of the red and white will brighten every dawn.

Where the sun is shining...and where truth leaves an open door,
To honor strong and courage tall, we hail our Matador.

CSUN Sculpture

On the southeast edge of campus sits one of the most interesting and unique identifiers of the University: the multi-dimensional CSUN sign sculpture. The design, selected from a campus wide competition, was developed by art student John Banks in 1975. The impressive work spells out C-S-U-N when viewed from north, south, east or west.

The Oviatt Library’s American Flag

In the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake---without fanfare, but with respectful notice-- a large flag of the United States of America was secured atop the Oviatt Library. The flag, visible from across campus, was raised then—and has continued to be flown---as a symbol of hope and as a reminder of the remarkable resiliency of the University.

University Mace

The ceremonial mace, used each year at Commencement, was presented to the University by the Bibliographic Society of CSUN (precursor to the Friends of the Library) to commemorate the occasion of the University’s 25th Anniversary. The soaring bird atop the staff symbolizes academic freedom, while the silver marks the Silver Anniversary of Cal State Northridge. The mace represents the joint work of Norman Tanis, then Director of University Libraries, who originally conceived the idea of the mace for CSUN; Charlotte Oyer, reference librarian, who performed the basic research on the mace; and Bert Hultman, staff services technician, who worked with Tanis in locating the manufacturer and in determining the final design. The mace, constructed by a former student, Jeffrey Roter, is 4 feet long, weighs 12 pounds and cost about $900.
The CSUN flag was designed by alumnus Michael O'Meara, winner of the 20th Anniversary Flag Design Contest in 1978 sponsored by the CSUN Arts Council. According to the artist, the flag incorporates two characteristics associated with the San Fernando Valley, the surrounding mountains and the sunshine. The design is a scenic representation of these characterisitcs in their simplest form. The sunrise symbolizes CSUN, as well as new light and growth, and includes the school colors (red and white) in its basic color scheme.

The Historic Orange Grove

Throughout the San Fernando Valley one can see pockets of citrus trees on private land, but on the far southeast corner of the Cal State Northridge campus stands the oldest, most contiguous remnant of the Valley's agricultural past. When the University was built in the late 1950's, the campus inherited the Grove and the responsibility of its maintenance. In 1972, Associated Students deemed the Orange Grove a historic site. Wander among these trees, stretching over 6 acres, and you fall back to a time before there was a Cal State Northridge, before there was a north Los Angeles. The town was Zelzah, the "watering place in the desert," and in the summer of 1923, a Norwegian family visiting from Oklahoma purchased a 10-acre parcel and began growing lima beans. In 1929 the lima beans were replaced by Valencia Oranges brought in from the Cascade Ranch — 3 feet tall with stems almost an inch thick, roots wrapped in burlap. Today, nearly 500 orange trees of multiple varieties remain.  It is hoped that a new irrigation system will reverse a decade long trend of tree attrition. In the coming years, the University’s Alumni Center will be built adjacent to the grove.

The Legacy of Dorothea “Granny” Heitz

In 1966, a determined 50 year old woman set out to continue her college education that was interrupted by the Great Depression 31 years earlier. Sophomore, Dorothea “Dottie” Heitz, senior in age to most of the campus professors and nearly 30 years the senior of the average student of the time, was determined to fully embrace her college experience. The bonding of Ms. Heitz to the University began one day when a group of students saw in her the answer to a question being raised by a number of involved students gathered at “The Tub”, the nickname of the original Student Union. Looking for someone to take the lead in improving school spirit, one young man turned to Dottie and said “You should go for it, Granny!”  On that day Dottie forevermore became “Granny” and a tradition was born.  Granny accepted the challenge with enthusiasm.  Within weeks Granny formed a spirit squad called the “Granny Girls”. Adorned in their bright red outfits, the Granny Girls became unofficial campus ambassadors. They were the highlight of all the local parades, and at a time when there were only a handful of local television and radio stations, the Granny Girls exploded across Southern California airwaves, with numerous guest appearances on radio, and no fewer than eight television appearances. Through the years, Granny has maintained an unofficial role as a campus spirit leader. At many Cal State Northridge banquets, games and events, one can expect to see Granny wearing one of the 500 hats in her collection, with her red wagon in tow filled with streamers, toys and candy, spreading good will to kids of all ages. At 92 years of age, Granny is still transforming everyday campus occasions into special moments.  In recognition of her leadership and in appreciation of her loyalty, the University’s pinnacle award for Outstanding Volunteer Leadership was named in her honor.