W. P. Whitsett Endowment
Whitsett Chair in California History
W.P. Whitsett California Lecture Series
Valley Pioneer Lecture Series
Whitsett Graduate Seminar in California History
Whitsett Supported Undergraduate and Graduate Research


W. P. Whitsett Endowment

In November, 1986 the W.P. Whitsett Foundation and California State University, Northridge, established the W.P. Whitsett Endowment at CSUN. The Whitsett Foundation's gift was intended to honor the memory of W.P. Whitsett and his pioneering role in San Fernando Valley history. Whitsett's three granddaughters--Mrs. Myrtle Harris, Mrs. Eleanore Robinson and Mrs. Sarah Ann Siegel--and family friends, Mrs. Mary Jane Petit and Mrs. Sara Baur--have generously supported the department's efforts to implement the different parts of the endowment starting with the late Dr. John Baur's published essay on W.P. Whitsett.


Print of a pencil and charcoal drawing done by S. Pritikin depicting the Cascades in San Fernando, circa late 1950s. Courtesy of Special Collection, Oviatt Library, California State University Northridge.


Whitsett had a long career in the fields of mining, irrigation, and real estate. "To each he brought enduring energy, faith, optimism, and impressive competence," concluded Professor Baur. In 1905 Whitsett moved to southern California and in 1911 he became the enthusiastic founder of Van Nuys describing valley land as "among the richest and best in California, but to the inexperienced eye those acres looked like a wasteland", Baur noted. "There were no nearby roads, light fixtures, water pipes, gas, or telephone facilities." Whitsett, however, pushed ahead with the sale of land sites, the organization of Van Nuys, the introduction of agricultural advances, banking, and water from the Owens Valley. Whitsett served on the board of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and as the first chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California from 1930 to 1947. He led the successful effort to bring Colorado river water to Los Angeles which facilitated the post-World War II expansion of southern California.

Whitsett Chair in California History

The establishment of the W.P. Whitsett Chair in California History in 1994 completed the implementation of the endowment. This is the first endowed chair at CSUN and one of the first in the entire California State University system. Professor Gloria Ricci Lothrop accepted the position in June 1994 and joined the department for the 1994-1995 academic year. Professor Lothrop taught at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona since 1970. She has a distinguished record of accomplishments in teaching California history, in promoting California studies, and in publications in this field. Two of her recent articles include "Boom of the 80's Revisited" and "Hispanas and the Land: Female Land Ownership in Early Alta California" in the Southern California Quarterly. Her most recent book is Los Angeles Profiles: A Tribute to the Ethnic Diversity of Los Angeles (1994). Professor Lothrop retired from CSUN in 2002.

In Fall of 2005, Professor Josh Sides became the second Whitsett Chair.


W.P. Whitsett California Lecture Series

The W.P. California Lecture Series was started in 1987 to focus on topics related to the history, the development, and the future prospects of California. The lecture series encourages an interdisciplinary approach to subjects related to California. The lectures include:

1987 Glenn Dumke, "The Boom of the 1880s in Southern California"

1988 Andrew Rolle, "Exploring an Explorer: California, Psycho-History and John Fremont"

1989 Kevin Starr, "From Oz to Tarzana: Metaphor and Real Estate Development in Southern California in the Early Twentieth Century"

1990 William Goetzman, "Re-Mythologizing the American West"

1991 Doyce Nunis, "Medicine in Hispanic California"

1992 Martin Ridge, "California: The Imagined Country"

1993 Gloria Lothrop, "Rancheras on the Land: Women and Property Rights in Hispanic California"


1994 David Weber, "Writers, Readers, and the Meaning of the Spanish Frontier in North America"

1995 Richard Griswold del Castillo, "Cesar Estrada Chavez: The Final Struggle"

1996 Donald Worster, “Landscape with Hero: John Wesley Powell and the Colorado Plateau”

1997 Iris Engstrand, “The 18th Century Enlightenment Comes to California

1998 Richard White, “Disney’s Nature: Walt Disney and the Nature of America”

1999 Norris Hundley, Jr., “Whither Californians and Their Water: Environmental Protection or Environmental Disaster”

2000 Glenda Riley, “‘Saving the Wild West’: Women’s Role in the Early Conservation Movement”

2001 Janet Fireman, "Horizons of Paradise: Perspectives on Los Angeles History"

2002 Elliott West, “Listen Up: Hearing the Unheard in Western History”

2003 Leonard Pitt, “The ‘Quiet Revolution’: The History of Neighborhood Empowerment in Los Angeles since 1850"

2004 Stephen Aron, “The Afterlives of Lewis and Clark”

2005 Roger Lotchin, “The Bad City in the Good War: California Cities in the Second Great War”

2006 Phil Deloria, TBA


Valley Pioneer Lecture Series

In 1991 the Whitsett Committee initiated the Valley Pioneer Lecture Series to honor contributors to the Valley Pioneer Scholarships. The series consists of occasional lectures pertaining to topics of current interest to the community.


Whitsett Graduate Seminar in California History

On Friday, March 24th, the Department of History, and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences will host the First Annual Whitsett Graduate Seminar in California History.


Whitsett Supported Undergraduate and Graduate Research

The Whitsett Endowment generously supports student travel and research in California courses. In Spring of 2006, students in Dr. Josh Sides’ HIST 497: San Francisco Neighborhoods will travel to San Francisco to conduct research for their final papers.