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CSUN Traditions and Special Characteristics

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The Uniqueness of Cal State Northridge Cal State Northridge is truly the cultural and educational hub and economic engine of the vast region it serves. 

But more than a tangible place where individuals learn or where citizens convene together in convenient and organized settings, is a special place that cannot always be seen or touched. Cal State Northridge is a vibrant and unique personality, an intangible spirit continually defined by interesting people and special moments. 

“The Matadors” 

In March of 1958, students selected the school colors of 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. 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. 

CSUN Sculpture on Nordhoff and Zelzah“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 engineering 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

Oviatt Library FlagThe 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 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. Placed throughout its halls will be remembrances of people and places and occasions that have distinguished the campus and the region.