December 16, 2014
Two national higher education organizations honored California State University, Northridge Provost Harold “Harry” Hellenbrand with lifetime achievement awards this spring and summer, recognizing his leadership and work to encourage civic engagement.
Hellenbrand accepted the Eileen Tosney Award in April from the American Association of University Administrators (AAUA) for his “outstanding, long-term experience as an administrator in the field of higher education — most often awarded as a career capstone recognition.” In June, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities honored him with the William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement — one of higher education’s highest honors — for a career spent building links between K-12 and higher education, fighting for student retention and encouraging diversity in academia.
Serving CSUN since 2004 as provost, vice president of academic affairs and, briefly, as interim president, Hellenbrand is a respected figure on campus and longtime champion of public education.
“It’s always flattering to receive an award,” Hellenbrand said. “I look at this more as a testimonial of survival than anything else. I compare it to surviving the trenches of World War I — a lot of hiding and gaining very little territory.”
Hellenbrand is known at CSUN as an erudite, eloquent man and steadfast supporter of students, faculty and accessible higher education.
“Harry’s career is the epitome why the AAUA created the Eileen Tosney Award,” CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison said. “Harry has committed his life to elevating students’ minds and is a true champion of access to education. He is an outstanding administrator who uses his keen intellect, his compassion, his dry wit and lots of data to constantly further the mission of the university.”
Hellenbrand said he came to CSUN because its mission aligns with his own values.
“CSUN is an urban university, very much like the City University of New York, where I grew up (in Brooklyn),” he said. “It’s what I call the universalist church of education.”
As provost and vice president for academic affairs, nearly all academic matters fall under Hellenbrand’s purview.
“Most of the highlights (of my tenure) are shared — with faculty, deans and fellow administrators: the growing size of the university, the student body, the remodeling of the library, the increase in graduation rates, coming through the budget crisis,” he said.
Previously, he served as dean and professor at the College of Liberal Arts at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, dean and professor at the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and English Department chair at California State University, San Bernardino.
In these challenging times for state-funded institutions, how does Hellenbrand achieve so much and bring so many people together? “Dialogue,” he said matter-of-factly. “Most can be achieved in the university through dialogue. You can’t be afraid of conflict.”