• The Elevating Impact of President Dianne F. Harrison

Memories and Messages Home


Memories and Messages from the University Community.

President Harrison has touched the lives of countless students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members. Read some of their favorite memories and messages of gratitude here in this digital memory book. (Some submissions have been edited for length.)

“I was honored to meet you personally at the "CSUN Fall Semester 2017 Welcome Event" with my mom, who was also a current Master's student at that time. My mom graduated last Spring 2020 for her Masters and I will be graduating this incoming Spring 2021. Your presence and kind words made a difference which inspires everyone, not just me and my mom.

Thank you for everything you did for us making CSUN a good community for the students. You have been a huge supporter and an inspiration to the CSUN community. Your leadership, commitment, hard work, and vision helped develop our campus into a community of learners that have made a difference in the lives of so many. You led our campus to be hopeful, inspired, have our voices out, and keeping everything positive despite everything that goes on within our society. Once again, thank you and best wishes in all you do!”

— Tyler Dean Jocson, CSUN Class of 2021

Tyler Jocson at Fall Semester 2017 Welcome Event CSUN Fall Semester 2017 Welcome Event

Jack Condon graduation memory.

“As a non-traditional student transferring to California State University, Northridge (CSUN), from Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC), I did not know what was in store for me. I began my academic future at CSUN in 2012, the same year President Harrison began her term at the university. The campus was filled with her presence through emails and imagery, yet I never had the pleasure of running into her. It was not until I walked at Honor's Convocation in 2014, when I got to shake her hand. I told her during that warm 104 degree evening, "I feel as if I am meeting a rock-star for the first time!" That is how I felt. For someone who never attended college until 2009, and to be shaking her hand at commencement for me was astounding. So much so, I called her a "rock star" again two days later, for my actual graduation. Six years later and after earning my MBA, I am currently teaching in the Business Administration Department at Los Angeles Valley College, where my academic journey began, and I am pleased that President Harrison solidified a special place in that exhilarating journey for me!”

— Jack Condon, Professor, Los Angeles Valley College, CSUN Class of 2014

“Dianne Harrison is a truly distinguished leader who involves herself in every aspect of university life. She goes after faculty and staff recognition in a marvelous way by recruiting distinguished outside experts and uses her office to inspire excellence in a real way, not just with talk. Her help with my award-winning K-12 journal is grand and her inspiring good wishes for all accomplishments are monumental. She is always first to congratulate and inspire. She is a model of what real leadership is all about. In these times of the greatest challenges in 100 years, President Harrison leads with a calm and reserved manner that inspires us all. Thank you.”

— Dr, Steve Oppenheimer, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Northridge

“Dear President Harrison, You will be greatly missed and remembered for all you have done to make CSUN rise. Your inspirational and visionary leadership helped us during turbulent and good times. Thank you for being a role model with grace, compassion, and a can-do spirit. Enjoy your well deserved retirement with your family! With admiration and sincerest appreciation,”

— Dr. Felicia Sison Conlan, Speech-Language Pathologist, CSUN Alumni Board Member, CSUN Class of 2017, 2009

“Hello President Harrison! Thank you for all your years of service. I had the pleasure of attending CSUN from 2016-2019 under your presidency. Being from Iowa, my eyes were opened wider than I could have ever imagined attending CSUN and I attribute a lot of that to your leadership. I will never forget when I had the privilege of performing for you and Mandy Patinkin at the Valley Women's Center benefit concert late last year (2019). It was such an honor to sing for you shortly after I crossed the stage, shook your hand, and graduated. I wish you all the best in the future and thank you again for your service! Stay safe and stay happy! :)”

— Ridg Downs, Musician/Songwriter, CSUN Class of 2019

“Dear Dianne, You have made a tremendous impact on CSUN. I remember you speaking at a meeting early in your tenure: You announced CSUN’s impact on the SFV and LA county, mentioning the recent batch of national prizes. Then you said, “Why doesn’t anyone know?” Well, thanks to your efforts, people know. Under your leadership, CSUN’s profile and reputation has become even more impressive. You provided an inspirational steady hand during tumultuous times for the students, faculty and staff. Please accept this note as a thank you for making CSUN’s future a bright one for generations to come. Please keep me posted on your next adventure. With admiration,”

— Bob Myman, former Foundation Board Chair & Alumni, CSUN Class of 1967

Resolution Resolution of Commendation from California Legislature, Resolved by Senate Majority Leader Robert M. Hertzberg and Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel

“Dear President Harrision, My wife Taj and I wish you a most wonderful and well-deserved retirement. You have touched the lives of numerous young men and women who will be our future leaders. Thank you for your sterling leadership. Thank you also for the kind and gracious hospitality that you extended to my family and friends on the occasion of my receiving the Honorary Doctor of Science degree from CSUN in 2013. Those memories have been indelibly imprinted in our hearts.

Stay in touch as you continue to transform many more lives. Warmest wishes.”

— Asad Madni, Retired President, COO and CTO, BEI Technologies Inc, Hon.DSc. '13

President Harrison Retirement — Lynnette Zelezny, President, California State University, Bakersfield

2016_Distinguished_Alumni_Celebration 2016 Distinguished Alumni Celebration

“Dear President Harrison, I strive to express to you my feelings and admiration for your leadership, generosity and integrity through the brief time it has been my pleasure to know you.

First of all, you are a stunning lady! Your grace, smile and spirit have always welcomed me into your presence. I always enjoyed our interaction whether standing or seated at your lunch, next to you. I felt that when we spoke, you made me feel that I was the most important person in the room. I shall miss these times with you.

May your retirement be a glorious one. Your accomplishments will never be forgotten! Thank you for staying on to help us all get through this unprecedented time. I will miss seeing you very much. With heartfelt good wishes.

— Ms. Shigemi Matsumoto, CSUN Class of 1968, 2016 Distinguished Alumni

“Dear Dianne: How can we ever thank you enough for guiding us as our esteemed President, for navigating as we moved through the sometimes tumultuous waters? You have been our beacon of calm, of hope, of vision; you have made us whole and great again! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Wishing you and your family only smooth sailing and sunshine ahead! With love and appreciation, Terri Lisagor”

— Terri Lisagor Emeritus Faculty, Family Consumer Sciences, CSUN

“Dear President Harrison, I have so many recent fond memories of you. I remember orientation day in 2017 like it was just yesterday meeting you at the Northridge Center when you gave your speech, and also at New Student Convocation in Sept. 2017 and all the CSUN events on campus, loved your high energy and love for our campus and seeing you at athletic events. Even though I did not get to experience a commencement in May, but I know the class of 2020 will have one, one day. I hope you'll be there to watch us walk, one day. Loved my days at CSUN and having you as a president and also have finished our journeys the same year.”

— Sara Prado, CSUN Class of 2020


“My first conversation with President Harrison (PH) during her first few weeks in office. PH: Ivor, do you think CSUN is an innovative campus? IW: Well, it's difficult to be creative or innovative during a budget crisis (CA budget crisis, 2008-2012). PH in a stern voice: Nonsense, a crisis is an excellent opportunity to innovate! I will never forget that profound exchange. President Harrison has challenged everyone to innovate, regardless of the situation or circumstance. President Harrison, you elevated CSUN from a quiet, rough diamond in the Valley to a beautiful polished diamond and powerhouse. Because of your leadership, and your leadership team and extended cabinet efforts, CSUN has gained the admiration and respect of the Los Angeles community, CSU campuses, the State of California, and the nation. Your work has also extended internationally. Innovation does not happen on its own or by chance. You have been a driving force at CSUN, and your legacy will remain for a long time. I thank you for teaching me a beautiful lesson with that profound conversation about innovation. It taught me to lean in when things were tough, and COVID has been a prime example. Your tenacity and your unwavering acceptance of only the best even in difficult times have been the fuel that has energized this campus. Because of your efforts, "CSUN employee" has also been elevated. I witness it when I attend conferences and when I work with colleagues at sister campuses. I wish you and your family all the best as you embark on a new journey. I don't think the traditional retirement of sitting around is for you. I won't be surprised to see you doing some more incredible things on a national or international level. Don't forget us! Once a Matador, always a Matador!”

— Ivor Weiner, Professor Special Education, CSUN

Educational_Opportunity_Program Educational Opportunity Program

“Dear President Harrison, on behalf of the Educational Opportunity Program, we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to you for your commitment and dedication to CSUN during your years of service. Your support of EOP, the EOP Resilient Scholars Program, the Dream Center, EOP TRIO and most importantly the students is truly appreciated. We wish you a wonderful future with lots of time to enjoy with your family, friends, and hobbies.”

— CSUN Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)

“Thank you for your warmth and welcoming support over the years. I personally appreciated our meetings and I truly valued the fact that you genuinely cared about our CSUN students, including our dance program. On behalf of the dancers, dance faculty, Department of Kinesiology, and myself, we wish you wonderful years in your retirement. I am sure you and your family have many plans and will remain vital members of our CSUN community. With heartfelt gratitude.”

— Paula Thomson, PsyD Professor, Department of Kinesiology

“Congratulations Dr. Harrison! Your strong commitment to students and student-athlete success will be a hallmark of your legacy. Your passion for equity, fairness and inclusion will leave an important mark on intercollegiate athletics. Thank you for your years of service to the NCAA. Enjoy your retirement and spending time with your grandchildren. Take care.”

— Troy Arthur, Director, NCAA

“I was involved with CSUN's Biology Alumni Association for four years of which I became the president (2015-2017). During her presidency, the Alumni division grew exponentially, as an effect, all divisions and departments at CSUN grew as well at the same rate. We reconnected with our Alumni around the country and the world and featured CSUN as the prominent educational institution that we are. I know President Harrison has many other achievements which other alumni, faculty, staff and colleges will add to her tribute. I wish her the best in her future endeavors.”

— Ani M Issaian, CSUN, Biology Alumni President (2015-2017), CSUN Class of '93, '95

Panetta Institute CSUN Representative 2014 & Paula Thomson in DC

“President Harrison, you have impacted my life in a monumental way. You gave me a shot at something, something great. When I was in my third year at CSUN, a professor recommended that I apply for the opportunity to be CSUN's nominee for the Panetta Institute for Public Policy Internship Program. This professor recommended that I apply because I seemed to like "challenges."

Fast forward a month later, I am sitting in your office, waiting to be called in for our face to face interview. We talked about family, education, the future. You shared that you had worked closely with Secretary Panetta when you were at CSUMB. I felt inspired after our conversation. A few days later, you called me personally to inform me that I was selected to represent CSUN as part of the Congressional Internship Program.

You chose me - and your decision changed my life. I will never forget it. When I started my college career at CSUN, I went in with the goal of accomplishing my parents' dream, and my parents' parents' dream before that - for their child to become a doctor. However, after my first semester of my second year, I changed courses. I decided to study philosophy and political science. Of course, this was a difficult decision, one that affected me and my family. I assured my parents that if I studied something I loved, that the right opportunities would present themselves and that I would run through those open doors.

You helped me run through that open door. Your decision to choose me to represent CSUN led me to achieve a level of confidence I did not know was possible. Now, I am a practicing attorney in San Diego. I was President of the Middle Eastern Law Students Association at the University of San Diego School of Law, and was involved in student government, and served on the Dean's Student Advisory Committee.

In short, your faith in me was the catalyst to having faith in myself.

You know, a lot of students do not necessarily pay particularly close attention the work that their President did for their school. However, and I can say this with confidence, the general attitude of CSUN students was different when you were there. You truly made an impact, and you made CSUN SHINE.

I am thankful for your service to our community, and I am incredibly thrilled for you to embark on the next chapter of your life. You have touched thousands of lives, demonstrated leadership in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and serve as an inspiration to all of those with the privilege of calling themselves Matadors.

All the best to you President Harrison, you deserve it.”

— Saleem Hawatmeh, Esq., Attorney, CSUN Class of 2015

“Our thanks to our deeply-appreciated leader, CSUN President Dianne Harrison, for her dedicated service to CSUN students, faculty, and staff, as well as our communities on campus and beyond, for steering us safely through challenging times so that we can promote/achieve CSUN's mission of student success. Best wishes for happiness and good health to Dr. Harrison for the future as she bids farewell to CSUN. Gratefully,”

— Linda Reid Chassiakos, Student Health Center Director and Medical Chief of Staff, CSUN

“President Harrison, although I never had the opportunity to work with you as my colleagues have, I can say as a new faculty member, I appreciated your leadership and oversight during this unprecedented time. Because of your leadership, I felt comfortable and confident in choosing CSUN as my new institutional home. Leadership during this time requires a level of transparency, self-awareness, integrity, and competence; all of which you possess. It was no surprise to learn that your background is in social work. You've definitely left your mark on the institution. I wish you all the best in your next endeavor.”

— Tuwana Wingfield, Assistant Professor, Social Work Department, CSUN

“Dear President Harrison, I want to thank you for your leadership as president of CSUN. Your thoughtful approaches, messaging, timeliness of communications, and love for our university have been apparent with the very challenging issues and crises you faced as president. Everything from threats to our campus, racial tensions, budget issues, COVID-19 and the myriad challenges facing our campus, to DACA, the political climate among so many other issues - you have been a steady and even-tempered leader. You have always kept the values of CSUN in the forefront with your words and decisions as you have worked with your team to solve problems and forward CSUN as the SFV leader it is. I have enormous respect for your leadership as a woman and an educator. In the few times I met you in person (Diversity and Inclusion Task Force) I have always felt you to be 100% engaged and promoting of what is best for CSUN and all of its constituents. As you transition to your next chapter, I wish you rest, relaxation, time with family, and mostly, time for YOU to focus on all that is important to you. After having deferred your retirement during this unprecedented time, I hope you unplug and enjoy! As a long time faculty member, I believe you are leaving our beloved campus in a great position to move on to what is next for new leadership. Best wishes to you always,”

— Susan Cohen, Faculty, Department of Health Sciences, CSUN Class of 1989/1994

Ruth Forman and President Harrison

“Greetings Dianne, Shortly after you honored California State University with your acceptance to serve as our president, I met you. From the moment I met you with no other person present, I connected with your strong, positive, and lovely spirit. Never in a million years could I have predicted that you would have raised CSUN and our Matador community to the global heights that you have. Countless of individuals from all walks of life have already shared your incredible, wide-ranged achievements. Now, I will humbly share what you have meant to me as a fellow human being and as a leader of the Matadors. You and I strongly share numerous values. Let me offer just two of them, our concern for Mother Earth and Inclusivity. As president, you played a stellar role in continuing to advance CSUN as a sustainable environment and campus. You have also passionately dedicated yourself to continue to hasten the spirit of inclusivity throughout CSUN. You directed the effort to bring aboard a team of top educators and staff of diverse backgrounds, while equally protecting and calming the full spectrum of our students. In a way, you have been Mother CSUN to help make each student feel accepted, comfort, as you alleviated their fears. Your timely messages supported your timely acts, especially through terrorist acts and dreadful fires. You also raised our student’s hopes and led the goal to uplift our students to each reach and achieve their endowed potential. Under your tenure, I first saw an ad in The Smithsonian, I have seen huge overhanging banners at major airports across the country. My husband, who watches Shark Tank, a year ago, saw ads inviting creative and innovative students to apply to CSUN. As a fellow Matador, let me express my most sincere gratitude for the sacrifice that you made to stay on the extra six months to help cope with the seamless virtual transition to benefit the student’s education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You also meticulously led to prepare everything necessary for a smooth transition to CSUN’s next president, Dr. Erika Beck. As a friend, I wish blessing with all my heart, that you, your wonderful partner and husband John, children and grandchildren are surrounded by most possible, healthy, serene, and joyous life ahead, that filled with laughter, time to yourself and gentle breezes. You deserve this BIG time! Lee sends his regards, Journey in peace, joy, health, and connections.”

— Ruth Forman. M.A.’79

“I really do wish President Dianne F. Harrison a farewell. As a student journalist, she has been accessible, kind, and has really stood tall for the student body. She has really impacted our school and I wish her nothing but the best. Her small gestures mean a lot, especially to students. I hope she finds more prosperity on her next adventure in life and realizes that she is a strong leader. No one can fill her shoes. Good luck,”

— Bryan Arevalo, CSUN Class of 2021

“Thank you, President Harrison, for your leadership of CSUN through both wonderful and trying times, and dedication to student success.. And thank you for your and John's friendship with my parents, Richard and Jilanne Fager. I wish you every happiness as you enter your retirement. Be well.”

— Cathleen Fager, Director of Finance and Operations, David Nazarian College of Business and Economics

“Dear Diane, I have admired your persistence, energy and goodwill you have brought to the University. Your dedication and love for our students shined through. A special shout out for your support of our student veterans. CSUN is recognized as an outstanding bargain for students who want a top notch education. Thank you for helping shine the light on our University. I am very proud of being a staff and faculty member here. May your years with John be filled with lots of health, time with your grandchildren, fun adventures and avenues to make a difference. Thank you.”

— Mark Stevens, Professor, Educational Psychology & Counseling, CSUN, CSUN Class of 1976

“Thank you President Harrison for the work you've done to make CSUN a place of opportunity and mentorship for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship Award in 2009. This scholarship was the reason I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology today. My Presidential Scholarship Faculty Mentor, Dr. Janet Oh, encouraged me to apply to graduate programs, which was something I had never considered pursuing nor did I think I was capable of accomplishing. It is because of this scholarship that I pursued an ambitious goal of becoming a licensed psychologist and I am here today newly licensed and ready to give back to my community through mental health services. I am forever grateful for the faculty, the staff, and the supportive services (including the scholarship program) that were offered to students during my time at CSUN, and thus I am grateful for you President Harrison. Thank you for everything you have done to directly and indirectly support and inspire students like myself to pursue a greater purpose and achieve bigger dreams. I hope you have a wonderful and joyful retirement!”

— Mariko Iwabuchi, CSUN Class of 2012

“Dianne, Thank you for being a great leader for CSUN. I always looked forward to your updates at the Foundation Board meetings. They were concise and informative and much appreciated by all the Directors. Enjoy your retirement.”

— Phil Mundy, Director Emeritus, CSUN Foundation Board

“You have been an amazing president of the University. My relationship to the university began as a child and continued through a graduate degree and now through part-time teaching. Of all the presidents in the last 40 years, you have seen the greatest changes happen in your tenure. You kept on marching along and made sure the university always moved forward. Thanks for all your contributions, ”

— Jody Weissler, Faculty, Elementary Education and Political Science, CSUN Class of 2000

“I had the privilege of meeting and talking to Dianne, one on one, for about 5 minutes at a CSUN home basketball game early this year. We shared about our lives and that she was going to retire and head up north for retirement. COVID comes along and she steps up to stay to help us through the pandemic and help CSUN move forward. Such a class act. What a wonderful person and CSUN will miss her. I wish her the best in her retirement.”

— Tom McKay, Hall of Fame - CSUN Baseball - 1984, CSUN Class of 1986

“Wishing you all the best as you start this new chapter in your life. I have enjoyed working with you on the Valley Presbyterian Hospital Board and watching you do so much for CSUN and the community. All my best,”

— Diana Sanchez, Public & Community Relations Director, Van Nuys Airport

“Dear Madam President, You have made an indelible mark on our Fernando Awards by hosting our 59th and 60th Fernando Awards Gala at the Soraya Performing Arts Center. For 59 years our gala was always in a hotel, your opening up CSUN was a first. Thank you, President Harrison.”

— David Honda

“Dear President Harrison, I am so appreciative that you postponed your retirement so you could guide CSUN through our first semester of virtual teaching/learning. I am sure you were looking forward to spending time with your family, but you put the needs of the university ahead of your own. Thank you.”

— Patrice Washburne, Lecturer, Department of Communication Studies, CSUN, CSUN Class of 2011

“Thank you, President Harrison, for the yearly Christmas celebrations that we enjoyed at your home. As an endowment scholarship donor, I had the honor to be invited to these events for several years. It was such an honor to greet you and to spend time with other CSUN staff members and honored guests at these events. I will miss this tradition. I thank you for all you did for CSUN, and I wish you a wonderful retirement!!”

— Angela DiMascio, Retired School Administrator, LAUSD, CSUN Class of 1975

“Good morning President Harrison, I wish you the best of luck in your future. I also wanted to thank you for being there for me and many other students during the pandemic when we needed you the most. Thank you. Diego.”

— Diego Kalayky, CSUN Class of 2020

“As a family of CSUN graduates, we thank you for your leadership as President of CSUN and for elevating the status and reputation of this University. The quality of our students, staff, faculty and alumni shines because of the visibility you brought to our educational institution, and for that we are forever grateful. I will never forgot the effort you made annually to shake each and every hand of the graduates as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas; even in the rain. I will never forget the emails you responded to me personally late at night or on the weekends. And, I will never forget the kinds words you shared at the DAA, Volunteer Services Awards, or with the Association's Board of Directors thanking me for my contributions. As a family, we were honored to call you our President and wish you years of relaxation and joy personally and with your family in the years to come.”

— Cindy Chernow, Former President of CSUN Alumni Association, CSUN Alumni Association Board of Directors, CSUN Class of '79, '91

Cindy-Chernow_and_President_Harrison_at_DAA 2018 DAA Dinner

“President Harrison, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you for always being so transparent and supportive and for always keeping the students front and center. No matter what CSUN has endured, you've powered through every challenge with grit and grace. As a long-time student, and then returning to CSUN as a staff member with over 26 years of service, I've seen how leadership can make or break an institution and your leadership has been inspiring, to say the least. Thank you! I hope you have a wonderful retirement.”

— Tina Reed, IT Senior Communications Consultant at CSUN, CSUN Class of 1994

“To President Harrison, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart, for all the things that you have done for CSUN! You have been the most progressive and open minded President that I've ever known.

I started out as a student here at CSUN pursuing my bachelor's degree in Kinesiology. I was one of the DREAMERS that you have greatly supported and benefitted from the scholarship that you have made available. Words cannot express my deep gratitude, and because of that scholarship money, I was able to provide financial relief from my parents, but it also provided me to continue my dream of finishing college. Four years later, it has come full circle and I am now able to give back to the campus that has provided me the education and fun college experience, as one of CSUN's staff members at the Parking and Transportation Department. It was because of you, President Harrison, that ultimately gave me this opportunity to work for CSUN. You have been an inspiration to me, especially your passion towards sustainability. I have been influenced by it, and now, I'm currently pursuing my master's degree in Sustainability as soon as it becomes available.

Thank you ever so much for all the years that you have given us! I will never forget you, and I hope to carry your ideals and values throughout my career here at CSUN. Stay safe and I wish you all the best on your retirement :) With great admiration,”

— Pamela LaRussa, Admin Support, Parking & Transportation Services at CSUN