It is a foggy, cold, icy morning in Memphis as I write this post. It reminds me of the dense fog that envelops the Central Valley of California in the winter and early spring. If you have not been there, it is something to see because when you see the Valley fog you see little else! It is remarkably dense. I had planned that my next several entries would be current photos of colleges and universities in the Midsouth region near my home, but the fog brought on recollections of a spring visit to the California State University, Fresno. So, one last set of old scanned images, this time from March 2001, before returning to the present.
Cal State Fresno opened in 1911 as the Fresno State Normal School. Reflecting a change in the times, the name became Fresno State Teachers College in 1921. In 1935, the name would change to Fresno State College. It would not acquire its current name until 1972. Although colloquially known as “Fresno State University” the actual name is “California State University, Fresno”. I’ve often wondered why the university didn’t keep its name the way San Diego State did (which is officially “San Diego State University” and not “California State University, San Diego”). There are twenty-three Cal State schools, and only five of them are not officially named “California State University, (location)”. Sometime back I was going to buy a book on Fresno State’s history online, but it sold before I got to it and I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy since. Still, I will try to read up on it and include what I find in a future post. If you know why some Cal State schools don't have the Cal State prefix and others do, please drop a note in the comments. Oddly enough, the person currently in charge of space allocation and planning here at the University of Memphis previously had a similar position at Fresno State. Again, academe is a small world.
When the university opened it was not at its current location between Shaw and Barstow Avenues. Instead, it was located near downtown Fresno and the Tower District. The original site would later become Fresno City College, a community college that is part of the State Center Community College District of the California Community College System. The campus sits on about 188 acres. Just north across Barstow Avenue is the University Agricultural Laboratory (commonly called the Farm), which covers an additional 1,011 acres. Fresno State is unique in some important ways. It is both a Federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI). The university has a highly noted enology and viticulture program and the first university-operated winery in the U.S. Fresno State was the first institution in the Cal State system to offer a doctorate (a joint program with UC Davis) and the first independent (from the UC system) doctorate as well. It truly represents the Valley. For the last several decades, the football team has had a green “V” on the back of their helmets to represent the connection with the Valley, its people, and the agricultural industry there (hence the V being green).
The campus is very pleasant and has some lovely features. The architecture is not impressive in the same vein as many of the University of California schools like UCLA or Berkeley, but it has a very “California” feel to it that I like. Most of the buildings are simple, low-rise structures of block and concrete. Despite the utilitarian nature many of the structures, it still manages a warm feel to it. On the Saturday these photos were taken, I was actually enjoying the blooming nature of the plant life on my spring visit, so the buildings are merely part of each shot.
The photos below are of the Speech Arts Building, home to the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), and the Music Building. Founded in 1981, the CHHS has become an important part of Fresno State. The college enrolls nearly 5,000 students, houses two of the three doctoral programs at the university, and produces over half of the doctoral graduates each year. It is directly beside the Music Building. The first photo is an entrance to the Speech Arts Building on the north side of the building. Again, I was enjoying the spring blooms which are evidenced in this shot. The second photo is Speech again from the same side just further back amongst the trees on the quad further north. The third is a view from the Memorial Fountain (See below). The fourth photo has the east side of the building in the foreground. The building beyond is the Music Building. On the east side of the Music Building is the statue seen in the next picture. The last photo in this series is the south side of the Music Building. The Music Building is actually two connected structures. The original Music Building opened in 1954; The “New” Music Building opened in 1991. The fifth photo of the statute is in front of the newer part of the complex. The last is another of the structure. The Speech Arts Building opened in 1960.
Moving south of the Music Building is the Kremen School of Education and Human Development Building. The building is named in honor of Benjamin Kremen, a long-time counselor educator at Fresno State. He retired from the university in 1976. He was a major player in school counselor education and was a driving force in the creation of the master’s of education program. The building opened in 1994. A year later, Dr. Kremen passed away. The college would acquire the Kremen name in 2001 in honor of Benjamin and his wife Marion. They have a Rehabilitation Counseling program at Fresno State, and its located in the Kremen School. I used to know faculty in that program, but as the years have passed many have retired or moved on. The first photo has the Music Building in the foreground with Kremen to the south. The second photo is the north side of the Kremen building as viewed across East Keats Avenue. The fourth picture is a green space viewed from nearly the same position as the previous photo of the Kremen building, looking south across Keats toward Maple Avenue. The last photo is of the Amphitheater that sits behind the Music building. Although still visible in the Google aerial map online, the site appears as a construction zone on Bing's aerial images. This leads me to believe that the structure is no longer there. It still appears on the university's maps, so maybe the site was re-done and a new stage has been erected. If you happen to know, leave a note in the comments.
To the east of the Speech and Music buildings is the Conley Art Building which houses the eponymous Phebe Conley Art Gallery. There is surprisingly little, nothing at all that I could find in fact, about Phebe Conley on the Fresno State website. Although the Gallery has its own website and a page on the university’s website, there was nothing about her or why the building bears her name on either. This is surprising not merely because her name is on the building, but due to the fact that she was such a remarkable person. She was born Phebe Briggs on November 8, 1892 to a notable Sacramento Valley pioneer family. Her father, Dr. William Briggs, was an ophthalmologist (you can read about him here). Like her mother, she was a alumnae of Vassar from which she graduated magna cum laude in 1916. At Vassar she was awarded the Carnegie Silver Medal for saving three fellow students from drowning in an icy lake. She then did some graduate work at the San Francisco Polyclinic. When her first husband, Carlos K. McClatchy, went to Europe in WWI she moved to DC to work for the War Department. After the war, they lived in Sacramento where Carlos’ father owned the Sacramento Bee newspaper (her son Charles Kenny “C.K.” McClatchy, who preceded her in death, would go on to be the editor of the Bee). Carlos would pass away in 1933. Phebe would later enroll at Fresno State in the Teacher Training program and would remarry in 1958 to Philip Conley, a judge on the Superior Court. In addition to the building and gallery bearing her name, the Phebe Conley scholarship was established in 1992 when she died (although I found no mention of it on the current Fresno State website). She passed away in Fresno on May 14, 1992 just a few months shy of her 100th birthday. The first photo is of the courtyard entrance on the northern side of the building. The next is an art piece found on the north east side of the building near Backer Avenue.
Next is the Leon S. Peters Building which houses the Craig School of Business. Mr. Peters was on Fresno State President’s Advisory Board, the Agricultural Board, the Business Advisory Council, and the university foundation’s Board of Governors. The Craig School is named for Sid and Jenny Craig who gave $10 million to the school. It was the first Cal State system school of business to be named. Sid was a Canadian-American businessman who graduated from Fresno State. He and Jenny founded the Jenny Craig weight loss company. The last three photos are from a window on an upper floor of the Peters Building. I believe I was tryin to get a shot of the snow on the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains. The view is looking northwest. In the first photo you can see the Science Building. Lastly, a photo of the fountain and courtyard between the north and south wings of the Peters Building on the west side.
To the northwest of Peters is something rather unique: the Satellite Student Union (SSU). The Fresno State webpage for the SSU also makes reference to it being named “Earl Whitfield Hall” but that name does not appear on any campus map (or on any other current Fresno State webpage). Whitfield was a 1960 graduate of the university who would later go on to be Director of the Student Union. He was the 1968 “Top Dog” alumni awardee (Fresno State’s mascot is a Bulldog). Phyllis Ann Whitfield would give funds to establish the Earl Whitfield Memorial Scholarship Fund. I was surprised to see a satellite center on campus. After all, it sits barely a fifth of a mile (walking distance; less than 1,000 feet as the crow flies) from the main Union. The building has a large room with a stage and screen where shows and movies can be seen. The space can be used for a dining room and other functions as well. The Satellite Union is on the left in this photo. The building to the right is the Science Building.
That brings us back to the main Student Union Building. The first photo below is the Union looking toward the east. Despite nearly 20 years having passed since I took this photo, the student organization stands are still there (probably newer ones, of course, but there none the less). Beside the Union is the Kennel Bookstore (the name harkening back to the Bulldog mascot). In the second photo the Union is on the left and the bookstore with its clock tower is on the right. The third picture is a full frame of the bookstore. Behind the Union and the Kennel Bookstore is McLane Hall, seen in the last photo. One of the original buildings on the campus, McLane houses science labs and classrooms.
To the east of the Kennel Bookstore is the Memorial Fountain. A landmark on the campus, the Fountain was a gift of the classes of 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, and the parents of Louise Masten Jensen (a class of 1951 alumnae). The Memorial Fountain was dedicated on December 7, 1962. The last four photos are of the Rose Garden which is adjacent to the fountain. The fountain is to the west in these shots.
Here we have the Henry Madden Library. The library opened when the university moved to its present location in the 1950’s. Henry Madden started as a librarian at Fresno in 1949. He would stay with the university for 30 years, retiring in 1979. During his time, the library grew from a collection of around 70,000 volumes to 576,000 volumes (a growth of over 16,000 per year on average). An addition to the original structure opened in 1980. I believe the structure as you see it in these 2001 photos is basically the same as it was in 1980. Since 2001, Madden has changed significantly. In 2005, voters passed Proposition 55 which, along with a $10 million gift from the Table Mountain Rancheria, would provide funds for a new addition. In 2006, the original wings of the building were demolished and construction of a massive new addition was begun. The library continued to operate out of the south wing of the building for the next several years during construction of the new wing. The A.C. Martin and RMJM Hillier firms designed the new addition which opened on February 19, 2009. The new addition, with a large glass façade and a five-story elliptical edifice, was awarded an American Institute of Architects chapter prize for “Excellence in Design and Execution” in 2012. The new structure also contains a Starbucks which is reportedly the busiest in Fresno. Back in 2001, there was no coffee shop but a good library none the less. The bit of the structure as you see it in the first photos is, I believe, still there. The second and third photos are from across a quad to the north looking south. This portion of the building was razed and the new addition would be in this location today. The fourth photo is the Family and Food Science Building which is opposite the library. I was unable to find any real information about the building online.
The first photo below is the Professional Human Services Building. It stands across (north) the greenspace in the last two photos above from the Henry Madden Library. It is a classroom and faculty office building. Two blocks northeast from this spot is the Vincent E. Petrucci Viticulture Building (the second photo below), home to the university’s Viticulture and Enology Research Center. I believe the building opened in the 1985. It was named in honor of Vincent E. Petrucci in 2018. Petrucci came to Fresno State in 1948 and helped establish the University’s renowned viticulture and enology program. He was also instrumental in the creation of the building, having raised more than $1.5 million for its construction himself. Petrucci taught at Fresno State until his retirement in 1993 and passed away in 2016. I scoured Google and Bing for some insight as to what the third photo may be, but was unable to identify it. I include it not because it is a newsworthy image, but simply because I hoped someone might recognize the location and tell me what the building is (or was). I spent far too much time trying to figure it out not to include it! Finally, you have a photo of yours truly during the visit wearing a very 2001-looking collarless shirt!
University Grounds is a blog about college and university campuses, their buildings and grounds, and the people who live and work on them.
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