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Memories of SSU

James Enochs

Dean of Instruction
Academic Vice President
Executive Vice President

(Excerpted from an interview with Daniel Markwyn, October 20, 1988)

            I came here as the Dean of Educational Services and Summer Session in 1963. I then became the Dean of Instruction. It was at that time that the first vice president positions were established; I became the Academic Vice President. Tom McGrath named me the Executive Vice President in order to be sure that there was somebody on hand to take care of things when he was away.

I started at the Rohnert Park campus and we were there for two years. I had an office on the second floor of one of the apartment buildings that Paul Golis put up for the college. You could get out on the deck of those apartment buildings and holler across the courtyard to somebody coming out onto the deck. That was a very personal and intimate kind of relationship for all of us. The classrooms were located where the offices were. It was a really nice kind of relationship it seemed to me, in some ways. We all wanted to get onto the new campus and get into better facilities, at the same time all of us had a feeling of nostalgia about leaving that first temporary campus situation.

We had a sense of being a part of Cotati-Rohnert Park at that time, but my own impression was that in the decision to settle the college here, the people in Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Sonoma were incensed. All three wanted to have the college campus, so when the State Public Works Board, that was responsible for selecting sites, chose a mustard field in an unknown place of Rohnert Park, which was clear off from anything, it developed a feeling of isolation from the campus and community. It was an isolation that continued for many years. The feeling of distance from the community was exacerbated by the fact that we went into the ’60s and early ’70s. All kinds of crazy things happened in regard to students that became irritating to the people in the community.

There was little development of Rohnert Park at the time that the college opened. In a way, there wasn’t really very much of a sense of community on the part of Rohnert Park itself. I think that the sense of community in Rohnert Park and Cotati came later, after the college was underway and developing out here. We knew that we were in Rohnert Park, but there was no sense of drawing upon the community or having the community really draw upon us to help in its development. That is partly due to the fact that the college did, early on, establish this very definite definition of liberal arts as being the central focus. That became irritating as far as the communities were concerned. We weren’t doing anything in agriculture or very much in business. We didn’t do very much to help out with the growth and development of Santa Rosa and in some ways the very strong emphasis on the liberal arts and sciences had its own negative effect upon these communities.

It was a fairly smooth kind of move to the new campus. I think that the worst aspect of it was the appearance of Stevenson Hall and Darwin Hall at that time. They were monolithic grey concrete structures rearing their three stories in the midst of a mustard field, mud all around and no easy access one way or the other. The college was called the “San Quentin of the North.” It really was a very daunting kind of a situation to just look out on all that kind of barren landscape with very few trees around. I think that is one of the reasons there are as many trees as there are now—sort of over planted and over-compensated.

            I enjoyed a very exciting 12 years at Sonoma State. There was a time that in spite of some difficulties, a well-rounded campus developed. It grew into a good foundation and continued to grow into the place it is now. It was a good experience for me.