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Memories of SSU

Harriet (Shamshoian) Giles

Student, 1964–1968, BA, Psychology
Student, 1968-1969, Elementary Teaching Credential 

Professor Bob Worth leading a choral rehearsal

Professor Bob Worth leading a choral rehearsal

            In September 1964, I entered Sonoma State as a freshman. Our first gathering was at Camp Cazadero for freshman camp. It was there that I forged some lifelong friendships, although I didn’t know it at the time. Not being a fan of the great outdoors and camping, I was very happy to move into Jack London Hall, the only dorm available to non-commuting students.

            The temporary campus was interesting since my high school had a vintage construction. However, its “ugliness” didn’t seem to detract from the reason we were there – to get a college education. Pouring over catalogs the previous year, my mother was impressed with the high number of PhDs on the faculty. I’m sure that was what swayed her opinion that I should attend SSU.

            One of my earliest memories was meeting Kay Wiley, the registrar. I had heard she was also an actress in her former life, and I always was tickled to see her name in the credits of  “I Love Lucy.” She was very kind and helpful to us newbies.

            I was also very fond of the president, Dr. Ambrose Nichols. He just always seemed the epitome of a gentlemanly scholar. I had the opportunity to get to know his wife, Barbara, in the early 2000s. She and my mother lived in the same retirement community and became friends. When I was visiting my mother, Mrs. Nichols was also in her room and we chatted about the early days of Sonoma State. She was as gracious as her husband.

            One of my favorite professors was Dr. Cheryl Petersen. She made government and politics interesting. She was so enthusiastic about her subject. Another of my favorite professors was Dr. D.V. Gillies. I believe I had an education course from him during my credential year.

            My most enjoyable class was community chorus with Dr. Peggy Donovan-Jeffry. I learned so much about music and how to appreciate it from her and Dr. Fred Warren. They are the reason I dedicated my alumni gift to the Green Music Center.

            At the reunion, we laughed about all the mud at the new campus and having to walk on plywood to get between Darwin and Stevenson Halls. I remember the new campus being called “San Quentin of the North” because it was so stark.

            My other memory revolves around something my father said when his cronies asked him why I was not attending his alma mater and my mother’s too – UC Berkeley. His response was, “I don’t want my daughter going to that hippie school!” Little did he know how hippie SSU looked back in those days!