CSU Voices and Views

Lifting Up Communities

By Timothy P. White
California State University Chancellor
Alumnus of Fresno State and CSU East Bay

At West Angeles Cathedral, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White meets with the actors who portrayed the story of Autherine Lucy, the first African American student to enroll at the University of Alabama.

At West Angeles Cathedral, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White (right) meets with the actors who portrayed the story of Autherine Lucy, the first African American student to enroll at the University of Alabama.

It is an amazing thing to be welcomed into someone’s home, treated as a member of the family and given a place of honor.  More amazing is to know that the visit preludes a long future of close partnership, that we have formed a family of common interest with shared plans for the future and hopes for our children.  This is how I feel along every step of the journey that we call CSU Super Sunday and the CSU African American Initiative.

Pastor Antonio Alfred of St. John Missionary Baptist Church used the apt analogy of rising up on the wings of eagles.  It is true that the church and university working together can create lift for our youth to fly.  It is right that we support each other in lifting our communities out of poverty and despair.  It is profound that we have all recognized that it takes a village to love, support and guide our children every day to a better future.

At West Angeles Cathedral, a troupe of actors put on a play about the bravery of Autherine Lucy, who in 1956 became the first African American student to enroll at the University of Alabama.  The play demonstrated her conviction and bravery in the face of hatred and injustice.  Yet the story is one of triumph delayed, because the university’s regents went on to suspend and expel Autherine after attending classes for only one day – the university would not integrate until seven years later.

After the service, I met with a young man who was working the recording equipment for the church.  He was not that much older than my son, and as they stood together I could not help but remark how I was their age during this chapter of the civil rights movement.  How far we have come, and how much further we must go.

I shared my own educational journey with the congregations, not because the story is mine but because it reflects so much of what the CSU represents.  I am an immigrant and first generation college student, who did not come from a family of means and was thought of in high school as a dead-end kid who “wouldn’t amount to much.”  The California Community Colleges, California State University and University of California provided me a path out of a life of low expectations.  

It is a deep privilege to lead California’s university.  I take to heart that our system belongs to all Californians.  Consider the CSU as the promise to live the American Dream, the ticket to a better tomorrow.  After all, it’s not where you start – it’s where you finish.

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