Reflections by Dean Emeritus Steve Gregorich

The College of Education Awards Banquet: The Beginning

The creation of the first College of Education Awards Banquet in May, 1989 is the story of many sincere people trying to do a good thing and eventually getting it right. The 1980s saw a big push on the California State University campuses to move toward fundraising. Most of us saw ourselves as teachers and we were comfortable in that role. There was not much enthusiasm for fund raising.

The idea of an awards banquet was more to our liking. It would be a student-centered thing, a quality for which our faculty and staff were well-known. It was a way of passing the largesse of our community directly to the students in a festive evening of celebration. The banquet, then, was an aspect of fund-raising that made the most sense to us.

But we had no resources and practically no experience with putting an awards banquet together. Then, along came John Cotsakos.

New among the part-time faculty, John was virtually bursting with competence for putting together an awards banquet, but no one knew that at the time. John stayed up late one night making plans. He showed up in my office the next morning with a stack of poster boards under his arm and broke into an animated presentation with diagrams, goals, time-lines and strategies.

I don't think I understood very much of what he said and, to my everlasting shame, I am afraid I was not very encouraging. But eventually we agreed that John would begin planning our first awards banquet. Our trust in John grew as those of us in the Dean's office got to know him. Eventually he had the run of the office for planning the event.

As everyone in the College surely knows by now, John is a person who never meets a stranger and who has an uncanny knack for doing the right thing. For instance, one day on his way home from supervising student teachers, he pulled his car over and dashed Into a local store because he "got a feeling." Thirty minutes later he walked out with a commitment from our first awards banquet sponsor. Gradually, John cobbled together small bits and pieces, finding interested people in the community, meeting with groups of faculty and staff, organizing, motivating, inspiring.

I asked one of the College's de facto leaders at that time, Barbara Arnstine: "How do you go about institutionalizing something that never existed before?" Barbara replied: "Well, you design a letterhead. Once you have a letterhead, you have an institution!" How remarkable, I thought.

I mentioned this sage advice to John. He came back the next morning with a design and motto for a letterhead. Soon afterward, invitations were mailed out on that wonderful new letterhead that proclaimed "Better Together!" Of course, I didn't like the slogan. I said to John, "It sounds too much like Notter Butter." But, as luck would have it, my sensitivities were ignored and we were committed to our first Awards Banquet with a very sensible slogan that guides us today.

Early on, Jose Cintron and Maurice Poe joined with John to form a terrific trio that would energize awards banquets for many years. A Banquet Committee was formed from volunteers: Cory Charter, Jan Cross, Kal Gezi, Cid Gunston-Parks, Suzy Lunstead, Bob Malugani, Fred Simonelli and Janet Tisue. Amazingly, John acquired donations from people in the community that covered much of the costs: awards from "First Place" in Folsom, centerpieces put together by the secondary student teachers, dance floor and piano donated by the Radisson Hotel, flowers from "Flowers,Etc." in Cameron Park, and photography from the University Media Services.and Sam Parsons.

As the big day drew near,Maurice's office was a whirlwind of activity with John,Jose,and a lot of faculty and staff rushing in and out. The day before the event,Cory Charter and Suzy Lunstead presented me with a script and pointed out what I was supposed to do and say. I started to edit some of it and got my hand slapped.

Many of our faculty were enthusiastic and reserved tables. In fact, the attendees at our first banquet were mostly our own faculty and staff. The table decorations were made of 5-pound coffee cans decorated with a little crochet donated by an elderly and very dear lady. The secondary student teachers brought flowers from their gardens to arrange in the coffee cans.

Our President, Don Gerth was featured speaker. We invited Don to speak, not because he was the campus president, but because he and his wife Bev were consistently the number one supporters of the College of Education. Don told our audience that "Teacher education is an all-University responsibility... It is a major priority of the University." And that the "School of Education is working aggressively to involve our entire campus and the Sacramento community in its efforts to meet the demand for highly qualified teachers, counselors and administrators. I am extremely proud of the great strides the School of Education has taken to enroll minority students in its programs and develop a faculty representative of the many cultures in CAlifornia. I invite participants in the Awards Banquet to join me in giving all our support to these efforts which mean so much to future of public education in our area."

Maurice Poe introduced Nancy Cecil, Ed Arnsdorf, Richard Kellough, Michael Lewis, and Harold Murai who presented scholarships with a total value of $9,000 to 6 students. That does not sound like very much today, but at the time it was wonderful considering that the starting point was nearly zero.

Kal Gezi and I presented Education Awards to Dr. Nick Floratos, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools arguably the most loved and inspirational superintendent in the area at the time; and Kirk West, President of the California Chamber of Commerce. John Cotsakos, of course, was our Banquet Chairmen. 

Shortly before the first awards banquet, we received word that Governor George Deukmejian and Gregg Lukenbill would be announcing an endowed scholarship for Sacramento State students who wanted to teach in literacy programs. The high point at the banquet was when we announced it, the "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and SAcramento Kings Scholarship."

As the students walked across the stage to receive their awards and tell their stories, we were all inspired by their words of hope and promise. After a few glasses of wine, I was overcome with inspiration and wandered off the script. But then I noticed John's disapproving eyes and shifted back to the program outline.

Afterward, a few of us sat outside the banquet hall having coffee at a little table in the hallway. John, Jose and Maurice were exhausted, but the sense of accomplishment was magnificent. 

Each year thereafter, the banquet grew. There was important involvement by many of the staff who were radient, professional, and who warmly greeted all the guests and organized things meticulously. Faculty brough their families and walked around the banquet room welcoming the parents and business partners and praising the students who would receive awards.

There was a sense of pride in the banquet and it seemed to me that many had a feeling of ownership. It was, after all, an accomplishment thtat rested directly on the shoulders of the staff and faculty of the College. It also reflected the good sense of the faculty and staff in accepting leadership that came from a relatively unkown, part-time faculty member.

I left the deanship to return to teaching 5 years later. At that year's Awards Banquet, I reviewed the college's accomplishments in my address to the community:

"Through its four departments, the School of Education offers a wide variety of services within Greater Sacramento area and throughout Northern Ca;ifornia. The School of Education ranked second among public and private California colleges and universitites in the granting of credentials for the 1989-90 academic year and was ranked number one in the 1990-91 academic year. The Department of Education Administration and Policy Studies coordinates the second largest educational administration program in the State and is one of the largest in the nation. The Department of Counselor Education programs are the second largest in California and offer more counseling services than any other agency in the Greater Sacramento area. The Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and School Psychology, in coorperation with the Department of Teacher Education, developed the first multiple-subject/learning handicapped and multiple-subject/severly handicapped credential programs in the State of California. The California State Department of Education has identified these programs as "models" for the credentialling of special education teachers. The Department of Teacher Education coorinates the second largest Basic Teaching Credential program in the State. On a typical weekday, nearly 700 teaching credential candidates can be found working in public school classrooms. The ...Bilingual, Cross-Cultural (Department) programs command more resources than those of any other institution of higher education in California and cover the entire state in their scope of services. The Talent Search Program is the larges of its type on the West Coast. Enrollment for the 1992 Academic Talent Search summer program was 1,200 students..."

"It is through the efforts of the faculty and staff that the School of Education continues to be a vital force on the Sacramento State campus and in the Greater Sacramento community."

The Deans who followed, Diane Cordero de Noriega,Maurice Poe, Catherine Emihovich, Michael Lewis and Vanessa Sheared, worked with the faculty and staff to build on the humble beginnings and developed the Banquet into the grand, bi-annual event it is today. I have been amazed to see the ballroom filled to capacity with community partners and gratified at the number of deserving students.

As I write down these memories, I recognize a sense of fulfillment in an America that has for so long struggled to make our behavior toward one another reflect the values we profess. Those values have been among the most important fostered by the College of Education reaching back to the early 1970s. As America has struggled to fulfill its promises, so have many in the College strived to lead the way.

We not only celebrate the 20th anniversary of the awards banquet, but also the inauguration of an African American to our highest political office. With the event comes a feeling of shared purpose that draws us together as a country, just as the awards banquets have drawn us together as a community. The milestone that this year's inauguration represents for our country is another accomplishment in which the Sacramento State College of Education may find It's share of pride.

Steve Gregorich, Dean Emeritus Sacramento State College of Education