History of SSU

Early photo of Sonoma State

In 1960 legislation was signed establishing Sonoma State College. It first opened to 274 students in Fall 1961 in leased buildings in Rohnert Park. The move to its permanent site of 215 acres took place in 1966, upon completion of Stevenson and Darwin Halls for classrooms.

As enrollments increased, new facilities were built: Ives Hall for performing arts, a dining commons, a library, a physical education facility, and site development features including three lakes (reservoirs) that have since become important aesthetic features of the campus. The original architectural design during this period was urban in character, calling for smooth concrete buildings and formalized landscaped courts.

In 1969, the academic master plan underwent a major revision. The new cluster school concept, coupled with a heightened appreciation of the rural environment, influenced the physical master plan. First to exemplify this new plan was the residential facility of 1972, a “village” of inviting stucco and redwood structures. The Student Health Center also used redwood and stucco, with a landscaped ground cover of wild roses and poppies. In 1975, a transitional project, Nichols Hall, integrated a three-story concrete structure, near the core, with a low-level redwood and stucco cluster school complex. The Student Union was built in 1976 of wood and concrete and faces the central core in one direction and the lakes in the other. In 1977, Sonoma State University saw the completion of an art building, a childcare center, additional parking, several structural aides for the disabled and an addition to the library for a computer center. In 1978, university status was officially extended to Sonoma. The aquatic facility was funding in 1980, and the community provided funds for the construction of a pool in 1982. Construction of the 500-seat Evert B. Person Theatre was completed in 1989.

In June 2000, the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center was completed to accommodate the expanded needs of the library and computing services. This facility is a prototype library/information complex for the 21st century with an automated storage and retrieval system that 750,000 items.

The original 1972 residential complex has been expanded, maintaining the “village” architectural design using stucco and wood and tile roofs. Two new complexes, named Sauvignon Village and Beaujolais Village, are one-, two-, and three-story buildings formed around outdoor gathering spaces and courtyards, all with kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms. Tuscany Village added another 699-beds in Fall 2009. The on campus community is now comprised of 3,100 students, almost 40 percent of its student population.

In May 2000, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a new master plan adding 48 acres for the Donald and Maureen Green Music Center, that included a 1,400 seat donor-funded concert hall. A 250-seat recital hall (Schroeder’s Recital Hall), classroms, ensemble and practice rooms compliment the programming capabilities. A hospitality center featuring a restaurant and an executive conference center provide a memorable experience for guests. Music Education Hall opened in Fall 2008. The GMC, that fully opens in Sept. 2012, offers the finest acoustical quality and provides a cultural experience designed to enhance the experience of the beauty of Sonoma County.

In Fall 2006, the 40-year old science building, Darwin Hall reopened after a two year renovation, producing a contemporary look with state-of-the-art laboratory and classrooms to support the needs of a 21st century science curriculum.

A student-financed Recreation Center was completed in Fall 2004 and has become a model for a state-of-the-art design that maximized functional space and demonstrates sustainable building techniques. The University was awarded a 2005 Outstanding Sports Facilities Award by the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association. The adjacent Student Center, scheduled to open in Fall 2013, is designed to compliment the Recreation Center while providing a bookstore, food services with dining facilities, student activities space, a conference center and meeting spaces. The University Center will fulfill the University’s strategic plan by creating centers of active student life in support of the residential community.

Ruben Armiñana

1992 - present

David W. Benson

1984-1992

Hobart Burns (Interim)

1983-1984

Peter Diamandopoulos

1977-1983

Marjorie Downing Wagner

1974-1976

Thomas H. McGrath

1971-1974

Earl Jones (Interim)

1970-1971

Ambrose R. Nichols, Jr.

1961-1970


According to a 1994 article by Gaye LeBaron, longtime newspaper columnist for The Press Democrat who specializes in local history, there were ten founding members of Santa Rosa Center, San Francisco State College, which would become Sonoma State College in 1960. They were:

  • Barbara Biebush, Librarian
  • Mario DiGesu, Education
  • Dee Hinman, Sociology
  • George McCabe, Director (d. 1996)
  • Dorothy Overly, English (d. 1983)
  • Cheryl Peterson, Political Science
  • Wright Putney, Art
  • Charles "Chuck" Rhinehart, Mathematics (d. 2008)
  • Hobart "Red" Thomas, Psychology (d. 2009)
  • El Doris Wood, Education
University Milestones
Date Event
1961 SSU becomes part of the California State College system (now the California State University)
1962 First bachelor of arts degree (elementary education)
1962 First four-year program offered
May 1966 First graduating class
1966 First master's degree offered (biology, psychology)
1978 University status attained
1999 SSU invited to join the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges as sole member from California
2000 The Jean & Charles Schulz Information Center built.
2001 The Lifelong Learning Institute for students over the age of 50 is founded. The Osher Foundation gave a large gift which resulted in the name change to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
2004 The University is gifted its first Endowed Chair. The $1.5 million gift came from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to fund a teaching position in Native American Studies.
2005

Renovation of Darwin Hall, the University's second original buildings, begins.

The University is gifted a 3,500 acre nature preserve northwest of Cloverdale, CA, called the Galbreath Wildlands Preserve.

The newly-constructed Recretation Center receives the Outstanding Sports Facilities Award by the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association for its functional use of space and incorporation of sustainable building techniques

2006

Darwin Hall re-opens as a 21st century science building.

Construction of the Donald & Maureen Green Music Center begins.

2007 Green Music Center construction is moving along quickly.
2008

Work on Tuscany Village, the newest phase of housing, begins.

Music Education Hall in the Green Music Center complex opens.

2009 Tuscany Village opens for student residential use.
2010 The Green Music Center Hospitality Center opens.
2011

SSU has it's largest freshman class (1,800)

SSU's mobile app goes live

2012 Inaugural Season of the Green Music Center, in Weill Hall
2013

First "Science Festival" held

Student Center opens 2013

Early photo of Sonoma State Early photo of Sonoma State Early photo of Sonoma State Early photo of Sonoma State Early photo of Sonoma State Early photo of Sonoma State

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