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Centennial Stories

Emily Shearin

My experience at Humboldt State University is a rare one. I transferred from Riverside Community College in southern California, moving 800 miles away from all my friends and family. I discovered that I was pregnant within my first month at Humboldt. Although it turned out to be the greatest blessing in my life, it certainly made for an interesting two years.

My first semester here was the first half of my pregnancy. By looking at me you couldn’t tell I was pregnant, but I certainly felt pregnant. There was lots of morning sickness (which was really all day every day sickness). I would miss classes to go to the doctor, and just couldn’t get enough food in me. Scheduling life was hard, because I was always tired. I even fell asleep in the library multiple times trying to get my homework done.

My second semester at HSU you could definitely tell I was pregnant, and I really began to understand why we call HSU the “Hills and Stairs University.” I was still battling with morning sickness, and being exhausted all the time, but now I could barely fit in the desks. The larger I got the more it seemed like my brain was being taken over by everything baby, and nothing school. Yet, I somehow managed to pull through in all my classes, although it was rare students would see me without food in my hand, or rubbing my ever growing belly. I even had to take some of my finals early so I wouldn’t go into labor before they were finished.

Finally, my sweet baby boy Drew was born, and I took the summer off as maternity leave. However, come Fall I was right back into school with a new born baby at my side. Being a single mother was such a difficult time, but I have always been fortunate that the Anthropology department is a small department and we all care about each other. Over the past two semesters my teachers and fellow students have done nothing but stand by my side and help me raise my son while I finished off my degree.

I was pulled into a close knit community in the Anthropology department, which was full of nothing but love and support. I had students passing my son around taking turns watching him while I was in class, teachers allowing me to bring him into lectures, and an advisor who understood that I had special needs. It has been an interesting journey, some parts much harder than others (ever try to study for exams with a teething infant?), but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I appreciate the wonderful people who have helped me through this journey.

I am graduating 10 days before my son turns one year old, and I hope that the he will always remember the love that have been given to us, and the future that I worked so hard for. I continue my journey by applying for the Master’s program in Applied Anthropology here at Humboldt State, knowing that I will be supported not only as a student, but as a mother.

Ardith Anderson Bilyeu Thompson - Class of ‘44

You might say the romance began on the tennis courts of HSU in 1943. I was in a three-year, three summers program in which I received my bachelor’s degree and teaching credential. It was wartime, and teachers were needed. I had met Virgil Bilyeu, a soldier stationed at a radar camp west of Ferndale. Virgil was off every fourth night and would hitchhike up to HSU so we could play tennis. Soon we were spending more time at the net than hitting the ball.

During this time, I was staying in the dorm, Nelson Hall, and going home to Ferndale, my hometown, on weekends. Miss Imogene (Mady) Platt was the dorm mother; she also taught business at HSU. Dr. Homer Balabanis was among my professors. Since I was minoring in instrumental music, Dr. Edmund Jeffers and Charles Fulkerson were my music instructors. Pop Jenkins taught an art class for future teachers.

redwood tree stump

I have seen the issue of marching bands in some of HSU’s publications, and I am quite sure I was part of the Lumberjack marching band - it even mentions our snappy green and gold uniforms in the 1942 yearbook, Sempervirens.

Virgil and I spent some of our courting time up behind the school at the fish hatchery. On the evening of November 11, 1943, we walked down the trail from the College Elementary School to the town of Arcata. By the stump, which is on the enclosed picture, he offered me a beautiful proposal of marriage. Since I needed to finish college, and Virgil’s wartime plans were uncertain, we waited until June 16, 1945, to be married - in the Ferndale Methodist Church where we first met. We revisited the stump on our 25th wedding anniversary. Later, it was no longer there.

I treasure the 46 years of marriage we had before Virgil died. He was a wonderful Christian man from Stillwater, Oklahoma. I keep a picture of our “stump” in a collage on my dining room wall and look at it frequently, knowing my love for him is still tucked in my heart. After teaching in Rio Dell for a year before marriage, the rest of my nearly 40-year teaching career was in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. After retiring, I did part-time substitute teaching for 22 years. I now play the piano for a senior band, take a writing course, and am on my church Board. I have three children and seven perfect grandchildren. God has been good to me.

Allison Sadauskas (Pasto) (’00, English)

First Year at Humboldt: As a high school senior from a tiny suburb of San Francisco, I was very much looking forward to leaving my home after graduation and beginning a new chapter of my life. After visiting several colleges in California, I decided on Humboldt State University. I felt the small town atmosphere of Arcata, its location in the Redwoods, and the small class sizes would be a perfect fit for me. As I drove up to unload my car the first day at Redwood Hall, I was excited and nervous about all the new people I would meet and the task of making entirely new friends. But nothing could prepare me for the wonderful new people I met that first year at HSU. Not only did I become fast friends with my fellow third floor roommates, I also embraced my classmates and fellow students. Now, nearly 16 years later, I am even closer than ever to that “core” group of friends from my first year of college. We have traveled together, celebrated weddings, babies and many achievements. We would never have even met, let alone become friends, had it not been for HSU. I am eternally grateful to HSU for introducing me to these amazing people in my life.

Cassandra Hesseltine (’96, Psychology)

This year, in a few weeks, I turn 40. Big step in life. But almost as big is the fact that I have spent half my life with my husband, thanks to HSU. We met when I was 20 and he was 25 while in college. I was actually about to transfer to a college closer to home when I decided to stick it out just a little longer. A few weeks later in the fall, I met my husband to be. The unfortunate part was that he was a senior and going to graduate in the spring. I figured he would just leave once school was out and we would never see each other again. Lucky for me, I couldn’t be more wrong! Upon his graduation, he stuck around and opened up a juice bar while waiting for me. Before he graduated though, he informed me that he would one day ask me to marry him. And sure enough, in my junior year and on my birthday (Feb 15th) he asked me to do just that.

It was mid-week. I had a quiz that day on my 22nd birthday at 9 a.m. on campus. Not being a morning person, I was not looking forward to the wake up call. Unbeknownst to me, there was a surprise waiting for me. I woke up to a mini-birthday party and an escort to school by my husband (then boyfriend). While driving me to campus, he took the wrong street and ended up in front of the juice bar. In large, red letters there was the question that would change my life, “Cassandra, Will you marry me?” Of course I said yes! Minutes later there was a ring on my finger, my parents gave their blessing and I was back in route on the way to school. But there was one problem. I missed the quiz. Upon my arrival, the professor asked if I had a good reason for being late. I answered, “Yes, I just got engaged.” With a big smile, he congratulated me and asked me to take my seat.

So began the relationship of my life. From college sweetheart to husband to the father of my two children, he has been my best friend and soulmate. We have traveled together, built two houses together, had career challenges together and most importantly, experienced life together. We have dealt with tugs at the heart and enjoyed celebrations that only our children can bring.

After moving around for careers, we have settled back in Arcata. My husband is a general contractor building custom homes in Humboldt while I am the film commissioner for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. My job often leads me to work with film students at HSU and I always feel a sense of pride when I walk on campus. More importantly, I always remember our first kiss. It was fall and we were walking to campus for Lumberjack Days. We made a stop in the middle of the stairwell ascending from the lower parking lot behind Gist Hall to the front of Gist. My husband took my face in his hands and kissed me ever so sweetly. To this day, I can’t walk the stairs without thinking of it.

Ironically, as I write this, we are getting ready to attend a Humboldt State basketball game tonight. I look forward to being on campus. We just might have to make a stop on “our” stairs.

Thanks Humboldt State University for not only giving me an education but also the love of my life!

Written by Robert W. Harris (brother of James J. Harris, HSC 1935 – 1938)

Charles “Charley” Erb was the football coach at Humboldt State College during the Depression years. Known as “a master of firing up a team prior to each game,” he was Humboldt’s first winning coach. In 1935, he learned that there was a group of Oakland and Bay Area high school graduates who had been outstanding football players in high school. Erb learned that the group met on weekends to play football for the love of the sport and arranged to get football scholarships for the team members to attend Humboldt. None of them would have been able to afford college on their own (less than five percent of the country at that time attended college). The scholarships enabled the football players to work part-time at a barrel factory in Samoa to earn their room and board.

With the addition of the new team members, the 1936 team beat San Jose State in a game played at San Jose. They also defeated Chico State. They were remarkable wins since both colleges were much larger than Humboldt. The football team at the time was known as the Humboldt Thunderbolts—they became the Lumberjacks in 1939.

During this era, there were no offensive and defensive teams who played only when their team was on offense or defense. All players played on offense and defense, a full 60 minutes per game, if they were able.

During the Depression, segregation was widespread in the United States. The scholarship football players ate their meals as a group in a boarding house. In keeping with the time, the kitchen staff set a separate table for the two black team members. At that time, segregation was considered proper.

At the first meal, all of the white football players walked out of the dining room, in protest to having the black players separated. Thereafter, all of players ate at the same table. This act was a tribute to the courage of the white players, as well as to Humboldt State College. They broke the color line decades before the rest of the U.S. The last of the Humboldt 1936 team, James J. “Jim” Harris, passed away in 2011 at the age of 95.

Jessie Faulkner

This is not my story, but my mother’s. She graduated from Arcata High School in 1956, by the following summer she was married about about to give birth to me. Fast forward roughly three years and she returned to school - a math major in 1960, a relatively uncommon pursuit for female students at the time. Most days I would stay with my grandmother or a babysitter while my mother attended classes. But there were those rare days when she had to bring me along. Cautioned to stay seated in the back of the room and keep busy drawing with the carefully packed paper and crayons, I recall my three-year-old amazement at these funny men scribbling numbers at breakneck speed until the entire blackboard was filled with numbers and squiggles and symbols that made no sense to me at age 3 and about as much at age 56. And then there’s the story of needing to go potty really urgently while mom was on the way to class in Founder’s Hall. Let’s just say we didn’t make our destination, much to my mother’s chagrin.

Allison Travis-Bee (’85, Political Science)

On June 18th, my husband Allan Bee and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary.  He likes to count the two years prior, dating back to our first burger and beer in the Rathskeller.  We initially met in the fall of 1980 as transfer students in the Poli Sci pre-semester meeting.  He seemed to be very clear about the path he wanted to take in life; I’m afraid I derailed him a bit.  Though we both have graduate degrees from another college, our time at Humboldt laid the foundation for our relationship which has spanned all that life throws at two people over three decades and the bounty too, namely Carson and Lauren our two beautiful kids.  We are at the enviable stage of watching our kids go through college and thinking back to lively classroom debates, amazing professors, beautiful beaches, towering redwoods and those damned stairs to Founder’s Hall.  Happy birthday, HSU!  You’re always in our hearts.

Paul Sheppard (’82, Forestry)

Back in my Humboldt days (early 1980s), we had to complete an Emphasis Phase, which was a package of several courses out of major that amounted to upper level gen-ed, or almost a degree minor. I majored in Forestry, but I discovered choral singing while at Humboldt, so I chose Music as my Emphasis Phase. While singing in various official Humboldt choirs, I was turned on to barbershop harmony and promptly found three other Humboldt guys to form a barbershop quartet. We called ourselves The Old College Try, and we sang on and around campus practically every day just for fun and to entertain who ever might be walking by us.  In addition to various gigs off campus, we provided the banquet entertainment for the 1982 All Western Forestry Clubs Conclave, which was held at Humboldt. Ultimately, we gave an official recital performance in Fulkerson Recital Hall, with Professor Lee Barlow of Music serving as our faculty mentor.

Over thirty years since graduating, my Humboldt experiences remain central to who I am.  I still work with trees, my major, and I’m also still singing barbershop.  My favorite quartet of all time, The Old College Try, still reunites every now and then to sing again the old songs.

Go Jacks!

Parker Polluck (’63, ’67, Economics)

First Week: Frosh Camp conducted many activities on and off campus for new students but you were asked to wear a beanie. This all took place the week before classes began. I missed most of it as football practice was twice a day with a great free lunch set up in the gym all provided by the Big Four restaurant which was located below campus and a bit to the north up 101.

Favorite professor: Dr. Robert Dickerson (Econ), Coach Phil Sarboe & Dr. Don Karshner (Dean of Men)

Favorite class: Industrial Relations, Labor Economics & Economic History all taught by Prof. Dickerson.  He was dedicated to his field and was enthusiastic in class. He influenced my teaching of econ in a myriad of ways.

Groups and activities: I was a member of Delta Sigma Phi, played varsity football for four years and taught first year econ as a graduate student. The fraternity was great for a social life; football allowed me to meet some really fine men and to play on Humboldt’s first undefeated team which amassed a 20 & 0 record over two seasons, albeit we lost by a point in the Holiday Bowl in 1960; and the teaching experience convinced me that teaching would be my career, which it was for 42 years.

Study: The library which was at the south end of Founders’ Hall.

Miss about Humboldt: The people I worked with over the summers at Arcata Redwood Co.  I was a gyppo car loader and my partner and I split $1.20 per 1000 bf.  I also really miss going to the beach.

Special: The community/campus unity was impressive, really stands out in my mind.

Kate Goodenough (’00, Marine Biology)

First week: It was intimidating at first because I was an older student attending HSU, but then I met a group of students around my age and I found that I wasn’t the only older student at Humboldt. I loved the smaller class sizes because it meant I could get to know my professors better.

Favorite professor: Dr. Dennis Walker was my general botany professor. He was tough as nails, but I learned more with him as my professor than any other class I took at Humboldt. His passion for plants drew me in and encouraged me to learn more.

Favorite class: I had so many favorite classes that I cannot even choose. Intertidal ecology, plant taxonomy, animal development, mammalogy, and history of rock and roll were just a few of my favorites.

Groups and activities: Field Biology Club and the Marine Mammal Education and Research Program were the two main groups I was involved with. They were the start to a very long career in field biology and coastal and marine research.

Humboldt connection: My life long connection to Humboldt has been all of the alumni that I have met across the country. I have worked from California east to the Carolinas and I have always found someone who either attended Humboldt or had a friend or family member who had attended. I never realized what a great reputation Humboldt had for wildlife biology until after I graduated and was working in the field.

Study: My favorite place to study was under the Redwoods back behind the Wildlife Building. It was quiet and very peaceful.

Miss About Humboldt: I miss the Redwoods and spending the day on the south spit of the Bay. I also miss going down to the Marina and buying albacore tuna from the fishing boats and going salmon fishing.

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