Christy Laird Arcata, CA
When Christy Laird first visited the Humboldt State campus in 1973, she was swept away by the lush rhododendrons. "They were giants and they were exotic," she reminisces. "I had never seen such blooms before. They were so gorgeous!"
Eager to escape city life in southern California, Christy was smitten by HSU's human scale and intimate sense of community in common with Arcata.
"Everything about the campus was much smaller in those days," she recalls. "There was no Depot, no University Center and a tiny book store. Just about everybody wore jeans, flannel shirts and hiking boots. We lived with other students up at High Valley Ranch, carpooled up and down the hill, pinched our pennies and did lots of exploring."
It was love at first sight with the town, too: "Our community is wonderfully embracing. We have so many creative people, entrepreneurial people. And Arcata is incredibly beautiful."
Her romance with the campus and the community would prove to be a lifelong one. Today Christy Laird is entrepreneur extraordinaire of Rose Court Cottage and Arcata Stay, the upscale lodging network ringing downtown and adjoining the campus. She leads a business partnership of nearly a dozen HSU alums, fortified by links with University instructors, guest lecturers, Admissions staff and Athletics boosters.
An ardent fan of gardening, Christy entered Humboldt State in the early 1970s planning to major in botany, but soon discovered a multitude of interests. Ultimately, she set her sights on a mixed major of business and the humanities to prepare for a career in business and marketing. Her elective courses included photography, graphics, design and layout.
Among Christy's fondest memories of Humboldt State are photography—"How I enjoyed being in the darkroom!"—and theatre arts. She and fellow alum Holly Hosterman of Holly Yashi, Arcata's internationally known jewelry manufacturer, took Photography 101 together and shared theatrical pursuits. Their many creations included hand tinting, sepia photographs, dramatic scenes and costuming. "In one instance," Christy remembers, "we set up a pretend outdoor bistro on the Plaza with people dressed up in 1930s clothing. It was such fun!"
Christy is part Native American, Choctaw on her mother's side of the family. Putting herself through school, she went to work with the staff of ITEPP (Indian Teacher & Educational Personnel Program) which for more than 40 years has supported innumerable Native American students in an array of academic disciplines. "ITEPP greatly expanded my awareness of the indigenous peoples we have in Humboldt County," she recalls.
Christy considers Humboldt State a linchpin of the alumni-partnered Arcata Stay, which opened at the start of 2004 and is a favorite lodging of visiting parents, scholars and lecturers. The University has been an intellectual resource for her since she was a teenager, she says, adding, "My alumni colleagues share the HSU connection and a love affair with Arcata."