CSUB celebrates Zelezny

Former U.S. Poet Laurete, Juan Felipe Herrera, delivers his poem about President Lynnette Zelezny to the crowd at the Presidential Investiture Ceremony on May 3, 2019.

JJ Reed

Former U.S. Poet Laurete, Juan Felipe Herrera, delivers his poem about President Lynnette Zelezny to the crowd at the Presidential Investiture Ceremony on May 3, 2019.

Lauren Silvis, Reporter

On May 3, after a week-long of Presidential Investiture Events hosted by President Lynnette Zelezny where she acknowledged past presidents, veterans, student leaders, and more, 600 people gathered in the CSU Bakersfield Amphitheater to honor Zelezny herself.

The crowd of 600 held an outstandingly diverse group of people.

There were alumni dating back to the 1970s, CSU delegates including the presidents from each of the 23 CSU’s and that’s not all. Also, in attendance were over 120 CSUB faculty & staff, leaders from each club and organization on campus, this year’s and the following year’s Associated Students, Inc. leaders and student-athletes. But that’s just the audience.

After everyone was seated, Zelezny was joined on stage with everyone who would be speaking later.

First to speak was Bakersfield Mayor, Karen Goh.

“This historic day marks a day when we rise together. We rise together because of the gift we’ve been given. And that gift is Dr. Zelezny,” said Goh.

Goh pointed out that Zelezny never uses the phrase “I rise” but “we rise.” She said this is because Zelezny puts her community above herself, as shown by the events that led up to her investiture ceremony.

After Goh thanked Zelezny for her inspiration, Goh read a proclamation she issued – that May 3, 2019, is President Lynnette Zelezny Day in the city.

“I have never met someone more deserving than Lynnette Zelezny,” said Goh.

Next to speak was CSUB Alumni, Congressman and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never had a day named after me,” joked McCarthy.

McCarthy mentioned he was worried that the shoes put out by Horace Mitchell, former CSUB President, could not be filled. But in the last year, he watched Zelezny and is confident she will exceed those expectations.

“I watched her in the heart of these interactions. And I can say confidently she cares about the students of CSUB. She even cares about the future students of CSUB,” said McCarthy.
On behalf of the U.S. Congress, McCarthy presented Zelezny with an award congratulating her on the work she has done, but most importantly on the goals she has, that they know she will achieve.

Steve Renok, with Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, followed McCarthy. Kern Schools was the sponsor for the investiture ceremony. Zelezny did not want to spend any of the taxpayers’ money or fees paid by CSUB students to celebrate her during the Presidential Investiture.

Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate 2015-17, came back to the Central Valley to write about Zelezny. His poem, which the crowd participated in, painted a picture of the people, the animals, and the sounds of Bakersfield.

“Have you made friends with your best friend yet? Her name is unity. Her name is CSU Bakersfield’s President Lynnette Zelezny,” said Herrera.

The Vice-Chancellor, from the CSU Office of the Chancellor, and Zelezny’s friend, Loren Blanchard took the stage.

He told the audience of an interesting fact – the roadrunner is capable of flight, but it prefers to spend most of its time on the ground running at speeds of up to 20 mph.

“I know for a fact she [Zelezny], like the roadrunner is already capable of flight. But, just like the roadrunner, she prefers to be on the ground, running. She is running,” said Blanchard.

He said Zelezny has been on the ground running since she worked as the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Fresno State. While there, she learned that students were having their graduation date pushed back because financial aid wouldn’t pay for their summer courses. Zelezny then created the Provost Graduation Initiative Grant to support students in graduating on time.

“She will do everything in her power to help, that’s just who she is,” said Blanchard.

Next, ASI President, Ashley Schmidt presented Zelezny with the Presidential Investiture Rowdy statue. “May this statue remind you to keep students at the forefront of your mind, and to smile when the days are long,” said Schmidt.

Deborah Boschini, Academic Senate Chair at CSUB, presented Zelezny with the University Mace. Boschini said, “You are now responsible for the fiscal health and stewardship of the institution. May this charter remind you to seek out creative partnerships as you enhance CSUB’s mission.”

John Nilon, CSUB Alumni Trustee, presented Zelezny with the University Charter before CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White took the stage.

White leads a network of 23 campuses, 481,000 students, 53,000 faculty and staff, and more than 3.7 million alumni. White mentions the words used to describe Zelezny frequently during her investiture ceremony – optimism, fearless, action-oriented, kind, unity, running, inclusive.

He said, “I heard a story recently. A young mom and her daughter were standing and noticed the roadrunner pin on Lynette’s clothing. The mom asked, ‘do you work at the university?’ And she said, ‘I am the President.’ So, Lynette took off the roadrunner pin and gave it to this young girl. After Lynette turned around, she heard the younger girl say to her mom ‘I’m going to be President in the future, just like her.’”

Then White turned to Zelezny and said “By the authority granted to me by the trustees of the California State University, I hereby invest you, Lynnette Zelezny, with the Office of the President of CSU Bakersfield.

Zelezny, CSUB’s first woman president now had the opportunity to talk. She thanked every colleague, professor, every family member and she, choking back tears, thanked her best friend of 50 years, who traveled from Dallas, Texas, Deborah Bossed.

Over the last year, Zelezny said: “I’ve celebrated victories with our amazing scholar athletes, and I’ve stood by them during setbacks.” She’s walked the halls of Sacramento and Washington D.C supporting the school’s work. She’s read to the students at Mount Vernon Elementary and visited Edwards Air Force Base’s Coronel to try and figure out opportunities for engineering. She’s also talked to CSUB supporters in the grocery store, the farmers market, restaurants, their living rooms, and community centers.

“If there’s one thing I know for sure, it is truly our time to rise at CSUB. We have a giant reservoir of positive energy and effort overflowing from our staff and faculty. And most of all, we have hardworking students,” said Zelezny.

Zelezny’s investiture ceremony closed out as CSUB’s Children Center Choir joined her in singing This Little Light of Mine.