CSUB turns 50: Celebrating with digital telethons, trivia, and Sir Richard Branson

Maria M. Lopez and Destinee Sims

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of CSU Bakersfield’s establishment, President Dr. Lynnette Zelezny announced on Oct. 1 that the university would be holding its first digital telethon to help raise money to fund students’ education. The school initially opened on Oct. 1, 1970. 

According to CSUB’s website, approximately 70% of students need financial assistance at the CSU Bakersfield and Antelope Valley locations.   

$124,209 was raised through the digital telethon, although the telethons and challenges were only a portion of gifts and awards given to CSUB’s various programs that day.  

In an inspirational speech, President Zelezny was encouraging students to reach their higher educational goals.  

“This is our time,” Zelezny said. 

Some of the challenges that students could complete throughout the telethon included: 

  1. The President’s Challenge: Zelezny challenged the school to raise $15,000 for CSUB, she would donate $50,000 toward student research. This challenge was met.  
  2. The Varner Bros Challenge: They offered a prize of $2,500 to whichever school raised the most money between 11am and 1pm. It was won by the School of Arts and Humanities. 
  3. The Alumni Association Board Challenge: Won by CSUB’s Nursing Department, the gift was won when the 20th donor made gift between 2pm and 4pm. 
  4. The Bynum Inc. Challenge: When the 30th gift was given between 5pm and 7pm, a prize of $2,500 was awarded to the Roadrunner Scholarship Funds.  
  5. 1970 Road Runner Challenge: The CSUB Dream Center was awarded $1,000 from the university of advancement. 

As the telethon continued, CSUB spent the event celebrating the achievements the school has made, as well as bringing in Sir Richard Branson, inspirational speaker entrepreneur. 

John Nilon, Chairman of CSUB foundation Board and master of ceremony of CSUB 50th anniversary, he said was proud to introduce the participants.  Event attendees consisted of faculty members, government officials, staff members, students and alumni that logged on to celebrate CSUB reaching the significant milestone. 

Likewise, Zelezny addressed not only what Kern County has been famous for, but what it has become. 

“Kern County has grown from a land who planted crops in its rich soil to feed the world… And a new crop would be harvested.  The new crop of ideas, knowledge, imagination and scholars,” Zelezny said. 

Honoring the milestones of CSUB’s new harvest was none other than Congressman Kevin McCarthy, an alumnus of CSUB. Congressman McCarthy joined CSUB celebration by asking Branson questions. 

Branson best known for being the owner of Virgin Airlines, Virgin records, and Virgin Galactic, offered CSUB students advice on how they could create their own successful businesses. 

While discussing his own experiences, Branson credits his success to the magazine, Student, that he started at age 15. His magazines aimed to give students a voice to campaign against the injustices of the times.  

As he said that the first five years of his magazine were rocky, he did not give up. He persevered despite the odds, as he was able to create something that truly meant something. 

“[The] only way a business will be successful is if you create a business that will change other people lives,” Branson said. 

Branson goes on further to say that the key to success is to build a great reputation that people are proud of. In the process, beginning business owners should believe in what they do, surround themselves with positive people, and treat those who work for them well. Employees and bosses should be focused on the mutual exchange of respect and positivity, not respect. 

Tying together all of the advice given, Branson states that as businesses’ grow their foundations, they should expand how they help the community. 

Having used a small business foundation as an example, Branson said the first thing any business owner should do is to ensure their own ability to live a healthy life with sufficient self-care. As a business grows, so should the responsibility of the owner.   

“Put your wealth to good use and give back,” Branson said. 

Branson provided the example that the expansion of a businesses should expand to care for the block, then the neighborhood, then the city, next the state, and so on, until their businesses have helped solve global issues.  

“We can’t be second best. We have to be the best,” Branson said. 

After 55 years in business, Branson said he enjoys his success by helping organizations solve global issues. This includes organizations such as The Elders, co-founding the organization’s modern form with Nelson Mandela in 2007, which work closely together with global leaders to “challenge injustice, and to promote ethical leadership and good governance.”   

These organizations work on climate change, as well as empower people by inspiring and supporting causes. This includes backing them with the influence of important political people. 

One of the more popular subjects Branson addresses is climate change, stating that he is “deeply concerned that the rainforest is being cut in horrendous number.” 

Offering his last bits of advice, Branson encouraged students to continue learning regularly. 

“University education is an insurance policy for students,” Branson said, explaining the importance of reading to “keep informed in everything in life as well.”  

Overall Branson said it takes hard work, creativity, encouragement, help, and resilience to become successful, illuminating the similarities between his advice and how Runners carried CSUB to its 50th anniversary.