Wendy Wayne was so beloved in Bakersfield that since her passing, she's had libraries, a scholarship fund and even an ethics award named in her honor.
Now the president of Cal State Bakersfield is pushing a petition -- and enlisting the help of at least one local lawmaker -- to rename the Westside Parkway after the late community activist.
President Horace Mitchell released to the public Wednesday a letter to Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, requesting that the new east-way thoroughfare be called the "CSU Bakersfield Alumna Wendy Wayne Memorial Parkway."
Wayne, who earned her nursing degree from CSUB, was revered for her lifelong community service including as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, nurse, Kern County planning commissioner, co-founder and director of the Community Connection for Child Care, and executive director of First 5 Kern. She advocated for children's health around the world and helped develop the new cancer center at San Joaquin Community Hospital.
Wayne died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in June 2012 at age 64.
"Each of its exits conveniently leads to the university," Mitchell said of the parkway in his letter to Grove. "It is fitting that the freeway be named to acknowledge the region's commitment to higher education and to honor one of the university's exemplary alumnae and a distinguished member of the Bakersfield community."
The parkway is a city of Bakersfield-controlled thoroughfare, not a state highway. Janet Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Thomas Roads Improvement Program, which managed the building of the parkway, had not heard of Mitchell's request and so had no comment on it.
She did point out, however, that the parkway will be renamed State Route 58 after it is connected to the existing 58 via the planned Centennial Corridor.
And so, Wheeler said, the parkway's name may have to be changed again in about three years (based on the anticipated completion date of the Centennial Corridor) after the spending of "tens of thousands" of dollars to name the parkway after Wayne.
Gene Tackett, Wayne's husband, said he didn't start the campaign to rename the parkway and hasn't been actively working on it but will sign the online petition Mitchell has going. He said Mitchell has secured support from Grove and Congressman Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.
"Wendy has really captured everyone's imagination," Tackett said, listing some of the many honors that have been bestowed on Wayne. "It's pretty cool."
Those honors include establishment of The Wendy Wayne Endowed Nursing Scholarship Fund, which Tackett said has grown to some $150,000 and funded scholarships for four women last year; the opening of the Wendy Wayne Resource Library at San Joaquin Community Hospital's cancer center; the renaming of the CSUB Kegley Institute of Ethics' Community Ethics Award as the Wendy Wayne Award for Exemplary Ethical Behavior; and the creation of several little neighborhood "Wendy's Words Libraries" around town.