The once "big man on campus," former Cal State Bakersfield President Horace Mitchell, made his return to Bakersfield Thursday for a dedication ceremony in his and other past presidents' honor.
"It's nice to not be making big speeches anymore," he said about retirement, as he was surrounded by former colleagues eager to see him once again. "It's pretty good. We're busy with a number of things, but things we decide we want to be busy with, so we don't have the same kind of calendar."
He served as the president for 14 years and currently lives in Huntington Beach with his wife, Barbara.
But he did have to make a few speeches Thursday because President Lynnette Zelezny surprised him with the presidential conference room named in his memory.
"We want to thank you for your 14 years of service as a transformative leader and forever remember your footprint and legacy at CSUB," Zelezny said.
It will now be referred to as the President Emeritus Dr. Horace Mitchell Conference Room.
"This was a big surprise," Mitchell said. "Totally unexpected."
After a ribbon cutting ceremony, an audience of about 50 attendees saw the unveiling of a bench dedicated to the university's past four presidents: Paul Romberg (1967-1973), Jacob Frankel (1974-1982), Tomás Arciniega (1983-2004) and Mitchell (2004-2018). The plaque on the bench includes a quote from Nelson Mandela: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
"I'm very, very proud of the strong foundation of the past presidents," Zelezny said. "It is so very special to ... celebrate the pride points of CSUB and also our amazing community."
Mitchell explained that while he was president, he looked toward the future to find ways for the university to grow.
"Part of our responsibilities as leaders of the university is not only to lead and manage during our tenure, but also we have a responsibility for positioning the university for the future," Mitchell said. "I'm proud of what we've done in that regard."
"I look back on my years as president with great joy."
The Mitchells were the first to try out the bench.
The dedication was part of a weeklong series of events for Zelezny's investiture, which occurs Friday. The investiture celebrates the university's achievements and Zelezny's upcoming anniversary.
Remarks will be given by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a CSUB alumnus, Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh and Steve Renock, president and CEO of Kern Schools Credit Union. Juan Felipe Herrera, the only Central Valley poet ever to be named U.S. poet laureate, will deliver a poem he wrote for the investiture. CSU Chancellor Timothy White will formally invest President Zelezny.
Immediately following the investiture will be the Taste of Bakersfield at Alumni Park, which will showcase Latin, Basque, Italian and American restaurants.
"Collaboration is always at the heart of lifting a community so that is what we were celebrating this week and honoring what a truly unique place Kern County and Bakersfield is," Zelezny said.
The investiture begins at 10 a.m. at the CSUB Amphitheatre and is open to the public.