By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Using the theme “Transforming Lives and Communities Through Higher Education,” Tomás D. Morales was formally invested as president of California State University, San Bernardino during a ceremony held on campus on Friday, June 14.
The Presidential Investiture ceremony, held at the university’s Coussoulis Arena, was part of Cal State San Bernardino’s commencement weekend celebration with five graduation ceremonies for the university’s five colleges ahead on Saturday and Sunday. The CSUSB Palm Desert Campus began the celebration when it held its ceremony on Thursday, June 13.
But this day belonged to Morales, who is the university’s fourth president in its 48-year history. Along with CSUSB faculty, students and staff, the procession included academics dressed in full regalia from the California State University system, the University of California and from around the country to honor Morales, who has served as CSUSB president since August 2012.
A number of speakers representing CSUSB students, faculty, staff, alumni, the CSU Board of Trustees, the CSU presidents, and academics from around the country all praised Morales.
“Tomás is a man of integrity and beliefs, and will be a tireless advocate of this university,” said Michael Ortiz, president of Cal Poly Pomona, where Morales served as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs before serving as president of the College of Staten Island from 2007-2012. Morales “will spend his days and nights to expand student access and student success.”
James R. Watson, the chairman of the CSUSB Philanthropic Foundation, called Morales “one of the most passionate advocates for students I have ever met. He’d give you the shirt off his back. He brings a level of positive energy in every space he enters.”
“This university has a bright future under Dr. Morales,” said Jimmy Walker, the president of the CSUSB Associated Students, Inc.
The last of the many speakers to pay tribute to Morales was CSU Chancellor Timothy White.
Morales “has dedicated his professional life to improving access and quality in public higher education,” White said before formally investing Morales as CSUSB president. “He is also a strategic thinker and innovator who has the skills to help this university navigate the path ahead – a path of significant change, great opportunity, and profound importance to our state.”
A beaming Morales walked up to the podium as the audience gave him a standing ovation.
“It is a great honor for me as I stand before you today – a product of public education who has spent his entire professional career working in and advocating for public higher education,” Morales said. “I have seen first-hand how education transforms the lives of our students, because I experienced similar stages of evolution during my own educational and professional career.
“I have had the privilege of working with colleagues to transform lives, allowing students to reach their educational goals with a thirst for knowledge as lifelong learners and a commitment to giving back to their communities,” he said. “So it is appropriate that the theme of this investiture is ‘Transforming Lives and Communities through Higher Education.’”
Morales thanked the previous CSUSB presidents for their service to the university; two, Albert Karnig and Anthony Evans, were in attendance. The third, founding President John M. Pfau, died in March 2012. His daughter, Madelaine Pfau was there to represent the family.
“I am privileged to follow three exemplary leaders, each of whom has his own defining legacy as president,” Morales said. “Our founding president, John Pfau, took office before the first buildings were constructed, literally growing the campus from the ground up. Anthony Evans followed and lifted Cal State San Bernardino to new levels, adding the Palm Desert Campus. Al Karnig advanced our presence locally, regionally and nationally, while achieving record enrollments. Each of our previous presidents raised the bar higher and helped make CSUSB the university it is today.”
In praising his predecessors, Morales also said, “As is already obvious by the nature of the changes this campus has seen in its brief history, the future will bring more change. I didn’t come here to drastically alter the course of what has been a successful and fruitful path set forth by all three of my predecessors. But change is certain and it is important to embrace the demographics and technological developments necessary in order to move Cal State San Bernardino forward.
“Today is much more than a presidential ceremony. It is the official turning of the page to a new chapter in the chronicles of CSUSB, and a look into our future,” he said. “It is a continuation of our celebration as a university community of achievers.”
Morales listed a number of priorities for Cal State San Bernardino that included continuing to increase graduation rates, working with school districts to ensure students are better prepared for college and preparing students for an ever-changing world.
Morales reiterated his commitment “growing our faculty, not only in numbers but in the opportunities for professional development. I am committed to ensuring that we have the staff support for our programs, which means growing our staff.”
Lastly he turned his attention to the inland region’s top students.
“I am committed to attracting the best and brightest students in the region and to making CSUSB a destination campus for our high achievers,” Morales said. “The university continues to reward the top high school students in San Bernardino County through our President’s Academic Excellence Scholarship program, but I know that there is more that we can do.”
Perhaps the most poignant moment was when Morales spoke of his family, specifically of his mother, who was unable to attend the ceremony.
“I would like to take a few moments to acknowledge and thank the most important people in my life. First, let me introduce my mother, Elsie Maldonado, who could not be with us this morning,” he said. “As a proud Latina, my mother instilled the values of education, social justice and commitment to community. With support from my father Omar and brothers Steven and Robert, she earned her high school diploma, a baccalaureate degree and a master’s degree in social work as an adult after raising three boys in the South Bronx. She was and still is an inspiration to me.”
He also thanked his children, grandchildren and his wife, Evy, whom he called the “love of my life. She and I grew up in the same neighborhood in the Bronx and we attended the same schools. We have been married for 41 years, just after our freshman year in college.”
Morales has served as an educator and administrative leader in higher education for more than 37 years, and is one of the few higher education administrators in the United States who has held senior administrative positions at the three largest public university systems in the nation: The California State University, The State University of New York, and The City University of New York.
He holds a B.A. in history from SUNY, New Paltz and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in educational administration and policy studies from SUNY, Albany.