2006-08-03 / Front Page
Cal Lutheran University enjoys growth and success
Campus an asset to Thousand Oaks and Conejo Valley
Although it wasn't obvious that morning, there's actually a great deal of activity and growth occurring at Cal Lutheran. The campus is being refurbished; a massive state-of-the-art athletic complex will open in October with exercise, soccer, baseball, track and aquatics facilities; the student population has jumped by 50 percent over the past seven years; for the first time, doctorates in educational leadership were awarded in the spring to 13 students; and a welcome center opened to provide visitors with school information.
In addition, a $93-million fundraising campaign recently ended that went well beyond its $80-million goal. The university plans to seek additional financial support within two years to accommodate anticipated growth. Future plans include the construction of natural, social and behavioral sciences buildings and the establishment of an endowment and a performing arts center. Long-term goals include additional residence halls, a football stadium and tennis courts.
CLU is a benefit to the local community year-round. The 10th anniversary of the popular Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival, held on campus during the summer, was recently celebrated. Its KCLU-FM radio station is the only local National Public Radio station, broadcasting to Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Students work at the station and enjoy internship opportunities. A variety of summer camps and classes are offered to the public, and there's a waiting list for the wellestablished CLU Early Childhood Development Center preschool.
"Cal Lutheran, from its founding, has always been a cultural center for the city," said Rich Eich, vice president for marketing and communications.
Before there even was a Thousand Oaks, there was Cal Lutheran College. The private liberal arts and sciences institution was founded in 1959, five years prior to the establishment of the city of Thousand Oaks in 1964.
The scenic 225-acre campus is spread over a lushly landscaped section of northeastern Thousand Oaks, just off Olsen Road, surrounded by homes and open space, including the Mount Clef Ridge parcel. Groves of mature trees, manicured lawns, flowering shrubs, sculptures and nearby hills make for a picturesque locale.
"Cal Lutheran is blessed to have a gorgeous setting," said Linda Paige Fulford, director of communications.
With about 3,200 students, including 1,200 who live on campus, CLU is relatively small, but that's part of the attraction, Eich said. Unlike larger institutions that may have 500 students in a lecture hall, CLU's classes average 15 students. Professors know their students' names. "It's kind of hard to hide in the classroom," Neilson said.
CLU offers undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs that include 36 majors and 28 minors through a College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, and School of Education. Graduate programs are also offered in Oxnard and Woodland Hills.
"In this day and age, an institution like ours is increasingly unique," Eich said. "It's not huge, but there's a spirit here, a sense of optimism. It's kind of like Cal Lutheran coming of age."
The key to the university's success is its people, including its students, alumni and longtime staff and faculty, according to Fulford. Faculty like Bill Bilodeau, a geology professor wh's been with the university for 16 years. Bilodeau leads annual expeditions to the Galapagos Islands and the Grand Canyon. During a campus tour, he points out a large piece of granite on display from one of his treks up California's Mt. Whitney.
Eich himself says he immediately connected with CLU during his first visit to Thousand Oaks. At the time, he was on staff at Stanford University in Palo Alto.
"I fell in love with it," Eich said. "I believe in small classes as the optimum learning environment; the faculty was engaging and passionate about teaching."
The cost to attend the private CLU is about $22,000 a year, plus close to $8,000 for room and board. More than 80 percent of the student population receives some sort of financial aid, according to Eich.
The property the campus sits on was formerly a ranch owned by the Pederson family, immigrants from Norway. In 1957, a parent group formed to search for a site for a Lutheran institution. In 1959, Richard Pederson offered his 130-acre ranch to "provide youth the benefits of a Christian education in a day when spiritual values can well decide the course of history."
Over the years acquisitions expanded the campus to 290 acres, of which 65 were sold in 2004. The original Pederson ranch house, built in 1913, still stands on the property. It's been refurbished over the years and is a city and county historical landmark. The former ranch chicken coops are still in use by the school. In another nod to its roots, the school sells "The Ranch" T-shirts.
California Lutheran College held its first academic year in 1961 and was accredited two years later. It became California Lutheran University in 1986 after broadening its scope to include schools of education and business. Today it is one of 28 evangelical Lutheran institutions in the United States.
CLU has been led by five presidents and is about to welcome its sixth. Orville Dahl was the first from 1959-62, followed by Ray Olsen from 1963-71; Mark Mathews, 1972-80; Jerry Miller, 1981-92; and Luther S. Luedtke, 1992-2005.
The newest president, Dr. John Sladek, will join CLU in September after having served as a vice chancellor for research at the University of Colorado's Health Sciences Center.
Although its Lutheran heritage is celebrated, the school is
inclusive of all faiths and cultures, among both students and faculty. There is a Hispanic group, a black student union, an Asian club and an active Hillel group, among others.
"It's got everything you would find on any other campus," Fulford said.
CLU's alumni are an active group, serving on the Board of Regents, offering financial support and sending their own children and grandchildren to the university.
"When you look at our product-students who are confident and are committed to service and justice-donors want to invest in them," said R. Stephen Wheatly, vice president of University Advancement and CEO of the school's Education Foundation.
"They see CLU students as being future business and community leaders and neighbors who will enhance the community."