Daily 49er

Educational Opportunity Program celebrates 50 years

Monica Gallardo, Staff Writer

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Approximately 200 former students of the Educational Opportunity Program reminisced about their academic experience during the program’s 50th anniversary celebration Friday morning at The Pointe inside the Walter Pyramid.

Invited guests and their families watched as various speakers discussed the beginnings of the EOP and honored Joseph White, founder of the program.

EOP provides first-generation college students and those from low-income backgrounds with mentoring and counseling programs, as well as financial aid assistance.

Reflecting on the continuous work of the EOP, White remembered his start with the program in 1967.

At the time, White was a psychology professor at CSULB and observed a lack of diversity among the students on campus.

“I walked on upper campus and I started looking around. I counted all morning long and of 10,000 students, I think I counted 46 blacks and 40 of them were athletes,” he said. “Anytime you get less than one percent in a state that was becoming 50 percent people of color, the math is out of whack.”

White recalled discussing with George Demos, former dean of students at CSULB, the need for more diversity on campus. Demos allowed White to admit 65 students of his choice into CSULB. White ended up going over the limit and admitting 200 students, each with a financial aid package.

Glenn S. Dumke, chancellor of the California State University system at the time, later visited CSULB and invited White to his office in Sacramento. With the support of Demos and former speaker of the California State Assembly Willie Brown, White managed to get the EOP on the state legislature and spread across all community colleges, CSUs and Universities of California.

“I had no idea it would spread the way it did,” White said. “We wanted to transform higher education in America. If [African Americans] make up 50 percent of the population in California then we should look like 50 percent of the college population.”

Denise Noldon worked for the program after receiving her psychology degree from CSULB. She served as an EOP counselor at the Long Beach campus and credits the program for the opportunities she has had to work within several college systems.

“This is really emotional for me because I really attribute a lot of my success to the fact that the foundation for me to stand on was built right here at this university,” she said.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal, D, was also in attendance to honor White. He recalled his own difficulties with empowering his students as a psychology professor at CSULB in 1969.

“It was after the Watts riots, everything was in turmoil … I didn’t have any academic models,” he said.

It was White’s Ebony Magazine article “Toward A Black Psychology” that finally gave Lowenthal a clear perspective of what he wanted to do for his students.

Supported by a standing ovation, White was presented with a plaque which commemorated the 50th anniversary celebration into the Congressional Record, the official daily record of the United States Congress proceedings.

“It’s really honoring the legacy of [White] and I’m so honored to do it,” Lowenthal said.

Guests later took photos and enjoyed catered food while they roamed around the room, exchanging conversations with one another.

Vice chancellor of UC Irvine Thomas Parham was among those guests. He was nearly speechless when expressing his admiration for White, calling him legendary and iconic.

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