A transformational leader for California State University, Stanislaus returned to be honored on Sept. 29 with the dedication of the Dr. Marvalene Hughes University Reflecting Pond. She took the opportunity to announce her intent to create a student leadership training initiative.
“She has left her mark on this campus and on our hearts,” said President Ellen Junn said at the ceremony. “As I reflect on Dr. Hughes’ enduring commitment to higher education, I find this tranquil pond to be a perfect reflection of her legacy.”
Hughes led Stan State from August 1994 to June 2005, becoming the University’s longest-serving leader, as well as its first woman, and first African-American president. During those years, the campus added four lakes and six large buildings, gaining the contours of what it looks like today. Student enrollment nearly doubled, academic programs were added and expanded, important accreditations were achieved, international partnerships were forged, and the University was poised as a cultural and artistic destination for the region.
Poet Nikki Giovanni wrote a poem in honor of the occasion, “Quiet,” a tribute to Dr. Hughes and her late husband, Dr. David Brinks.
Patrick Johnston, a 5th District state senator during Hughes’ tenure, spoke of being “teammates” with Dr. Hughes in turning the site of a former state mental hospital into a permanent home for the Stockton Center. “Marvalene built, but her focus, her unrelenting commitment, was education, and particularly for those who needed a chance,” he said.
Patrick Crowley, who works with Hughes as part of the foundation board of her alma mater, Florida State University, flew in for the event. The FSU College of Education has named its signature event the Marvalene Hughes Research in Education Conference, and Dr. Hughes is working with FSU to establish a research program focused on the challenges facing young black men.
Other speakers included Associated Students, Inc. President Brandon Demers, Hughes’ son Jan Skyles and her sister, Dr. Elogene Hughes.
“The impact of Marvalene Hughes is everywhere,” said Dr. Amin Elmallah, dean emeritus of the Stanislaus State College of Business Administration. He noted her work in restoring Dillard University in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and her mentoring of college leaders through the Millennium Leadership Institute she founded in 1998. At Stan State, she built international partnerships, he said, “She made California State University, Stanislaus known all around the world.”
“We want to honor the incredible legacy of work, and I want to do that as a proud recipient of that work,” said State Assemblywoman Susan Eggman in presenting a proclamation from the California Legislature. Eggman was in the inaugural cohort of the master’s of social work program during the Hughes years.
“I think the activism of the starting of the MSW program propelled me into politics, propelled me to not to sit around and ask who’s going to do something, when we think we have something to bring to the table ourselves. I think that has been modeled by nobody better than Dr. Hughes,” Eggman said.
Dr. Hughes said it was her mother, an elementary school principal, who developed her passion for service. “I understood that if I had anything to give back, to contribute to any individual or any worthy organizational purpose, I would try to do that,” she said.
“I can now see the spirit of forward movement. And that is happening because of who you are,” Dr. Hughes said, speaking to the community at large. “When I came here, I spent a lot of time studying who you are, and I realized there is so much more here in this Valley than anybody imagined. I never imagined the support, the talent, the resources and the interest in forward movement, just waiting for leadership.”
In that spirit, she said, she wants to help develop future leaders. “What I promise to you, for the rest of my life, and even after, I am committed to making whatever leadership training opportunities can be made, for student leaders on this campus,” Dr. Hughes said. The initiative being developed will feature an annual leadership training conference. The inaugural event is being planned for the spring.
She also had advice for those future leaders: “It’s important that you be thinking about what you can do to open doors for others. Because when you open doors for others, you are making it possible for everybody to advance.”