TURLOCK -- The transformed heart of CSUS, adorned in years past with dirt and a tangled mass of above-ground tree roots, on Saturday hosted laughing children in bounce houses atop an open, tidy green lawn.
"I don't remember the quad ever looking so nice," remarked Everett Vieira, 27, who attended California State University, Stanislaus, from 1999 to 2002. He surveyed booths ringing the quad's Family Fun Zone as radio music boomed from loudspeakers and the aroma of barbecue wafted over a modest, mostly smiling crowd.
The university's first Spring Reunion showcased the many changes wrought since the campus, formerly known as Turkey Tech, opened in 1960. Alumni like Vieira mixed with newcomers and neighbors, taking golf-cart tours to look at additions such as a stately new $5.6 million bookstore and the elegant, 2-year-old Nora and Hashem Naraghi Hall of Science.
Tour guide and student ambassador Vanessa Martinez pointed to "The Village," or gated student housing, home to about 8 percent of the university's 8,600 students beyond a picturesque windmill and rock-lined waterfall. "We do not call them dorms," she said.
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University President Hamid Shirvani, who wrote three books on architecture and urban planning, designed the quad's renovation and helped renowned architect Thomas Gordon Smith draw up the library with its distinctive red-brick hexagon veranda.
Shirvani is trying to create a campuswide "eclectic style that represents the Central Valley rather than something that comes from New York or Chicago," he said Saturday, mingling with the small but festive crowd before a Frisbee dog performance.
"I came to hang out with friends and enjoy the sun," said Antonio Aguilar, who graduated a year ago and lives in Turlock.
Teacher John Adamson didn't attend CSU, Stanislaus, but brought his 7- and 8-year-old children, and he promoted the event to families of his second-grade students at Wakefield Elementary School down the road.
"I tell parents it's a state college, it belongs to everyone," Adamson said. "I'm trying to get them to see what it's about so that college becomes a part of their thinking."
Director of alumni affairs Jacob McDougal, the Spring Reunion's organizer, noted that other universities in Stockton and Davis have long-standing community events connecting their cities with former and current students and staff. Next year's event in Turlock should be bigger and better, he said.
Shirvani said, "Hopefully this will be a real tradition for many years to come."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.