College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | Inspired by our alumni

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, August 3, 2023 - 2:00pm

A modern campus is filled with ideas, people, opportunities, and students. As a university, Cal Poly Humboldt continues to provide a positive, meaningful, educational experience for all the students who have chosen to attend. While there are many factors at play, if students have a positive experience, they will very likely thrive as alumni of the University for a lifetime.

Every commencement features this comment from the president: “As a Humboldt graduate, you represent the absolute best this university has to offer.” For universities and colleges, alumni are by far our most significant impact. If we can be said to have “products,” the alumni are it. When we judge our own success, alumni are our measuring stick.

This week, we’re hosting alumni leaders from all 23 California State University campuses, as well as alumni outreach staff from the campuses and from the CSU’s central office in Long Beach. The official Humboldt hosts are Dan Sealy and alumni director Stephanie Lane. They’re here for the regular alumni council meeting, having chosen our campus in part because of all the interest in our conversion to a polytechnic.

Our goal is to be great hosts while also generating positive word of mouth when our visitors return home. They will hear some highlights about Cal Poly Humboldt. They will also experience some of the “best of” our region — redwoods, a dinner and rare tour of the Carson Mansion, the Coral Sea, and more.

All the campuses will brag about their alumni, and we will too. In fact, we started that right away with a welcome gathering at the amazing new Dick Taylor Factory Store in Old Town Eureka. Owners Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor are, of course, Humboldt alumni. I’m sure our visitors will spot plenty of other local businesses owned by alumni, as a scan through the alumni businesses on the Forever Humboldt website ( shows our area is full of them.

Humboldt alumni are in a wide array of professions and businesses, and they are spread out across the state and nation. In graduate school, at the start of their careers, at the top of their professions — we watch them with great pride.

Our alumni include many local elected officials, including current Arcata Mayor Sarah Schaefer. They are school teachers and health care workers and leaders in businesses and nonprofits. In state and federal agencies focused on natural resources, you practically have a Humboldt alumni reunion every day. They are working in all types of media organizations, like Ashley Bailey Locke, who is a senior producer at NPR. Rob Miller owns one of the world’s largest marine aquariums suppliers and also started the nonprofit Coral Ark. Nora Wynne was recently one of California’s Teachers of the Year. Cecil Rhambo runs the nation’s largest airport police force at Los Angeles International Airport. Katelin Holloway was recently vice president of people and culture at Reddit and is now a founding partner at Seven Seven Six. David Draper is NASA’s deputy chief scientist. Michael Lynch created Improve Your Tomorrow to help young men of color, and the organization now works with more than 50 different schools. Kurt McCray is the Cal Fire Unit Chief in our region. I could go on, but you get the point — our alumni are leading interesting and important lives, and we are incredibly proud.

As you might guess, we maintain pretty good data on our more than 80,000 alumni. Among the fun statistics we like to share is that about 1 in 12 Humboldt alumni are married to other Humboldt alumni. More than 10,000 alumni live in Humboldt County — meaning they are a very large portion of the local population and also meaning that most alumni live much further away. Also, our region has about 2,500 individuals who are alumni of both Cal Poly Humboldt and our amazing partners at the College of the Redwoods.

The CSU system’s latest economic impact study found, among other things, that Humboldt graduates in the five counties of the North Coast generate $351 million in annual economic activity and support an additional 2,350 jobs.

Another thing we know about Humboldt alumni is that they feel connected to their alma mater and they care about giving back. They donate to scholarships and programs, they serve as guest speakers in classes, they volunteer on university boards, they hire students as interns and employees, some even teach full classes. Dan Phillips, formerly a top executive at Hulu, is leading our Boldly Rising fundraising campaign along with vice chairs Robin Smith, Carin Kaltschmidt, Philip Anton, and Jack McGurk. Edie Pate, who has worked with companies like Microsoft and Starbucks on their diversity efforts, will be back on campus again this year to speak with student-athletes and others. Steve Brown is an amazing supporter and also one of many who have graciously hosted alumni gatherings at their homes. Michael Crooke, who revitalized Patagonia as its CEO and now teaches at the University of Oregon, just recently stopped by during a road trip to share ideas.

All these alumni share one institution along with similar student experiences, including a connection to our beautiful and welcoming North Coast. Speaking of … you may have noticed an uptick in new arrivals recently. Fall semester classes start Aug. 21, and many of Humboldt’s future alumni have been moving back into the area. In a couple of weeks, our residence halls on campus will open up for hundreds of our newest students. They’re looking forward to some of the same things that many of you sought when you came to Humboldt. When you see them, please say hello and welcome them!

Be kind.

Dr. Tom Jackson Jr. is the president of Cal Poly Humboldt. Frank Whitlatch is the executive director of the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation.