College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | Retired employees can make a difference

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

Thursday, October 12, 2023 - 12:30pm

The California State University (CSU) is one of the largest systems of higher education in the world. It is a powerful engine for prosperity in California serving nearly 460,000 students, with 55,000 employees, through 23 amazing universities located from San Diego to Humboldt.

Within the CSU we take great pride in the variability of each campus, if not the uniqueness of each campus. The truth is, we are much more alike than we are different. Fundamentally, we are academic institutions that exist to provide degrees to people who earn them. Of those who work on each campus, most do many of the same things within their various roles. In performing these roles subtly differently, they help define the student and community experiences the campus provides. We resemble, if not mirror, the dynamics of the region in which we exist.

However, one of the good ways — one of the amazing ways — that Cal Poly Humboldt is different is the strong and long-term connection our employees have with the university. For example, we have a high number of alumni who work at Humboldt, in all sorts of staff, faculty, and administrative roles. We have just about 1,200 state employees at our campus, and more than 300 of them are alumni! The alumni play a major role in managing the institution, and in fact, were in key roles as we developed our plans for the polytechnic transformation. That’s at least one reason the polytechnic effort resonated so strongly with our far-flung alumni and other close constituencies.

Another great example is the number of retired employees who continue to be highly engaged with Cal Poly Humboldt. There is a passion, great interest, and true commitment from our retired employees. I honestly do not think, once retired, I would agree to serve on a committee, but many of our retired employees do. There’s something special about Humboldt and our former employees. It truly is a point of pride for us.

Many of these former employees live nearby, continuing to enjoy the communities and stunning natural environment of the North Coast. Even those who have moved further afield stay connected to the area and this University.

They provide great advice and perspective to newer employees. Many of us have had the experience of being new at Humboldt and eventually meeting a retired Humboldt employee who shares insights about our university. They attend and support Humboldt events, including the arts, lectures, athletic competitions, and more. Retired members of the faculty and staff will often serve on campus committees or on ad hoc groups pulled together to solve a particular challenge.

Many retired Humboldt faculty and staff are also donors, supporting causes or programs that they became passionate about during their time working on campus. Some have even made very significant commitments to Humboldt in their estate plans, creating a legacy at Humboldt.

The retirees have also organized themselves through ERFSA — the Emeritus and Retired Faculty and Staff Association. This group has regular lunch socials, featuring talks by members of the campus community on projects, research, new initiatives, recent successes, and more. They recently featured the rowing coaches and a group of student-athletes, who talked about the recent national championship season. It was fun for them to hear about, and it was also a positive way of recognizing rowing for their efforts. ERFSA also has a special grant program — funded by gifts from the members — that provides up to $1,000 to help newer faculty and staff expand their professional qualifications. You can find more information about ERFSA at their website at

If you’re retired from Humboldt, I encourage you to get involved with ERFSA to connect with friends and colleagues.

Cal Poly Humboldt is an amazing place with special people.

Be kind.

Dr. Tom Jackson Jr. is the president of Cal Poly Humboldt.