Dale Fairbanks and Jan Andreson knew they were in for an adventure when they enrolled at the fledgling Long Beach State College, with its mix of new and temporary buildings, growing class offerings, and even then, parking problems.
Dale joined the first freshman class in 1953 and Jan transferred later from Long Beach City College. They became the quintessential 1950s Long Beach State couple — he was a track athlete and president of the freshman class, Associated Men Students and SAE chapter, and she was a Brown and Gold Day princess and Tri Delta.
They both earned their bachelor’s degrees in 1957 — his in political science and hers in education, and married a year later. Today they head a three-generation Beach family that remains close to their alma mater. They’re also inaugural members of CSULB’s Golden Graduate Society for those who graduated 50 or more years ago.
The CSULB Alumni Association started the Golden Graduates in 2009 during the university’s 60th anniversary to honor those who helped build the campus. Inaugural members included graduates from 1950 to 1959, and each year adds a new class — 1966 grads will be honored this year.
Being a Golden Grad includes invitations to special events throughout the year, culminating in an annual dinner prior to Homecoming and the Center Court Presentation, a special recognition in the Walter Pyramid during Homecoming.
Campus life was as busy in the ’50s as today, Jan recalled. “I enjoyed everything we did here. There were things going on all the time. People were very friendly. Professors still called you miss or mister. Our favorites included Professors Donald Shipley of biology and Elizabeth Nielsen in English.”
“He was a wonderful teacher, with a droll sense of humor. Dr. Nielsen could speak and read Old English and we enjoyed listening to her chatter in Chaucerian English.”
Students observed a dress code, especially for women. “We didn’t wear pants or shorts during class,” Jan said. “Even the song girls’ dresses were knee-length. They had an occasional casual day when you could wear pants.”
After serving in the Navy, Dale decided to follow Jan in a career in education and both worked for many years in Long Beach Unified School District. Dale returned to CSULB to earn an M.A. in history in 1967 and Jan earned her M.A. in educational administration at Azusa Pacific University.
Beach Pride runs deep in the Fairbanks family. When driving by campus, Jan would point it out to young daughter Alison, telling her, “That’s where you’re going to school,” which also carried over to daughter Melissa.
Alison (1985, B.A., psychology) and Dave Chennault’s daughter, Nicole, is now a CSULB English major, and son, Dylan, still in high school, has been properly “indoctrinated,” Dale said. Melissa Sablan, (1990, B.A., liberal studies; 1994, credential), lives in San Diego County with her husband, Bill McCluskey, and 13-year-old daughter, Brynn, who proudly announced she wants to become a future 49er, “just like Nicole.”
Dale and Jan loan a variety of memorabilia from their Long Beach State days for display during every Homecoming, and throughout the years have remained involved in a variety of campus alumni and support organizations and activities by giving their time and resources. That pioneering spirit and passing on opportunities for future generations of students carries on with each new class of Golden Graduates.
Learn more at the Golden Grads website.