Greg Williams: Director of University Archives Pens New Book on History of CSU Dominguez Hills
In honor of the 50th anniversary of California State University, Dominguez Hills, a new book on the history of the campus has been written and compiled by Greg Williams, director of the University Archives and Special Collections. Part of “The Campus History Series” by Arcadia Publishing, the volume contains more than 200 images of the university from its early beginnings as South Bay State College - when it was located in a Rolling Hills Estates bank building - to the Carson campus as it stands today.
Williams says that the history of the campus begins with debates that raged throughout the South Bay community as to where a new institution should be located. However, in the era of the fight for civil rights, policymakers were in favor of establishing an institution of higher learning in proximity to the urban areas that were recently affected by the Watts riots.
“Our archives are filled with letters from Torrance and other localities begging for the campus to come to their [city],” says Williams. “But the thing that got us here was the amount of land and the location close to urban centers. When Gov. Pat Brown came to visit the area after the Watts riots, he basically said, ‘Let’s plant it here.’”
Williams says that the campus has evolved from a small liberal arts college to a campus that features more professional programs alongside the more traditional curriculum. He also says that the multicultural aspect of the student population manifested itself almost immediately.
“In the 1960s, there was not an enormous amount of diversity, but it started,” he notes. “Initially, you got suburban students, Asian students, and African American students. By the 1980s and 1990s, the Latino students started coming in, along with the Japanese population of Gardena and the Filipino populations of Carson and elsewhere.”
According to Williams, the growth of the Latino population at CSU Dominguez Hills has developed in tandem with the growth of the Latino population in the Los Angeles region.
“When there were population shifts, Dominguez Hills was here, nearby, to accept those students,” he says. “That is an important and worthwhile endeavor for a community and that is where the university has always fit in. It’s changed and made the place a richer place for students from an urban area to go to college.”
The diversity of the student population also made CSU Dominguez Hills, from its inception, a natural forum for national and world leaders in culture, sports, the arts, and politics. In the book, Williams showcases the range of noteworthy visitors to the Carson campus, from Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” in the 1970s to presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry on the campaign trail in Los Angeles in 2004. The book also features the birth of a sports program that grew from ping-pong tables at the Watt campus which was located across Victoria Street to include a men’s soccer team that took the NCAA National Championship in 2000 and 2008.
Overall, Williams says that the story of CSU Dominguez Hills is one that illustrates the growth of a university with a unique mission – and a propensity for growth even during fiscal difficulty.
“Despite the fact that we’ve had this seemingly never-ending assault on our funding, the campus in the 2000s expanded,” he says.
“In the last decade, [there has been] an enormous amount of construction on this campus: the Extended Education complex, Welch Hall, an addition to the California Academy of Mathematics and Science, the remodel of the Loker Student Union, the new Library, and the Home Depot Center.”
Prior to arriving at CSU Dominguez Hills in 2004, Williams was curator of photographs at the San Diego Historical Society. He has also worked as an archivist and curator for the New Jersey Historical Society, Rutgers University, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Oregon State Archives and the South Carolina Historical Society. He received his master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Oregon and his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University.
Williams recently assisted the Long Beach Firefighter’s Museum with digitizing their photograph collection and, in return, acquired the original prints for the CSU Dominguez Hills collection of regional historical holdings that include the Dominguez family collections, the archives of the entire CSU system archives, the congressional papers of the late Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald and Congressman Glenn Anderson, and rare books.
- Joanie Harmon