Remarks by Timothy P. White
Chancellor, The California State University
EOP 50th Anniversary Conference
Long Beach, California
September 9, 2019
It is both a pleasure and a great privilege to join you this evening as we celebrate the CSU Equal Opportunity Program’s 50th anniversary.
Tonight, we pay tribute to the visionaries whose inspired and courageous activism helped bring EOP into being in the late sixties.
We recognize and thank EOP directors and staff, past and present, whose brilliance and untiring dedication shaped and continue to refine this remarkable program, which serves as a global model for providing hope and opportunity through higher education.
And we honor decades of EOP alumni – more than a quarter million strong … let that number sink in for a moment – who have made immeasurable, positive impacts on their families, their communities, our state and, indeed, our world.
EOP’s charge is to provide college access and support to students from historically low-income families. The word “historically” is significant – underscoring one of EOP’s fundamental missions… to disrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty through the social mobility that higher education provides.
However, EOP’s mission does not stop at breaking the cycle of poverty. Like the CSU more broadly, EOP is a vehicle for social, cultural and political participation, representation and advancement. Again mirroring the CSU, EOP’s leaders and staff are dedicated to creating authentic access to higher education as a purposeful means for achieving social equity.
EOP grants and admission assistance are given to economically and educationally disadvantaged students who show academic potential and a motivation to succeed. But often overlooked are the EOP’s innovative and groundbreaking student-support services, many of which have become best practices throughout the CSU and across the nation. These include cultural inclusivity, holistic advising, support to smooth the transition to college, the acclaimed EOP Summer Bridge program and developmental coaching through graduation. Many of the innovations developed through EOP have informed our flagship student success effort – Graduation Initiative 2025 – the early results of which show such great promise… promise to raise graduation rates for all students…and the promise to entirely eliminate equity gaps across the California State University.
More fundamentally, EOP has shown us what providing hope and opportunity looks like. It looks like meeting students where they are. To never coddle, but to instead challenge students to attain a high bar of achievement, while providing them the holistic support needed to meet that challenge.
For five decades now, EOP students have demonstrated the intellect, the desire to put in the work, and the sheer grit and determination to not only attain that high bar of achievement, but to soar to even greater heights.
EOP alumni are doctors, caregivers, counselors and social workers… engineers and authors… lawyers, elected officials and governmental leaders at the local, state and federal levels.
They are presidents, provosts, professors and senior administrators at colleges and universities around the state and across the nation. They are teachers by the thousands, often in the same communities that are home to future EOP students.
And, notably, they are EOP directors and staff working at campuses across the CSU.
Is there anyone in this room who thinks it is a coincidence that EOP alumni gravitate to those professions most associated with community engagement, with service to others and with providing inspiration, hope and opportunity to future generations?
In closing, I want to express my congratulations, deepest gratitude and appreciation to all of you associated with this remarkable and consequential program. EOP is the very embodiment of the CSU mission. May the impact of its work continue to span generations.
It’s my pleasure now to introduce tonight’s keynote speaker. Silas Abrego has dedicated his life to fighting for access and equal opportunity for all students… he is a true champion for first-generation and low-income students, as well as historically underserved populations.
Sy has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in higher education, with accomplishments, awards and accolades far too numerous for the time we have this evening.
However, I should note that Sy served as the EOP Director at Cal State Fullerton before being named associate vice president – and later interim vice president – of student affairs.
Although he retired from Fullerton in 2012, Sy continues to provide the CSU with sage counsel and wise leadership, now as a member of our board of trustees, where Trustee Abrego serves with great distinction, unrelenting in his fight for our most vulnerable students.
Please join me in welcoming my colleague and friend, Sy Abrego.