Billie Jean King gala pays tribute to Cal State LA’s President Emeritus James M. Rosser
Cal State LA is celebrating the legacy of President Emeritus James M. Rosser with the naming of a building in his honor, the university has announced.
Rosser led Cal State LA for 34 years, longer than any other president in Cal State LA’s history. He was selected as the university’s sixth president in 1979 and retired in 2013.
The naming was announced Saturday during Cal State LA’s 19th annual Billie Jean King & Friends Event, held at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena.
Rosser was a pioneering administrator in higher education. He was the first African American to lead Cal State LA and the second Black person appointed to serve as president in the California State University system, which is the largest public university system in the United States.
“President Emeritus James M. Rosser has left a long and rich legacy at Cal State LA,” said William A. Covino, the university’s president. “By honoring Dr. Rosser with a building, we honor his uncompromising vision, his commitment to academic excellence, and his dedication to diversity. These are the ideals that define the CSU.”
Wing B of the University’s Wallis Annenberg Integrated Sciences Complex will become the James M. Rosser Hall. The complex opened during Rosser’s tenure and features state-of-the-art science laboratories and equipment.
With Rosser at the helm, Cal State LA added more than a million square feet of building space. Projects championed by the former president include: the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Anna Bing Arnold Children’s Center, Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, University-Student Union, Television, Film and Media Center, along with the Metrolink Station, Golden Eagle building, and student housing.
Rosser was also praised for his inspiring philanthropic spirit.
Prior to accepting the presidency at Cal State LA, Rosser served as deputy chancellor of the State of New Jersey Department of Higher Education. He had previously been an associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, and faculty member in pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Rosser earned academic degrees in health education and microbiology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he also served as a faculty member, assistant to the chancellor, and founding director of the Black American Studies Program. In 2003, his alma mater conferred upon him an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, citing his pioneering efforts to advance opportunities for African Americans in science and health care.
Rosser was drawn to Los Angeles, which was then led by Mayor Tom Bradley, a friend and fellow member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. At the gala, he praised leaders such as Rep. Maxine Waters, and others who provided support.
“I stand here tonight on the shoulders of generations of Golden Eagles and Diablos,” Rosser said.
King is a Cal State LA alumna and played on the university’s women’s tennis team. The tennis great has helped raise more than $3 million in scholarships for student-athletes.
During this year’s gala, the university also honored Steve Garvey, the 10-time Major League Baseball All-Star and former infielder for the Dodgers. Garvey received the L.A. Sports Legend Award. Cal State LA alumnus George L. Pla, president and CEO of Cordoba Corporation, received the Joe Shapiro Humanitarian Award. Waters, who is also an alumna of Cal State LA, introduced Pla.