Education Lab

Under tight budget, Fresno State marks 100 years

Think of Tom Gaffery as a gatekeeper of Fresno State's centennial look.

The administrative project coordinator is helping spread the signature 100-year logo and brand throughout the nearly 400-acre main campus.

That means banners on light poles, decals on golf carts and squad cars, commemorative police badges and even a spot in the rotation on the Save Mart Center electronic billboard.

Yet Gaffery and other centennial planners are minding every penny as the university, founded in 1911, approaches its milestone year. The 21 campus police officers, for example, paid $75 each for their new pewter badges.

"For the most part, we don't have a budget," Gaffery said.

Finances are a dilemma as Fresno State revs up its "Century of Excellence" celebration in an era of strained state and university budgets. Officials have heaped centennial duties on existing staff and set aside an estimated $115,000 in nonstate dollars for a celebration spanning more than a year.

Officials hope to recoup the financial outlay through sponsorships.

Pete Mehas, a 1962 alum and chairman of the university's Centennial Leadership Committee, said organizers are sensitive to the economic situation and to criticism that the university may spend too much -- or even too little -- on the 100th anniversary.

Given current financial conditions, "you can't have a champagne appetite on a beer budget," he said.

Much of the celebration rests on self-supporting events, sponsorships and weaving the centennial into established programs. For example, the university launched its celebration this spring at the annual Vintage Days rather than at a separate event.

But the most important element of the centennial is telling the story of Fresno State's first century and the accomplishments of students, faculty, alumni and others, Mehas said.

He and others say they need sponsors for big events such as a centennial gala next year and the Oct. 16 homecoming, which features a parade, special halftime activities and a "Tailgate of the Century."

Centennial activities will pick up as the university opens for the fall semester. Individual schools also are raising money and planning special events such as concerts, historical exhibits and special receptions.

Around campus, the centennial theme is becoming more obvious.

The brand surfaces on routine products and publications, such as the visitor's guide and map. New university parking decals will swap out the iconic Bulldog for the 100-year logo.

Even the Starbucks baristas in the library have centennial lapel pins.

In April, police officers stowed their regular seven-point stars for the new version. Cpl. Jared Struck said people have noticed the badge change.

Athletes and band members will sport 100-year patches on their uniforms, Gaffery said. Also in the works is a centennial march composed by a Fresno State alum.

On campus, centennial merchandise is slowly rolling out. That includes stuffed Bulldogs with 100-year logos at the bookstore along with anniversary wine glasses and "centennial sweet corn" at the Gibson Farm Market. (It's the same type of corn that's sold there every year.)

Ganesan Srinivasan, director of the University Agricultural Laboratory, said other products are headed to the market -- including centennial-themed wine, olive oil and ice cream.

Both Mehas and Tracy Newel, the centennial project coordinator on campus, say the banners, decals, merchandise and more help build buzz for the commemoration.

And by telling the Fresno State story, Mehas said, "people can appreciate the value" of the university's first 100 years.

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