A line of students snaked across the quad near Malcolm X Plaza Wednesday as the University handed out 1,899 free root beer floats in honor of the University’s Founders Day.
SF State originated as the San Francisco State Normal School, a small women-only teaching academy on Powell Street in March 1899. The school was decimated in the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires and underwent several location, accreditation and name changes before metamorphosing into the California State University it is today.
Founders Day celebrates both the anniversary of SF State’s founding and those transformations. This year, the occasion was toasted with root beer floats while an acoustic jazz quartet serenaded the crowd.
Business management major Marco Ybanez, who relaxed on the lawn with friends in front of Malcolm X Plaza, said he appreciated the event.
“It’s a good way to give back to students,” Ybanez said. “A simple little treat to make this day known, to keep students in remembrance of our school’s founders.”
The floats were donated by campus eatery Taqueria Girasol, which has consistently supported Founders Day festivities. Last year, the business gave away 1,899 tacos in honor of the event.
“It’s little known how giving (Taqueria Girasol) is to the University,” said Doug Hupke, the director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving at SF State, who spearheaded the event as a way to increase campus spirit.
Hermanos Unidos, a student group dedicated to the advancement of young Latino males into academic scholars, community leaders and young professionals, helped assemble and pass out the floats.
“They invited us to participate last year and we thought it was a great opportunity for student organizations to show their Gator pride and contribute to the University,” said Hermanos Unidos president and Associated Students, Inc. Vice President of Finance Luis De Paz. “We are a student organization that is proud to be here at SFSU and we enjoy helping out and giving back to our community and campus.”
Before 2014, more than 10 years had lapsed in Founders Day campus celebrations before students celebrated SF State’s Centennial birthday with 100 feet of sheet cake.
“I thought, ‘you know what? We need to bring this back,'” Hupke said. “We need something to rally the University.”
In another symbol of camaraderie, renderings of a proposed 10-foot bronze alligator statue, designed by artist and professor emeritus Leonard Hunter, were on display during the event. If plans are approved, funding for the statue will most likely come in the form of a combination of alumni donations and fundraising efforts, according to Hupke.
The event marked the midway point of the Founders Day Challenge, which encourages the campus community to honor SF State’s heritage by making a donation in support of its future.
Students, faculty, alumni, family and friends were invited to help the Alumni Association reach its goal of raising $30,000 March 16-22. Last year’s goal of 1,899 individual donations was well surpassed, according to Hupke. Donors can choose to support scholarships or the college, department or program of their choice.
“Whether you are an SF native or a student from Southern or Northern California, SFSU is that one place that will always have an impact in our lives,” De Paz said. “This university is full of history, tradition and culture. It is time for us the students to recognize that and Founders Day is one way to celebrate all of this.”