News Release| James M. Rosser; Cal State L.A.

Cal State L.A. President James M. Rosser announces his retirement

Rosser is recognized for breadth of service, dedication to educational excellence and diversity

Los Angeles, CA – After 33 years of distinguished service, California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) President James M. Rosser has announced today that he will retire as president on June 30, 2013, the close of the University’s academic year.

Rosser, 73, is recognized for the remarkable breadth of his service, for his early and long-standing commitment to academic excellence, as a champion for the arts and sciences, for participating in landmark changes in state and national education policy, and his dedication to cultural diversity.

“Jim has been the voice and advocate for all students for the past three decades. In particular, his unwavering commitment to access and achievement of students of color and focus on helping them to realize their dream of a college degree is a hallmark of his tenure,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “He has effectively partnered with K-12 and community colleges, established Cal State Los Angeles’ nursing program as one of the best nationally, and has elevated the state of biotechnology and STEM education and research. Jim’s laser focus on students first, diversity, retention and graduation rates will endure as a remarkable legacy of his service to this University and to California.”

Rosser became the sixth president of CSULA in 1979, making him the current longest-serving four-year public university president in the nation. His presidency is also the longest in both CSULA’s and in the 23-campus California State University’s history. 

“I have had the good fortune to serve this institution in collaboration with an outstanding faculty, administration and staff, past and present,” said President Rosser after announcing his retirement during CSULA’s annual Fall Faculty Day. “Thank you for the value you have added to my life and for the superlative service we have collectively provided to Cal State L.A., our students, this community, state and nation.”

Science and Technology

Over the decades, Rosser has successfully helped advance science and engineering education, and has sought ways to galvanize the synergies between science, research, technology and industry. Throughout his presidency, he has helped make major contributions to improving diversity and curriculum in science education as a chair and member of numerous National Science Foundation (NSF) committees and conferences, and has presented at a variety of NSF and National Academy of Engineering panels and forums. 

Rosser’s influence has helped guide state and national science policy. He has served as a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Congressional Caucus for Science and Technology, the California Council on Science and Technology, and the American Council on Education’s Committee on Science and Technology.

As a member of the Texaco/Chevron Task Force on Equality and Fairness, Rosser was a key figure in helping oversee Texaco’s implementation of a comprehensive human resources program that ensured fairness and equal opportunity for all employees. The taskforce was formed following the settlement of a legal case the company reached in 1996 with African American employees.

Rosser is also renowned for his efforts in health care. In 2003, his alma mater, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, conferred him with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, citing his pioneering efforts to advance opportunities and contributions of African Americans in science and health care. He also holds the rank of professor of health care management and professor of microbiology at CSULA.

His contributions to the field of health care delivery have resulted in published works on health, health values and the health profession, as well as a number of related appointments, including as consultant to the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart and Lung Institute, and a member of the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners.

Creativity and the Arts

Rosser is renowned nationally as an innovator for arts and arts education, and sought after for his record of support and leadership. He has served as a board member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and is known for his deep commitment to bringing the city together through the arts, which have resulted in high profile residencies at CSULA, including the Joffrey Ballet and the Anderson Quartet. 

For the Music Center Performing Arts Council/Education Council’s Advancement Committee, through the National Endowment of the Arts, Rosser worked with leaders such as Ernest Fleischmann to identify and support emerging artists.  

Rosser served as a KCET board member, helping the television station deliver inspiring content that educates and enlightens millions of individuals. Working with CSULA faculty, he played a major role in the development of KCET’s A Place of Our Own, an innovative educational program that provides support and information to those who care for young children.

He helped guide the national organization Americans for the Arts, serving on several committees and as a member of its Board of Governors. He chaired the organization’s Los Angeles Taskforce on Multiculturalism in the Arts, and was a member of its National Policy Board from 1996-2004.

Childhood Education

Rosser is a dedicated and vocal supporter of improved childhood academics. “Our obligation is to seek new ways to create positive change in the lives of our children, if we are really the carrier of civilization’s progress,” said Rosser. “While we must continue to scrutinize our roles within the broader communities we serve in this regard, we must also remain intensely focused on our capability and responsibility to help the young within our institutions.”

In the 1980s, Rosser helped spearhead the establishment of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts at CSULA, recognized as one of the premier public arts high schools in the U.S., and California’s first specialized high school for the arts.

In 2006, the Alliance Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School was established on campus to serve students from the East Los Angeles community. The school is now one of the top 12 highest performing open enrollment high schools in the LAUSD. Rosser was also a driving force behind the creation of the Accelerated Charter School in South Los Angeles, a school that prepares underserved students to excel in their studies and aspire toward college. The original K-8 Accelerated School, founded in 1992, was Time Magazine’s School of the Year in 2000.

Rosser has launched and helped develop a variety of educational initiatives both at CSULA and for the CSU system, such as the University’s Early Entrance Program, which offers the opportunity for intellectually gifted and socially mature students, as young as 11, to attend college and take regular college courses. He approached the CSU Chancellor’s Office with an idea that became the Doctoral Incentive Program, which provides student loans to a limited number of individuals pursuing full-time doctoral degrees at universities throughout the United States, who later receive portions of their loans forgiven if they teach at a CSU campus.

Fostering Diversity, Excellence and Growth

Rosser has worked tirelessly to help increase access to higher education for underserved communities, and is regularly sought after for his decades of experience as an advocate and major role player in helping develop diversity-driven education policy in the region, at CSULA and across the nation. 

At CSULA, he has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to the multiculturalism of students, faculty and staff, which is a great source of pride for the University.

“At Cal State L.A., we have developed a culture that has helped to transform the lives of countless low-income students from diverse backgrounds,” said Rosser. “It is largely a function of the communities we serve. The majority of our students have been women since 1970, and students of color since 1972. Our fundamental goal is to level the learning achievement playing field for all admitted students, and we have made great strides in that effort.“

Rosser is gifted in drawing out and nurturing the intelligence, leadership and creative qualities of those around him both on campus and in the communities CSULA serves. He has advanced diversity with excellence in many fields of study, particularly in education, healthcare, and within science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) fields, producing significant numbers of underrepresented minority bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients from CSULA. Rosser was also the driving force behind CSULA’s Honors College, which welcomed its inaugural class in fall 2011.

Recently, a report by the National Science Foundation entitled, Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, 2011, ranked CSULA among the top 50 baccalaureate institutions out of more than 2,000 of origin that produce Hispanic science and engineering doctorate recipients. In addition, CSULA has consistently been recognized for high quality in such areas as engineering, nursing education and business programs by U.S. News and World Report.

Rosser was most recently honored with the 2012 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award from the American Council on Education (ACE). He is also recognized nationally for leadership on access and diversity in such publications as Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education.

Rosser’s ability to improve teamwork to support a cause and address critical issues made a significant impact after the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles. He collaborated with Los Angeles civic leaders to help the city heal and build cultural awareness, such as by hosting an African American and Korean American golf tournament to help bring those fractured communities together.

Over the past three decades, under Rosser’s direction, CSULA has welcomed the addition of more than 1,000,000 square feet of building space on the 173-acre campus, transforming the it into a modern and esthetically beautiful University. The projects include the state-of-the-art $81 million Wallis Annenberg Integrated Sciences Complex, and the first wing of La Kretz Hall, which opened in 2009 featuring contemporary science laboratories and equipment and tools, which provided an environment to match the excellence of the University’s academic programs.

In 2009, a new $31 million University-Student Union provided an expanded computer lab, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a 200-seat theater and increased meeting and lounge space. The $30 million Golden Eagle opened in 2003, with a student bookstore, conference center and food court. In the early 1990s, Rosser led efforts to build the $22 million Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex that includes the highly-acclaimed Luckman Gallery, and the 1,152-seat Luckman Theatre. Additional campus improvements include the Dobbs Street Student Housing Project, Corporation Yard, the Public Safety/Police facility, and the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center.

Rosser has also distinguished himself on the boards of privately-held companies, such as Fedco, a membership-based retail store that operated in Southern California, Sanwa Bank of California, and served as a board member for Southern California Edison from 1988 to 2012. 


Rosser is also recognized for his inspiring philanthropic efforts and spirit, evidenced by his contributions in time and resources to CSULA, the Los Angeles community and beyond. He served on the board of the California Community Foundation, and was an advisor for the Fedco Donor Advised Fund.

He has targeted his personal philanthropy in establishing the James M. Rosser Student Athlete Scholarship at the CSULA Honors College, and by helping to endow a scholarship at his alma mater in honor of Donald N. “Doc” Boydston, one of his early and enduring mentors.

For his efforts, Rosser was presented the 2008 Spirit of Philanthropy Award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Greater Los Angeles. He received the honor for demonstrating extraordinary leadership and vision in support of charitable agencies. 


Dr. Rosser earned his Ph.D. in health education and master’s degree in microbiology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where he also served as a faculty member, assistant to the chancellor, and founding director of the Black American Studies Program. 

  •          Ph.D., Health Education, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 1969
  •          M.A., Microbiology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 1963
  •          B.A., Microbiology (with honors), Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 1962


Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, also conferred Rosser with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2003, and Pepperdine University awarded Rosser an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws in 2005. Prior to Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Rosser studied at Langston University in Oklahoma on a basketball scholarship. 

To learn more about President Rosser’s legacy, visit  

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Working for California since 1947: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles’ civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 225,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds—reflect the city’s dynamic mix of populations. Six Colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to the Honors College for high-achieving students. Programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include an NEH-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a growing forensic science program, housed in the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center.