As the sound of jazz music illuminated the ballroom of the Student Center last Friday, students and members of the campus community celebrated the 24-year legacy of Sonoma State University President Ruben Armiñana.
Most of the attention throughout the event was on Armiñana as close friends praisedthe president, who has seen more than 20,000 applicants apply to the university in the past year.
“A lot of you have known Ruben and Marne [Armiñana’s wife] for some, if not most, of the last 24 years,” said University Provost Andrew Rogerson. “From the beginning, they have worked diligently to transform this university into what it is today; a vibrant, residential campus filled with great students committed faculty and a warm and nurturing staff.”
Rogerson cites Armiñana as a man who defies stereotypes. “Who could imagine a Cuban who is both allergic to coffee and bananas [running the university]?”
After Rogerson addressed the crowd, a slideshow of photos of Armiñana and the marks he’s left on the university were shown. Alongside the smiling pictures of Armiñana with students and faculty the presentation included shots of buildings he developed including the Green Music Center, Student and Recreation Centers, residential housing and more.
Armiñana took to the stage at the conclusion of the event’s speeches to address the crowd about his feelings of moving on from his longest standing profession.
“On behalf of Marne and I, I want to say thank you for allowing me the opportunity to have served you,” said Armiñana. “It has been interesting and challenging, in a good way, every day.”
The 68-year-old also discussed his path to the presidency of Sonoma State and the influence his wife had on his ultimate decision, who suggested the job to him in the first place.
“Like a very smart husband, I said ‘you are right,’ and here I was 24 years ago,” said Armiñana.
Armiñana’s wife, Marne Olson, is the vice chairwoman of the Green Music Center Board of Advisers as well a member of the Ambassadors for Higher Education committee.
“It wasn’t hard to get him to come here,” said Olson on her husband’s decision to come to Sonoma State more than two decades ago. “We came and saw what a wonderful school this was and Sonoma County is so rich in its culture and the all the wonderful things that occupy it.”
At the conclusion of Armiñana’s address to his guests, the Cuban-born refugee left those in attendance and said, “It was everyone of your contributions, support, ideas, innovations and criticisms that made [this] all possible,” he said. “Therefore instead of you thanking me, I thank you.”