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Some Cal State Fullerton Alumni Proudly Recall One of Their Own

TIMES STAFF WRITER

To millions of moviegoers, Kevin Costner is the man of the year, the sexy actor/director who swept the Oscars Monday night for “Dances With Wolves.”

But back during his college days at Cal State Fullerton, Costner was “a skinny little runt” whose interest in acting was a well-kept secret, according to some of his Delta Chi fraternity brothers who turned out at the Marriott Hotel Monday night for an Academy Awards celebration in his honor.

More than 60 of Costner’s former college friends, fraternity brothers and fans got together to watch the televised Oscar presentations and root for Costner. The event was sponsored by the CSUF Alumni Assn. and the Greek Alumni Council.

Everyone from the actor’s math tutor to his Delta Chi fraternity brothers had a story to tell about Costner’s college exploits as president of the Delta Chi and the quarterback of an intramural football team.

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But the only acting role that his fellow CSUF alums remember was a brief stint as Smokey the Bear.

“He dressed up as Smokey for a philanthropic project and handed out patches to the children at a local hospital,” recalled Craig Cessna, 36, who was Costner’s “little brother” in Delta Chi. “Ever since then, we’ve called him Smokey.”

Costner graduated from CSUF in 1978 with a degree in marketing. He married his college sweetheart, Cindy Silva, also a CSUF graduate. Friends remember Costner as a personable student who made friends easily and always enjoyed a good party.

“We used to gather around the piano, Kevin would grab the mike and we’d have some terrible jam sessions,” said Vickie Swanson, 37, of Anaheim, who was a member of Sigma Cappa sorority with Costner’s future wife. “He was the kind of guy that the guys loved to drink beer with.”

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Others, such as Bob Sandoval, president of the Delta Chi Alumni Assn., jokingly remembered Costner as a “troublemaker.”

“He was very charismatic and athletic, and he could get that frat to do whatever, whether it meant marching down the street to get their flag back from another frat,” Sandoval said. “He was the type of guy who you just had to make sure that he remembered the rules because he was willing to push it a little.”

Sandoval and others said Costner has remained loyal to his old college friends, sometimes inviting them to his home. A few years back, Sandoval said, Costner gave his old fraternity an advance copy of “No Way Out” for a Delta Chi fund-raiser.

“We presented him with a fake Oscar then and gave it to him,” Sandoval remembered. “We told him, ‘This is just a symbol of what is to come.’ ”

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Another CSUF graduate, Bob Gleason, 37, from Lake Arrowhead, remembered tutoring Costner in algebra when the two were students. He described Costner as “one of the most insightful people I’ve ever met.”

“He was very good at sizing up people and finding out what their interests were,” Gleason said. “He wasn’t afraid to get up and speak in front of people, and when Kevin got up to talk, people would listen--no matter what the issue was about.”

Gleason paused for a moment to clap for the first Oscar of the night for “Dances With Wolves,” an award for best sound.

“Guess he doesn’t have much use for algebra now,” he said, smiling. “Unless it’s to count his successes.”

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As part of his acceptance speech for the best picture Oscar, Costner mentioned his former classmates as among those who would never forget Monday night’s awards.

“The people I went to school with will never forget” he said, drawing a laugh from the audience.


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