A College Graduates to University : Education: Chapman College is no more, and in its place is a liberal arts school with expanded programs. Faculty, alumni and students celebrate the rite of passage.


What does it mean for a college to change its name to university?

For one thing, Chapman College pennants, sweat shirts and beer holders are now on sale at 50% off. For another, it seemed a good reason for a party--featuring sky divers and a jazz band--to unveil the new Chapman University sign Tuesday.

But as the small, private liberal arts school officially entered its 131st academic year with a new name, Chapman University’s new president made a point of reaffirming the old college’s chief aim: the education of each of its 2,300 students.

“Every great academic institution has a distinctive mission,” President James L. Doti told more than 500 faculty, students and alumni at the colorful convocation ceremony. “Ours is rooted in the primacy of the individual, where a highly personalized education takes place to prepare the whole person for the whole world.”


The switch to Chapman University was approved by the board of trustees in April, but was delayed until this fall so as not to confuse students applying to the college. Its pros and cons had long been debated. Opponents were finally convinced by a marketing survey showing that many Californians confused the college with the state’s two-year community colleges. A university title was also seen as a way to attract more students to the campus’s professional programs.

Public relations aside, for Doti and many other faculty, the new name is only the formal recognition of an evolution starting in the 1940s and 1950s, as the college began to offer professional programs, master’s degrees and certificates.

“We have been a university for some time, and it’s high time we recognize that fact,” Doti said.

Tuesday was also the first presidential address by the 44-year-old Doti, who was named Chapman’s 12th president in June after the end of the stormy two-year presidency of Allen E. Koenig. Doti was greeted with a standing ovation, rousing cheers and the kind of spirited clapping more often heard echoing in football bleachers.


The popular professor of economics and founder of Chapman’s highly respected economic forecasting center seemed embarrassed as he waved the audience to be seated. Turning to trustees assembled behind him on the podium, then to the faculty and staff, he said: “Please know I’m going to do everything I can to earn your trust.”

Students and professors seemed universally bullish on both the new president and name as they sampled the free eats under pink and red balloons in the main campus quadrangle.

“It’s wonderful,” Martin Torres, a junior from Fresno who is studying to become a musical conductor, said of the switch. “It’ll give us an advantage over colleges in attracting students. I might even try to get into a master’s program!”

Senior Desiree Wilson, 20, a dance education major from Fountain Valley, will be in the first graduating class of Chapman University. But she remains a little nostalgic for the old Chapman College T-shirts and memorabilia.


“After all,” she said with a grin, “it’s 50% off.”

Choir director William Hall had a special plea for poets as the Chapman College anthem was sung for the last time: “We need you to write a new hymn to Chapman University, and we’ll see that it’s set to the right notes.”