Hail Montezuma! The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State

Aztec Timeline: A Chronology of All Things San Diego State

The past is tricky.  History is not linear, time is not separate from space, and, most of all, no singular narrative of the past is sufficient.  Nonetheless, a timeline can effectively highlight relative sequence.  In addition, it can show important trends on a broad scale.  This webpage augments Hail Montezuma!: The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State with a timeline that pinpoints important people, ideas, events, and cultural products of the last 115 years at San Diego State.  It provides extended historical context for the artifacts discussed in the book.  The individual moments vary greatly; some are institutional benchmarks, like the establishment of the San Diego Normal School in 1897 or the college’s move to Montezuma Mesa in 1931.  Other timeline highlights are more abstract, light-hearted, or strange.  Rest assured, there is a meaningful connection between San Diego State, the 1939 movie Beau Geste (starring Gary Cooper), and the first Star Wars movie trilogy, and another one between SDSU, the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the popular book series Windows for Dummies, and the 1987 first-amendment federal-court decision allowing university newspapers to publish unsigned editorials.  All of these associations, no matter how bizarre, surprising, or sublime, represent a complex network of connections established, driven, and embodied by San Diego State.

Even though the timeline primarily focuses on the university’s histories, it occasionally intersects with phenomena that are significant on a regional, national, or global level.  For example, JFK’s 1963 commencement address at State transcended the college.  Obviously, it was important to San Diego State; Kennedy’s appearance was the first and only visit to the campus by a sitting U.S. President.  It was also regionally significant in that the institution gave President Kennedy an honorary doctorate, the first ever awarded by a California State College.  The granting of this degree officially enabled San Diego State to develop joint doctoral programs, a cornerstone of the college’s research-based future.  In addition, Kennedy’s visit had global ramifications; it was one of his last public appearances before his assassination five months later.  A singular event united the school, the region, and the world.

Click on a year to view the significant events for that decade.