Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry at SDSU
Lutherans and Episcopalians have partnered in campus ministry at SDSU since 1952, when a Lutheran graduate student volunteered to contact students out of an office at St. Dunstan Episcopal Church (then located where the SDSU Transit Center is now). From 1954 to 1962, a series of interns from St. Luke Lutheran Church in La Mesa offered Lutheran Campus Ministry on a half-time basis. Negotiations to purchase the present property and facility began in 1960 by Pastor Gottfried Hoffman from St. Luke Lutheran Church and Pastor George Nelson from Calvary Lutheran Church.
The Lutheran Campus Council of San Diego held its organizing meeting on September 25, 1962 and was incorporated on November 20, 1962. Pastor Rolland “Ole” Hammerness (1961-64) was called as the first full-time campus pastor in 1962. The current property at 5863 Hardy Avenue was bought on May 9, 1963 and expanded to its present size in 1964. Subsequent campus ministers include David Quarberg (1965), Jim Nessheim (1966-80), Joseph Weiss (1981-84), Richard Elliott (1985-98), Pam Howard (1998-2001) and Molly Knutson-Keller (2001-2009). Since 2009, our campus pastor is Darin Johnson, and our diaconal minister is Melissa James since 2017.
Wednesday night dinner is a tradition with origins in the 1960’s, which led us to organize to improve access to food and housing as student hunger and homelessness grew in the 2010’s. Begun in 2004, the Annual Chili Cook-Off now raises 10-20% of the annual ministry fund. Many alumni remember the swimming pool in various states of 'experimentation'. In 2010 we replaced it with a 21-foot diameter prayer labyrinth, which expanded our patio area by 350 square feet and added seating for 21. An apple tree and two avocado trees were planted in 2010 as part of an ongoing communal garden project. Six raised planting beds for vegetables and fruit were installed in 2013.
Discerning a call to create systemic change to improve student access to affordable housing while also strengthening the long-term sustainability of campus ministry, Agape House is developing plans to replace the small, beloved, aging house with a much expanded new campus ministry center, including housing for up to 50 student residents in a community setting, plus staff space and gathering spaces for up to 150.
San Diego State University
Originating in 1897, San Diego State Normal School became San Diego State Teachers College in the 1920′s and began offering four-year baccalaureate degrees. In 1935, the name was changed to San Diego State College and became San Diego State University in 1970 (the same year that SDSU founded the first Women’s Studies program in the nation). Offering 191 different bachelor, master and doctoral degree programs, 2015 enrollment at SDSU was 36,160, making it the largest university in San Diego and the fifth largest in California. In 2017 83,000 applied to SDSU and about 6,000 were admitted with an average GPA of 3.85. SDSU offers 21 doctoral degree programs (the most in the California State University system), and has been ranked the number one small research university in the U.S. several years in a row. One in seven San Diegans with a college degree attended SDSU, and it ranks among the top ten universities nationwide in ethnic and racial diversity of students. In 2015 the new Student Union was dedicated, and in 2016 SDSU Foundation began the South Campus expansion with student housing for 650 and a public parking structure adjacent to Agape House. Dr. Adela de la Torre became SDSU's first woman president in 2018.
SDSU recognizes Agape House as an official student organization and as one of the Cooperative Campus Religious Centers, which collaborates on Summer Orientation and the Resource Fair for Resident Advisors.
SDSU's Controversial Mascot and Architecture
Initially known unofficially as the "Wampus Cats," the nickname “Aztecs” was adopted in 1925 when male students were admitted, and scarlet and black became the official colors in 1928. “Montezuma” debuted in a half-time skit at a football game in 1941, and the Aztec Warrior became the official mascot in 2003. The new mascot was met with controversy and criticism especially as the rationale denied the ongoing existence of true Aztec people and culture elsewhere (in what is now known as central México), coupled with the occupation of Kumeyaay land, and the selection of Spanish colonial mission style architecture.
In 2014 the Queer People of Color Collective presented a resolution to Associated Students to change the mascot, which failed 25-1. In Spring 2017 the Native American Student Association (NASA) set forth a resolution to retire the mascot and moniker. The resolution cited the Civil Rights Act of 1964, State of California's Education Code, the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Executive Order 1097 of the chancellor of the CUS system, the American Psychological Association, and other prominent organizations. Stating, "No individual or school has a cognizable interest in retaining a racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team name, mascot, or nickname"(State of California Education Code Title 1, Division 1, Part 1, Chapter 2, Article 3.5 [221.1]), the resolution was approved unanimously by the Student Diversity Commission (SDC) but was not approved by the SDSU Student Council by a vote of 12-14 with one abstention. Following approval of a subsequent resolution from the University Senate, Interim President Sally Roush formed a Task Force in Spring 2017 to research replacing the SDSU mascot and moniker, concluding with the decision to maintain the "Aztec" moniker and refer to it as "spirit leader."