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    Former ‘first lady’ of Cal State Fullerton honored
    • March 14, 2024

    In honor of their accomplishments in their respective fields and their service and support of the university, Cal State Fullerton recognized four Distinguished Alumni and two Honorary Alumni on Feb. 24 as the 2024 CSUF Vision & Visionaries Award recipients. Established in 1994, the biennial awards are the highest honors presented by CSUF to alumni and community supporters.

    As former dean of the College of Extended and International Education and professor of anthropology at Cal State Dominguez Hills from 1998 to 2012, Margaret Faulwell Gordon introduced several innovative programs that left a legacy of prioritizing access to higher education.

    But the Titan community knows her best as former first lady to Cal State Fullerton for more than two decades, serving alongside her husband, President Emeritus Milton A. Gordon, during his time as the university’s fourth president from 1990 to 2011.

    In honor of her time at CSUF, which left an indelible mark on the campus community and helped to move the institution forward, Gordon has been named a 2024 CSUF Vision & Visionaries Honorary Alumni award winner.

    Gordon was born in San Diego and later moved with her family to Los Angeles. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from UCLA before heading to Chicago where she accepted a teaching position at Chicago State University. There, she met her husband, Milton, who served as the university’s dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

    The couple headed west to California as Gordon’s husband became the vice president for academic affairs at Sonoma State University in 1986 and then president at CSUF in 1990. While serving as first lady at CSUF, she held her roles as dean and professor at CSUDH.

    Michael Faulwell Gordon accepts a 2024 Vision & Visionaries award on behalf of his mother, Margaret. (Courtesy of CSUF News Media Services)

    Gordon’s passion for anthropology was rooted in a love for language and linguistics, and when her grandmother became ill, she became interested in the way in which she was being treated. While in Chicago, she went back to school for her master’s degree in public health and brought curiosity and enthusiasm for topics around aging and health care with her to CSUDH.

    An esteemed leader in higher education, and specifically within CSU, Gordon loved her roles at CSUDH. But she had an equal commitment to her responsibility as first lady at CSUF. She joined her husband at events whenever possible, from athletic games to arts performances – anything that celebrated the students and faculty on campus.

    The pair hosted many events at their home during this time, including welcoming the Titan students in the Guardian Scholars and President’s Scholars programs, gatherings that Gordon recalls as “special moments.” All of the CSUF events were meaningful, but her favorites were the graduation ceremonies.

    “I really enjoyed graduation,” Gordon said. “It was very special. You see all these students, many of them first-time graduates, and their families here. It was just a very exciting time.”

    Gordon felt that the visibility of the university’s president to students and staff was of crucial importance, and she accompanied her husband every chance she could to help make that possible.

    “My particular role probably was mostly the events at Cal State Fullerton that I could attend, along with my husband, and it was so wonderful,” Gordon said. “I think it was good that the president’s family is visible, so the campus knows the president is an actual person. I think it makes a big difference.”

    The Gordons have made several gifts to CSUF in support of a variety of organizations, including MAMM Alliance for the Performing Arts, the African American Faculty and Staff Association and the President Milton A. Gordon and Dr. Margaret Faulwell Gordon Endowed Scholarship at CSUF, established in 2018 to honor her husband’s legacy.

    “I think education and accessibility to education is extremely important,” Gordon said. “Neither Milton or I would have gotten where we were without it, and I think that insofar as is possible, it feels good to give back.”

    Gordon was widely loved and respected by the Titan community and could often be seen talking to students and staff during her time on campus. She is humbled to be named a 2024 CSUF Vision & Visionaries Honorary Alumni award winner.

    “I’m extremely honored by it,” Gordon said of the award. “To me, Cal State Fullerton holds such a special place in our lives. And now to have received that reward … it was quite meaningful. I can’t really express it. I was not expecting it.”

    During Gordon’s time at CSUF she not only served as a support to her husband in his role as president but she gave selflessly of her time and energy, investing in the campus and inspiring the community. And she remained dedicated to moving the university forward in the areas of accessibility and diversity.

    “I think being a Titan means that you are involved,” Gordon said. “It’s more than just wearing ‘Titan’ across your sweatshirt. It means that you share your life. I think Cal State Fullerton embodies that in a way that I don’t necessarily see in every university. … It just seems so special there.”

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    ​ Orange County Register