San Diego State University Oral Histories



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Dr. Thomas Day, Former President

Dr. Thomas Day

Thomas Day graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science in Physics.  In 1957, Day completed a Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell University.  Later, he began working at the University of Maryland in College Park, first as a research assistant and later as a professor in the physics department, specializing in theoretical and experimental physics.  In 1970, Day became the Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and Policy at the College Park campus.  Eventually, he was appointed the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the Baltimore campus.  

In 1978, Day moved to San Diego and became the sixth President of San Diego State University. Although controversial among students, faculty and staff for tuition increases and faculty lay-offs, Day's eighteen-year tenure saw the creation of six joint doctoral programs. He also lobbied for affirmative action and promoted a "teacher-scholar" model, emphasizing faculty research.  This focus on research greatly increased the number of grant contracts for San Diego State University.  In addition, Day expanded the SDSU campus, creating a School of Public Health, the School of Communication, and a North County campus, which eventually became CSU San Marcos. 

Dr. Day retired in 1996.

Oral History

Download the PDF transcript.

Dr. Thomas Day 's oral history documents his early childhood, and his academic and professional careers. His oral history is divided into four parts. In Part 1, Day discusses his early life growing up in New York City and attending several boarding schools and summer camp. The second portion of Dr. Day's oral history details his work at the University of Maryland, both as a professor and an administrator. In Part 3, the largest of the four parts, Day examines his presidency at SDSU, focusing on the administration of and the difficulties associated with running a large California State University campus, including budget cuts, tuition increases, and campus expansion. In the fourth part, Day concludes his oral history by discussing his family of nine children, reflecting on their accomplishments and successes.

Interview recorded on audio tape by Susan Resnik, Ph.D on August 14 - 15, 2006.

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