Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz/Professor of Anthropology
California State University, Chico/Chico, California 95929-0400
Telephone: 530-898-6220 [Office]; 530-898-6192 [Dept.] FAX: 530-898-6143
e-mail: and home page:

19 April 1991 [1]

[This page printed from]

© This paper was originally presented at the Twentieth Staff Council Luncheon at California State University, Chico, on April 19, 1991 and the specific content of the presentation has not been modified since that date except for the creating of the various "links" in this version; this was placed on the WWW on May 1, 1996.



Thank you very much for inviting me here today to join you in this happy occasion, this 20th Annual Staff Council Luncheon. At the time of the worst financial crisis in the state's history, here I am today trying to make an uplifting presentation. I've received numerous positive comments from individuals leading up to today's presentation and if I can make this presentation a positive and uplifting one (and I hope I can), I may become an inspirational writer in my spare time!

I will explain "The Icing on the Cake" as I continue, or perhaps the "Icing On The Cake(s) would be more appropriate. Perhaps a sub-title for this presentation could be considered "Food Is Love."



I've been a member of the faculty since Aug 1973 (Valene Smith interviewed me for the job here) and over the years I've formed the theory that the University contributes heavily to downtown food shops: both eating downtown and bringing goodies back to campus: food is love!

When the Urbanowicz family arrived in Chico in July 1973, Alice Briggs was the Anthropology department secretary and our son (9 months old at the time of my first visit to the Department) crawled on rug in the Anthropology Department Office. Incidentally, it was 117 degrees the day we came to town in an un-airconditioned car. What an introduction to Chico!

Back to Alice. I'll never forget, Alice once told me that she was so embarrassed when we first visited the Department in 1973: son's legs got filthy from the Department rug! Alice is gone now, but many of us continue to have fond memories of her. Son is much older and last year the Anthropology Department all chipped and got a clean new rug for ourselves! Definitely not paid for with state dollars! The times move along.

Remembering people, remembering warmth & good times is very important, and sharing in festivities such as this Awards Luncheon to honor the various staff and the particular Employee of the year (chosen from a list of incredibly well-qualified individuals) is a very important part of our lives.

By remembering Alice and others who are no longer with us, by taking part in this honor-luncheon, we communicate emotions and ideas and information with one another and communication is vital for survival. By remembering and sharing we overcome distances created by time.



There are a few of you out there who have been one of my students or perhaps you went to one of the public lectures (the Anthropology Department forum on Thursdays organized by Professor Tom Johnson); anyway, there are some of you out there who are probably wondering, "how is he going to talk to us today without a film? without slides? or, heavens sake, without a transparency?" I like transparencies!!

Well, in my opinion, every instructor is a storyteller: we tell stories and we try to convey information that might be of value to those who have to listen to us: students, staff, colleagues, or, anyone! Today I am going to share a few stories with you, attempt to convey/share some information with you; but first I would like to ask all of you to close your eyes and begin to visualize a seven-layered cake; a gorgeous seven-layer cake. If I had a transparency machine I would use it because I have used a similar idea in classes.

Please begin to visualize a seven-layer cake, created like a pyramid - or as some purists might say, like a ziggurat; we have a broad base on the seven-layer cake, and gradually it rises to the highest and seventh layer, each layer resting upon the one below it.

Closing your eyes for a minute or so, please create that mental image of the seven-layer cake if you will: At the base, the broadest part of the cake (supporting all which follows) is the GREATER COMMUNITY OF CHICO. The greater Chico Urban area if you will.

Next up, on a slightly smaller level resting solidly on that first level we have the CHICO CAMPUS SETTING AND BUILDINGS. One layer up in Charlie's cake are the specific LOCATIONS in any campus building. Next up on my cake, we have the STUDENTS who are in attendance or work at the various campus locations. We then come to the fifth level, beginning the icing on the cake. This the STAFF/FACULTY level of my Cake:

We all operate within the greater community of Chico, working in specific campus buildings, maintaining the specific locations on the campus, so the students can attend classes and do student-things and if you still have your eyes closed, please open them and look around, for you are all part of the icing on the cake: 969 staff of this wonderful institution that is Chico.

I take the liberty of mixing faculty & staff together: consulting my trusty Webster's, in addition to the Military/Naval definition of staff as " body of officers without command authority, appointed to assist a commanding officer" (I like that "without command authority") Webster also defines staff as "a body of persons charged with carrying out the work of an establishment or executing some undertaking."

We are all the staff for California State University, Chico: 969 individuals perhaps as "staff-staff" and 1077 faculty-staff. Paraphrasing Walt Kelly: we have met the staff, and it is us!

As the icing on the cake out there, in addition to your daily responsibilities on this campus, you are artists, announcers, and athletes; degree-holders as well degree-seekers; you have been the Mayor of this Community and you are the United Way; you are the Boy Scouts as well as blood-donors; you are CPR-trained; Red-Cross supporters and you are dedicated individuals.

Regardless of the labels that some may place upon you, we are all professional men and women, and with that in mind, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that Trudy Waldroop, the Department of Anthropology Secretary, is having a fantastic year as the President of the California Federation of Business & Professional Women!

Returning back to my cake, if you were counting levels, you'll note that I've only covered 5-layers: from the general location (the very broad base) to the fifth layer of the icing. My seven-layered cake (which I use in my mind's eye to try and understand this place at times) includes two alternative versions for the remaining layers: In the first version, version "A," we have the sixth layer of MANAGEMENT in my cake and we then have the seventh layer: the PRESIDENT at the top.

If this were a wedding cake, perhaps you could visualize the top figures on the cake as the figurehead and the layer just below the Mr. & Mrs. as the fancy decorations on the cake, but it's not a wedding cake: it is just an analogy that I use to try and create a visual image to tell a story about this place. The President is not a figurehead: he is in charge and sets the tone of this institution (although he may chuckle at that "in charge" aspect since there are Trustees and Legislators and a certain Pete Wilson who think that they are in charge of things!); and MANAGEMENT in Charlie's cake are not fancy decorations, but they also set the tone of the institution.

Incidentally, when I was working on this part I took the occasion to look up some words from the brilliant 18th Century satirist, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) that I'd like to share with you:

So Nat'ralists observe, a Flea
Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.

There is a pecking order everywhere!

In Charlie's version of the "A" cake we have a seven-layered cake, with the base being the most important part of the cake: for it supports the entire cake but that is only partially correct: to have a magnificent cake, all seven layers must fit perfectly and it must be balanced. The cake must rest one-upon-the-other in an integrated package to make a "pretty picture" and all seven layers in the cake are essential for having a balanced cake, for having an excellent existence.

I've used a layer-analogy in my Social Science class on tourism to discuss the components of a tourist destination and I've used the layer-analogy to discuss stratified societies around the world. What is important in the "layered-look" is to remember the following statement that deals with a stratified society in England in the year 1066: "And each of them," that is, each of the individuals at the various layers, from the King through the Earls down to the Serfs or slaves: "And each of them, without exception, owed duties to the others above and below him [David Howarth, 1977, 1066: The Year of the Conquest, page 14]."

Duties and obligations in England required tithes and working the land and in Chico, duties and obligations should include clear lines of communication and information sharing, especially in these times. We are not a cake: we are an institution of higher learning, and we are all in this together. People are an integral part of the Chico campus experience.

We exist in this environment by sharing information, that most important product of humanity: from the earliest foragers/gatherers/hunters who shared information on how to survive in the world of nature to contemporary human being who share information in the world of culture. In order to survive and succeed, we exist in this environment by sharing information, that most important product of humanity. Richard Saul Wurman wrote some excellent and thought-provoking words in his 1989 publication entitled Information Anxiety; he stated (and the words are most appropriate for a food-suggestive idea):

"The information we ingest shapes our personalities, contributes to the ideas we formulate, and colors our view of the world [Richard Saul Wurman, 1989, Information Anxiety, page 204]."

Permit me to leave cake and food for just a moment and expand on information and, perhaps much more importantly, communication. The word communication comes from the Latin communico, meaning to share and to quote from a leading communications expert:

"We do not send messages; we always share them. Messages are not goods or commodities, which can be exchanged or sent from one person to another. ... We can communicate with one another in this world . . . only inasmuch we can share sign-usage [Colin Cherry, 1978, On Human Communicattion: A Review, Survey, And A Criticism, 3rd edition, page 30]."

Communication then, is not a one-way street: communication is simply not sending out messages or memos and thinking that all is understood; it is not just sending out "information" as to what may be occurring on campus, for to have true communication we must "share" information. A leading French Anthropologist of this century theorized that in any exchange situation, to have a successful relationship, we need three components: giving (or sending the message), receiving or (acknowledging the message), and eventually repayment (sending another message back or sharing information with the person or people who sent you the initial message).

In essence, just because we simply send messages out there, don't think they are being communicated! (And I am not even going to get into the subject of mis-communication save to say that please remember that we constantly communicate of several levels simultaneously: we communicate with words and body language and clothing and posture and dress and who knows, by pheromones! Mis-communication comes when we read the wrong signal and then problems can develop, but that is a another story.)

When we have the correct facts (or the latest facts) at our disposal (at our fingertips so to speak) ideas flow better. When we have the necessary facts, we don't have to waste time hunting up the information: we can work with the information immediately. When we can share that information, really communicate, when we can put the information on a network (so to speak), we can share it with as many individuals that are on the network and we can get feedback from appropriate individuals in response to that initial information.

One drawback about networked information or E-mail: if we get all of our information on this campus via E-mail, we possibly can forget that there are real human beings behind those electronic blips, and sometimes (perhaps most of the time) the nuances of verbal communications (a sigh, an intonation, or a raised eyebrow) simply cannot be conveyed by the electronic medium. If we get all of our messages by the printed memo, we can tend to forget the person behind the thoughts behind the words and unless the sender is super-clear in her or his writing style, mis-communication can occur there. If any of us get all of our information from a single channel, then we can get "channelized" so to speak.

Please think of what sort of picture of the cake would be formed in certain minds if the people who do not work on campus got all of their information about the campus from any single source, be it Herb Caen, the ER, CN&R, gossip, or simply knowing a single person who works here. Just think of what sort of picture of the cake is formed in the minds of people who do work on campus if they received all of this information from a single source!

Just as life must be savored in its entirety, in its fullness, information should be received in its entirety: in its context. Information must come from various sources, and borrowing the letters from Trudy's BPW (Business and Professional Women) I advocate PBWA: Peopling By Walking About! People are an integral part of the Chico campus experience.



Let me say a few words in reference to the wonderful people who have made up and who continue to make up the team of this institution: We are a team; and we work together to make things happen. At times, and perhaps there are more times than we can count, sometimes we are at the mercy of elements beyond our control, but we all do the best we can, or, let me say, we all attempt to do the best we can. Someone has asked and responded as follows:

"Do grown men [or individuals] weep? Sure. Should grown men weep? Of course. Anyone in touch with reality in this world knows there are lots of reasons to weep. We weep over triumphs and over tragedies. Most good people weep over admirable actions and deplorable ones [Max DePree, 1989, Leadership Is An Art, page 123]."

As stated earlier, speaking at a time when California is having the worst fiscal crisis in its history, I did some reading while trying to be inspired myself so I wouldn't cry. I came across a poem from 1584 by Thomas Hudson:

Have ye pain? So likewise pain have we;
For in one boat we both imbarked be."

We are all in this together and, fortunately and perhaps unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. I was once interested in Science Fiction, the words of the gifted author Poul Anderson are also somewhat appropriate for our times:

"I have yet to see any problem, however complicated,
which when you looked at it in the right way
did not become still more complicated."

This may not be reassuring, but hopefully it places some things into some type of perspective.

I mentioned Alice Briggs who died a few years ago. Death has also been with us this past year; some people I knew and some I didn't: Doc Petersen has died; Hutch died; McIntosh died; the individual who built this building, namely, Art Acker died; plant operations has lost someone; and the student body itself has been diminished. One of my students from the Fall died in January 1991 and it did affect me. Within the past year I believe that the university, my version of the cake, is the lesser for their deaths for they all contributed to the building of it: they were all an integral part of the Chico campus experience.



Some of the 1929 words of Alfred North Whitehead [1861-1947], from his The Aims of Education are worth quoting: "The task of a university is to weld together imagination and experience" and this is what I see on this campus: imagination and experience working together in so many ways to create a quality educational environment for the students and staff of this institution.

One of the positive benefits of teaching is that one has the opportunity to meet so many interesting people. Early this semester a re-entry student, as she described herself to me, came to see me. She had graduated from the College in the late '50s and hadn't been back on this campus until the Fall of 1990 and her exact words to me were: she "felt like Rip Van Winkle." When I asked about her Professors from back then, she stated that "they're all buildings now!"

I wonder how many of us will be fortunate to be remembered as a building thirty-plus years from now? Unfortunately, I don't think there are enough buildings or locations or benches or crosswalks for all of us who work on campus. We all deserve to be recognized for we are all part of fantastic cake that is Chico.

I would like to end by going to my version "B" of the cake: earlier I described version "A" of my 7-layered cake, from the GREATER COMMUNITY, to the CAMPUS SETTING AND BUILDINGS, to specific campus LOCATIONS, to STUDENTS, then to the STAFF/FACULTY LEVEL.

On the sixth level of Charlie's "B Cake", we have the 115 INDIVIDUALS to be honored today for their numerous years of dedicated service to this institution and on the seventh, and final level, we have our EMPLOYEE-OF-THE-YEAR! This is another version of my cake! Look around you and please congratulate yourselves again: all-of-you are not only the icing on the cake but you are the very essence of the cake itself!

Again, thank you very much for inviting me here today to share this very important day with you. Thanks very much for allowing me to share my recipe with you.

# # #

[1] © [All Rights Reserved] PLEASE NOTE that this paper was originally presented at the Twentieth Staff Council Luncheon at California State University, Chico, on April 19, 1991 and the specific content of the presentation has not been modified since that date except for the creating of the various "links" in this version; this was placed on the WWW on May 1, 1996. Urbanowicz may be contacted by e-mail by clicking here. To return to the INTRODUCTION, please click here.

[This page printed from]
About Professor Charles F. Urbanowicz

Anthropology Department HOME PAGE

College of Behavioral and Social Science HOME PAGE

California State University, Chico HOME PAGE

# # #