Spring 2012

[Alumni News]

Valeria Van Zanten

98 Years Young

Valeria Van Zanten now Photo Courtesy of Alyssa Alvarez

On Aug. 19, 2013, Valeria Van Zanten, a 98-year-old Humboldt State University alumna, will celebrate her 100th birthday, the same year Humboldt State University reaches its centennial.

Van Zanten started at HSU in 1930 at 16.“It was Depression time, and we didn’t have very much money.” Van Zanten says. “I was very lucky to be able to go to school.” Van Zanten and a friend lived off-campus in an Arcata apartment with a monthly rent of about $17. “I recall attending HSU for a little over $25 per month,” Van Zanten says.

Valeria Van Zanten in the thirties Photo Courtesy of Alyssa Alvarez

The Crescent City, Calif., resident also recounts being excluded from a biology fieldtrip because of her gender. Van Zanten and a small group of young women were left behind in the biology lab to practice their taxidermy skills on an owl. The exclusion didn’t stop Van Zanten: She would go on to graduate with her Bachelor of Arts degree on May 25, 1934, and within two years was teaching her first class at Klamath Union School.

Van Zanten retired in 1973 at the age of 60, and traveled to Europe, Israel, Palestine, Syria and Peru. “All of my life, I was fascinated by Machu Picchu,” Van Zanten says. “To think that from the little farm and little school that I would one day stand at its base was just incredible to me.”

In April 2011, the Zeta Iota Chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization for women educators, recognized Van Zanten for 50 years of membership.

“I feel I’ve had a very good life,” Van Zanten says. “I had a career I enjoyed and many travel experiences. I couldn’t have done it without Humboldt State.”