50 Years of Service
Influential administrator awarded honorary doctorate
As vice president for studentdevelopment, Elmo Natali ’53 was called the “tone and pulse” of CaliforniaState College.
Now his alma mater has awarded him anhonorary doctorate in recognition of his dedication to students, his decades ofservice, and his lasting legacy at the University.
The University’s Council of Trusteesapproved the honorary doctorate, noting that Natali served California over a50-year span as a student-athlete, teacher, coach, dean and vice president.
The Doctor of Humane Letters, [honoris causa,] was delivered directlyto Natali, 91, who resides withfamily members in Virginia.
About Elmo Natali
Natali was born in 1927 in Gallatin, Pa. He graduated from Monessen High School and attended California State Teachers College from 1950 to 1953, making a name for himself as a student-athlete. He earned a master’s degree from West Virginia University in 1958.
As a standout running back on the Vulcans football team, Natali helped “Cal State” finish the 1951 season by competing in the prestigious Pythian Bowl. He capped his football career by being drafted into the National Football League by legendary head coach Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns.
From 1953 to 1961, Natali was a classroom teacher and assistant football coach at Monongahela (Pa.) Junior High School. He continued coaching during his tenure as elementary supervisor of the Monongahela School District from 1961 to 1962.
Natali returned to California State College in 1962 and remained until 1966 as a professor of education and assistant football coach.
After a brief stint at Community College of Broward County, Fla., he returned to California in 1967 to rejoin the football staff and work with students as assistant dean of men and then dean of men, a role he held for seven years. He also volunteered as the Vulcans’ head football coach from 1973 through 1976.
Natali became California’s vice president for student development in 1977. He is remembered for a firm-but-fair approach that enabled California to become a premier academic and athletic institution.
“He was called ‘the tone and pulse of the campus’ for his ability to talk with students and really understand what their problems and issues were,” University President Geraldine Jones says.
“It was said that his complete dedication to the University made it a better place then, and the place it is now.”
Natali retired in 1992.
He received many accolades during his career at California, including the Alumni Association’s 1983 John R. Gregg Award for Loyalty and Service. The University retired his football jersey number, 34, and inducted him into the inaugural class of the Cal U Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.
His name and photo are visible in the Elmo Natali Student Center.
“Elmo Natali’s commitment to California University and our students certainly exemplifies the University’s core values of integrity, civility and responsibility,” says President Jones.
“While we can never repay Mr. Natali for all he has done for the University, we hope that this honorary doctorate will let him know that we truly appreciate all he has done for our University and, particularly, for our students.”
— By Bruce Wald ’85, information writer at Cal U