This May marks another first for Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong. He and his wife, Sharon, will have resided in the University House on campus for one year. After a relocation process that began in February 2011, Armstrong has finally settled into his on-campus home.
Originally constructed in 1928, the 5,089 square-foot house was newly renovated last year before the Armstrongs moved in. Prior to the move, the house had been unoccupied since former Cal Poly President Warren Baker moved out seven years ago.
“It’s been great,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong compared it to any other time you move into a new house.
“You get used to it,” he said. “It was a very easy adjustment.”
The two-story Cal Poly-owned home sits atop a hill adjacent to the Health Center. Armstrong said living on campus has strengthened his relationship with Cal Poly students and the school in general.
“It’s (a) very accessible walk to events,” Armstrong said. “(One) night, I was working until 6 or 6:15, and (I) was able to walk home, grab dinner with my wife and then, we were at the basketball game.”
For Armstrong, living on campus was definitely the right decision.
“Cal Poly is a very student-centered campus,” he said. “Student success is our main priority — that’s true for everyone. Living on campus makes so much sense.”
Armstrong’s chief of staff Betsy Kinsley said he is adjusting to San Luis Obispo well.
“(Armstrong and Sharon) really take advantage of living on campus,” Kinsley said — Armstrong works out at the Recreation Center daily and attends the Cal Poly men’s and women’s sporting events whenever possible.
Having been to the University House for various functions, Kinsely said the atmosphere is very comfortable and nice.
“(They’re) very warm and welcoming,” Kinsley said. “You feel like you’re in someone’s home even though they do a lot of entertaining in their space.”
Kinsley also said having Armstrong living on campus enabled him to have a stronger connection with students. According to Kinsley, Armstrong will walk around campus and “he’ll just start talking to students.”
“I was walking on campus yesterday, and (I) ran into two different tours of students,” he said. “One fifth grade student said, ‘Are you the principal?’ (to which I replied), ‘Well yea, that’s a good way to put it.'”
Without hesitation, Armstrong said his favorite part about living on campus is being in such close proximity to everything.
“My favorite part about living on campus is being able to walk to work and walk to events and (being) able to interact with students on a random basis — (a) random occasion,” Armstrong said.
Just the other day, Armstrong received an email from a student he played basketball with who had questions about the Student Success Fee. This is just one example he gave for why living on campus has contributed to him having a better connection with the school as a whole.
While living on campus might be thought of as having its pros and cons, Armstrong said they’ve only had a couple of minor things happen — the “kinds of things can happen anywhere,” he said.
Armstrong said it’s part of the normal things that come with living in a neighborhood.
“We sit up on top of the hill,” he said. “During the day, you can hear the children in the day care center, (and) at night, you can hear the older students. Sometimes we hear the students on a Thursday or Friday night.”
Overall though, he considers it to be a very quiet house.
Armstrong and his wife have also added some decorative touches to make it more of a home.
“We’ve added some of our furniture,” Armstrong said. “We have bedrooms upstairs that (have) pictures of our two adult children. We have one of the bedrooms upstairs that we can get away in and read or watch TV.”
Along with being the home of the school’s presidents, the University House is also the venue for many school events including student government meetings and various dinners throughout the year. When they have in-laws or relatives come and visit, Armstrong said they stay upstairs if he and Sharon host an event.
Recreation, parks and tourism administration sophomore Ashleigh Allard has been to the University House for one such event.
“It was just a really warm (atmosphere) — they’re very inviting,” Allard said. “I’ve seen him in the Starbucks line a couple of times and walking in the University Union to and from meetings. (Living on campus) is convenient for him.”
Just like Armstrong, Sharon has also enjoyed living in the University House and has her own responsibilities.
“She has meetings on campus from time to time,” Armstrong said. “Not nearly (at) the frequency that I do (though). She (has) meetings with university personnel to talk about events at our house (and) planning for events at other locations.”
Prior to living in San Luis Obispo, Armstrong lived in Michigan where he was the dean of agriculture at Michigan State University.
“(We) miss some of our friends and our adult children,” Armstrong said. “They’ve been out here numerous times.”
According to Armstrong, their children visit every other month.
“With a couple of trips we’ve made, we’ve stayed in really good contact with our family and friends,” he said. “We’ve supplemented with travel.”
So far, Armstrong seems to be enjoying San Luis Obispo.
“San Luis Obispo is just a beautiful area,” Armstrong said. “It’s a really exciting community; it’s a very warm and open community. We’ve had many people be nice to us and they didn’t know who we were, it’s just a part of their DNA.”
“I often tell groups it’s not just the climate that’s warm (in San Luis Obispo), it’s the people,” he said.