California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) officially cut the ribbon and dedicated the Naomi Rainey House on Thursday, Nov. 1, renaming Residence Hall C at the campus’ Hillside College in honor of the support and efforts of university alumna Naomi Rainey.
It is certainly an appropriate location for the Rainey House as she lived in Residence Hall C when she was an undergraduate student at the college back in the late 1960s and early '70s.
“The fact that Naomi Rainey is establishing this scholarship tells me that she both valued and enjoyed her experience living on campus. It also tells me that she joins us in recognizing the value of living on campus, particularly the value of living on this campus,” said Carol Roberts-Corb, CSULB’s director of housing and residential life. “Because of her gift, future residents will have the opportunity to learn, to grown and to engage in our university in ways that students who don’t live on campus are unable to. Because of her gift, students will most likely have greater academic success. Because of her gift, students will most likely stay here at CSULB and receive their degree.
“So, this gift is certainly no small thing, both for us here in housing and the future residents of C building, her former residence,” Roberts-Corb continued. “Naomi’s gift will be used to help future students offset the cost of living on campus. We’re so very, very thankful and appreciative that she is choosing to honor our students this way.”
The dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony included several speakers, including two former CSULB undergraduate students—Desiree Hernandez and Uduak Ntuk—who were recipients of the campus’ Rainey-Pierson Scholarship, which was established more than 20 years ago; CSULB President F. King Alexander; and Douglas Robinson, CSULB vice president for student affairs who served as the master of ceremonies for the event.
“This is a very significant event in the history of this wonderful university as it marks the first time an official naming of a facility has been designated in the honor of an African-American who is an alumnus of this institution,” Robinson noted in opening the program.
Robinson said the gift agreement between the university and Rainey-Pierson stipulates that there be no public disclosure of the amount of her gift. However, he did point out that the gift is very significant and that it will benefit hundreds of students for many years to come.
“This is a fantastic honor for me to name this part of the facility, where she lived as a student, after Naomi Rainey,” President Alexander said. “(Her support) shows other students that not only contributing back to the university is important, but contributing to your community, staying close to your public schools, staying close to everybody who knows what you are committed to as a great leader in this city.
“Naomi has always been a friend and she has always been there to help us. The list is endless throughout the years on how many things she has worked on with the university,” Alexander added. “She has always been a phone call away, whether it’s helping our students, whether it’s helping with scholarship support. She has always been there on our side.”
Rainey earned a bachelor of arts degree in theatre arts and a minor in black studies from CSULB in 1972. She went on to earn two master’s degrees in education from the university—the first with an emphasis in reading and curriculum development in 1980 and the second with an emphasis in school administration and supervision in 1982. She also has seven teaching credentials.
“I am humbled, and I am honored today,” Rainey said. “CSULB helped to make me a whole person; a well-rounded person. From this university, I received far more than an excellent education. I was welcomed. I was included, nurtured and my voice was heard.
“My reason for supporting this fine institution is to show that I appreciate all that I received here, and hopefully to motivate others to do the same—to give back,” she added, noting that her support also carries out the desires and wishes expressed in her late husband’s trust—the Paul Pierson Trust. “I truly hope that my support of CSULB will allow other young students to have the exciting experiences and the kinds of support I received, but especially the experience of living on campus in the dorms.”
After earning her undergraduate degree from CSULB, Rainey began her career in education, finding work as a substitute teacher in the Long Beach and Compton school districts. Her first full-time job, however, was with CSULB’s Educational Opportunity Program.
From there, she worked for the Compton Unified School District for 17 years (1977-1994), serving as a program manager for the University College Program for three years, the supervisor for School and Community Relations for two years, and as an assistant to the superintendent for communications and community affairs for her last six years there.
In late 1994, she became an assistant high school principal for the Long Beach Unified School District, for which she worked until she retired in 2003. In all, she devoted more than 30 years to education, and she continues to contribute to this day.
A philanthropist and community advocate, Rainey has been president of the Long Beach chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 2000, and under her direction, the group has grown from 250 to 1,000 members.
Rainey has received more than 35 special recognition awards, including the Press-Telegram’s Community Hero’s Award, California Conference for Equality and Justice’s Gene Lentzer’s Human Relations Award, a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the CSULB College of Education as well as special recognition from former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In addition, she has been presented with the heritage Award from the Aquarium of the Pacific and the city of Long Beach’s Martin Luther King Peacemaker Award.