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A Timeline of Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, 1995-2016

To view an interactive timeline with images and other archival items, please visit http://ikedalibrary.soka.edu/timeline


1991 (January) -- Established by Soka University of America (SUA) founder Daisaku Ikeda, the Pacific Basin Research Center (PBRC) began operations in January 1991 as an advance research unit of SUA. Harvard Professor Emeritus, John D. Montgomery was formally inaugurated as the first director of PBRC on January 2, 1991. In the initial years, the PBRC operated out of the director's Harvard office at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

1995 (February) -- First announcement by Soka University of America and Mission Viejo Company that an application has been filed with the County of Orange County to establish a small liberal arts college and graduate school in the community of Aliso Viejo. Read the February 14, 1995 press release.

1995 (June 9) -- Escrow closes on the 103-acre site in Aliso Viejo purchased from the Mission Viejo Company.

1996 (June 1) -- Soka University of America (SUA), Aliso Viejo Planning Council's first meeting is held with the university founder, Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, at the Calabasas campus. A brief article about this meeting can be found in the SGI Newsletter, Special Issue, June 1996, pp. 1-2. Read a press release from April 1996.

1997 (February 4) -- The university founder, Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, confirms the completed Master Plan model of SUA, Aliso Viejo. See the development in photos.

1998 --  The school colors and mascot are adopted. SUA's official mascot is the lion, a symbol of courage and strength. The Chinese characters for Lion can individually be read as "sound alike" words mentor and student - an appropriate symbol for a university that prides itself on nurturing each student's potential. Learn more.

1998 (March) -- Construction work on the Aliso Viejo campus' site infrastructure begins.

1999 (May 3) -- The Cornerstore Laying Ceremony for the Daisaku and Kaneko Ikeda Library is held with 700 guests in attendance.

2000 (June 3) -- SUA dedicates the university's one-mile Millennium Trail, which circles the campus. At this time, it is the only trail in Orange County to be recognized by the White House Millennium Council as an official community millennium trail.

2000 (December 31) -- A New Year's Eve Gala is held at Ikeda Library to raise funds for the scholarship endowment. It is the first event held in a building on the Aliso Viejo campus. View the event program

2001 (May 2) -- Special guest Dr. Linus Pauling Jr. attends the Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Hall Opening Ceremony. See more photos of Pauling Hall and the ceremony.

2001 (May 3-5) -- The Dedication Weekend marks the official opening of the Aliso Viejo campus. Three thousand guests attend the Dedication Ceremony on May 3, colloquially known as SUA's birthday. A time capsule is sealed, to be opened on the 100th anniversary in 2101. A 2,556 square foot exhibit honoring Dr. Linus Pauling is open from May 5 - June 10, 2001 entitled "Linus Pauling and the Twentieth Century Exhibition."  Read speeches from the dedication ceremony

2001 (May 3) -- The Graduate School alumni group is named "Soseikai" by the university founder.

2001 (July 1) -- Aliso Viejo becomes Orange County's 34th city, previously an unincorporated community of Orange County since 1979. 

2001 (August 18) -- Student Residence Halls open.

2001 (August 23) -- Arun Gandhi presents a lecture at the Mohandas and Kasturba Gandhi Hall Dedication Ceremony. An exhibit opens at Founders Hall Art Gallery entitled "Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace." Read Arun Gandhi's speech from the dedication

2001 (August 24) -- SUA holds its first Entrance Ceremony to welcome the inaugural class of 2005: 120 students from 18 countries and 18 states. 

2001 (August 27) -- Classes commence.

2001 (September 11) -- Hours after the September 11 terrorist attacks, SUA students organize a candlelight vigil at Peace Lake. About 300 people gather; some express their emotions through vocal and instrumental performances, some read poetry, and everyone conveys their sympathy. The students send a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush, urging him to proceed with a spirit of nonviolent action in response to this unfortunate event. 

2001 (October) -- The first election of the Soka Student Government Association (SSGA) is held. The SSGA Constitution is completed on November 9, 2001.

2002 (January) -- The first student newspaper is published and tentatively named "El Coyote". The newspaper later is named The Pearl.

2002 (April) -- The first University Bridge Program (UBP) commences on the Calabasas campus. The UBP is a program that is designed to help ESL students prepare culturally and academically to study at SUA, Aliso Viejo.

2002 (May 4) -- The first International Festival is held to celebrate SUA's one-year anniversary.

2002 (May 5) -- The first student festival is held, with the theme "Defining SUA." Read more about the SUA tradition of student festivals.

2002 (August) -- The campus newsletter SUA Today is launched.

2002 (Fall) -- SUA students name their Residence Halls: Hall 300 is "Sunrise Hall" and Hall 280 is "Sunset Hall."

2002 (October) -- SUA student club Rhythmission hosts the first Haunted House for the south Orange County community. This tradition continues until 2014.

2003 (Summer) -- SUA offers summer camps which include water polo, wrestling, swim clinics, and all-sports camps. The southbound off-ramp of the 73 at Pacific Park/Glenwood opens, providing a new, direct route for community members directly to SUA.

2003 (Fall) -- Thirty-five 3rd-year students leave for the first study abroad programs to Japan, Latin America, and Spain.

2003 (Fall) -- SUA students name two more Residence Halls. Hall 305 is "Abeona Hall." Abeona is a Roman guardian and protector of children leaving home. Hall 385 is "Somnus Hall." Somnus is a Roman god of sleep and dreams.

2003 (September) -- SUA's first student Spirit Rally is held.

2004 (Spring) -- The first Learning Cluster courses begin.

2004 (July) -- In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Graduate School's opening, the SUA Graduate School Alumni Association (known as Soseikai) holds its first official reunion with 34 alumni in attendance.

2004 (July) -- The Pacific Basin Research Center (PBRC) moves to the Aliso Viejo campus and Dennis A. Rondinelli becomes its second director.

2004 (Fall) -- 2004-2005 is the inaugural season for swim, track, and cross country sports teams.

2004 (September) -- The SUA women's cross country team is the first to wear the school colors and compete as a team at the intercollegiate level. Their first meet is held September 11th at the UC Irvine Invitational in Huntington Beach.

2004 (October) -- The Make-A-Wish® Foundation grants Masako Ogushi, who was battling a terminal illness, a trip to SUA since her dream was to attend and study at Soka. During her trip, SUA presents its first ever Honorary Degree to Ms. Ogushi.

2005 (March 26-27) -- The Soka Education Student Research Project (SESRP) organizes and hosts the first Soka Education Conference on the SUA Aliso Viejo campus. The Ikeda Library holds a full run of past conference proceedings and select video recordings.

2005 (May) -- SUA receives initial accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission.

2005 (May 22) -- SUA holds its first commencement ceremony. Luis and Linda Nieves are made Honorary Ambassadors in recognition of their continuing devotion to promote humanistic values and educational opportunities.

2005 (Fall) -- The Soka Student Government Association (SSGA) becomes the Soka Student Union (SSU).

2005 (August) -- The Residence Hall Association names Hall 315 "Horizon Hall" and Hall 370 "Umoja Hall." Horizon is chosen because it refers to the meeting of the earth and sky as seen by an observer. It also signifies the range of one's knowledge, experience, and/or interest. Umoja (ooh-MOE-jah) is a word from the Swahili language of Africa. It means unity and togetherness. Umoja is the principle for the first day of Kwanzaa.

2005 (October) -- The inaugural Peace Gala is held, raising over $460,000 in scholarship funds.

2006 (March) -- Through the SUA Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program, 19 SUA students join over 4,000 other volunteers through Campus Crusades for Christ to help people living in some of the areas of New Orleans most affected by the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Katrina. Students pay for their own airfare and receive no university credit to volunteer during their spring break, exemplifying the SUA mission to foster a steady stream of global citizens committed to leading a contributive life. Their efforts are acknowledged by the Aliso Viejo mayor. 

2006 (April) -- Tenji Takino wins the first national sports championship for SUA, representing the Kendo Club in the 10th Annual Harvard-Intercollegiate Kendo Tournament.

2006 (May) -- The Undergraduate Alumni Association’s name "Young Founders," mottos, principles, and logo are formally established at the first annual alumni meeting. 

2006 (May) -- The PBRC sponsors a workshop entitled "The Ends of Theory, Pacific Workshop" on the SUA Aliso Viejo campus, May 12-14. The participants include professors from U.S. and international universities and local graduate students.

2006 (August) -- The SUA Graduate School Alumni Association, Soseikai, holds its second official reunion with 43 alumni in attendance.

2007 (March) -- Soka hosts the first Peace Invitational Track Meet at SUA. 

2007 (Spring) -- The SUA Academic Affairs office hosts several concentration symposia: a Humanities Colloquium: "Reconceiving the Self: the American Renaissance Revisited," the first Social and Behavioral Sciences Symposium - Perspectives on Povery: "A Dialogue Across Disiplines," and the first International Studies Symposium - "China in Transition."

2007 (Spring) -- Residence Hall 375 is renamed "Minuteman Hall" and designated as graduate student living. The name dates back to the students' former home on the SUA, Calabasas campus.

2007 (Spring) -- The library, Graduate School program, and English Learning Program begin relocating from the Calabasas campus. For Ikeda Library, this involves the large task of merging the holdings of two collections managed in different systems.

2007 (May) -- The university founder, Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, officially names SUA’s undergraduate alumni association, Sohokai (Soka Treasures Group).

2007 (June) -- The SUA Calabasas campus officially closes.

2007 (Summer) -- William Ascher of Claremont McKenna College is selected to be the third director of PBRC. Since its inception, Ascher has contributed as a PBRC Advisory Board member and contributor to PBRC publications, working closely with founding Director John D. Montgomery and Ascher’s immediate predecessor, the late Dennis A. Rondinelli.

2007 (Summer) -- Soka Women's College, Japan students attend the first English Learning Program (ELP) Summer Bridge program at Aliso Viejo.

2007 (Fall) --  The Aliso Viejo campus welcomes the 13th group of Graduate School students and the first Aliso Viejo Extended University Bridge Program students.

2007 (September) -- California Garden Clubs, Inc. (CGCI) presents Soka University of America President Dr. Daniel Y. Habuki with the CGCI Landscape Design Commendation in recognition of SUA's excellent land use and planned urban design.

2007 (September) -- SUA inaugurates the Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program, sponsored by the Linda and Luis Nieves Family Foundation, which invites lecturers who represent the values upheld by Mohandas and Kasturba Gandhi, Linus and Eva Helen Pauling, and Daisaku and Kaneko Ikeda to provide special seminars to the students. The first visiting scholar is 1976 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Betty Williams, who gives several lectures and teaches a class titled "Peace is Action Not Words." Read the transcript of her public lecture "Peace Is Everybody's Business."

2007 (September) -- SUA is officially accepted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). In the first year of membership, SUA sponsors Cross Country, Track and Field, Swimming, and Soccer for both genders.

2008 (January) -- The SUA Song Committee presents "On the Path of Peace." The new student song debuts at the 7th annual SUA student festival themed "Breaking Barriers, Building Bonds." Lyrics and sheet music are available by request from the SUA Archives [#104282, pp. 10-11].

2008 (Fall) -- The men's soccer program is founded and consists of 16 student athletes who set the foundation of representing Soka University of America with pride, courage, and commitment.

2008 (December) -- Groundbreaking event for the Soka Performing Arts Center and Wangari Maathai Hall. Construction ensues.

2009 (Fall) -- Women's soccer athletes, "Lady Lions," begin competing in the 2009-2010 academic year.

2009 (Fall)-- The Graduate School adds a new concentration in Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language (TJFL) to the MA program in Second and Foreign Language Education, which will discontinue in 2012. 

2009 (Fall) -- SUA adds a new Environmental Studies concentration and expands the wet lab facilities. 

2010 (April) -- The Ka'Pilina student club, in conjunction with Bon Appetit, hosts their first luau, a community event with traditional Polynesian food and entertainment.

2010 -- SUA receives reaffirmation of accreditation for 10 years from the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

2010 (Fall) -- SUA is ranked in Newsweek's college rankings for the first time: #20 for Most Desireable Suburban Schools, #24 for Most Desireable Small Schools, and #12 for Most Diverse Schools in Newsweek's "Top 25 Colleges in the US" lists.

2010 (October) -- The Campus Environmental Committee is established and holds its first meeting. This committee provides a centralized forum by which students, faculty, and staff can examine how to continue improving and fulfilling the university principle of fostering leaders for the creative coexistence of nature and humanity. This committee is renamed the Campus Sustainability Committee in 2014.

2010 (November) -- Twelve SUA students take part in the first annual Model United Nations (MUN) conference at University of California, Santa Barbara. The SUA MUN club receives two awards: Outstanding Delegate award for the Security Council and Best Delegate award for the European Council, two of the most challenging committees at the conference. Learn more about SUA's MUN.

2011 -- The campus celebrates its 10th anniversary with events all year including the May International Festival.

2011 (May) -- The Soka Performing Arts Center (PAC) is dedicated with the class of 2011 commencement.

2011 (Fall) -- French is added as the fourth language to be offered in the Language and Culture Program.

2011 (August) -- "The Light of Hope" is presented at the Welcome Reception for the incoming class of 2015, with lyrics by Dr. Ikeda and music by Wayne Green.

2011 (August) -- The Soka Instructional Garden is built, spearheaded by the Environmental Science faculty.

2011 (September) -- The Soka PAC, a 1000-seat concert hall with acoustics designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, and Wangari Maathai Hall open. The grand opening concert features Orange County's Pacific Symphony with music director Carl St. Clair and featured soloist, pianist Mr. Horacio Gutierrez. View the concert program.

2012 (January) -- The PBRC publishes its first book series on "Politics, Economics, and Inclusive Development" in partner with Palgrave Macmillan.

2012 (April) -- Native plants are added to the roundabout near the athletic fields.

2012 (Fall) -- Sohokai Young Founders Alumni Association establishes three regional chapters--Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles--to better serve the growing alumni population scattered across the globe.

2012 (November) -- The Soka University of America women's cross country team captures the 2012 California Pacific Conference Cal Pac championship in the school's first year in the conference.

2013 (May) -- SUA Athletics honors their inaugural Hall of Fame Inductees: class of 2009 Nathan Flores and class of 2007 Lisa Saperstein.

2014 -- The Lion's Den and Sokafe are remodeled, providing a comfortable and colorful lounge area for students.

2014 (May) -- Prakash Bista, class of 2017, wins first place in the Orange County Social Entrepreneurship competition, leading to the honor of being one of Orange County's 100 Most Influential People in 2014. His win funds his school business plan that provides education to poor students in isolated areas of Nepal. Read the OC Register article.

2014 (August) -- To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the of the SUA Graduate School and the start of the new graduate program on Educational Leadership and Societal Change, a luncheon reception is held on the SUA campus followed by mini-lectures. 

2014 (September) -- Six students are accepted to the Graduate School's new Masters Program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change.

2014 (November) -- SUA holds its first Soka Festival, a combination of previous Student Festivals and Spirit Rallies.

2014 (December) -- The Ikeda Library provides EZ Proxy access to the SUA community, providing improved off-campus web access to the library catalog, academic databases, and eBooks titles.

2015 (July) -- The undergraduate class of 2005 holds the first 10-year reunion, welcoming back 83 members of its graduating class. 

2015 (Fall) -- In partnership with SUA Information Technology, SUA begins live streaming home games for soccer, swimming, and track as well as academic events such as the Soka Education Conference, Critical Conversations series, and commencement.

2015 (September) -- In the 2014-2015 season, SUA receives the NAIA Champions of Character Gold Five Star Institution Award which demonstrates student athlete commitment to the values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership. Learn more.

2015 (November) -- Class of 2018 Jack Evans takes first place in the Men's 8k at the California Pacific Conference Championship race. This is the first time a Soka cross country runner has individually won a Conference Championship. At the Men's Cross Country National Championships in Charlotte, N.C., Mr. Evans places 27th and is the first SUA cross country runner to earn All-American recognition.

2016 (January) -- USA Today and Collegefactual.com rank Soka University in the "Top 10 Colleges in California." US News & World Report’s “Best Colleges 2016” ranked SUA in the Top Five in both Best Value and Ethnic Diversity among National Liberal Arts Colleges…and #1 in Foreign Student Factor (highest percentage of International Students,) and #1 in Faculty Resources. Learn more.

2016 (Spring) -- SUA Athletics' newest sport team, women’s golf, begins pre-season training.

2016 -- SUA celebrates its 15th anniversary.