The idea for a state-wide organization to honor outstanding high school students was first proposed by Mr. Charles F. Seymour at a convention of high school principals in Oakland in 1916. Mr. Seymour was then vice-principal of National City High School in San Diego County, and in 1916 he had organized a scholarship society on his campus, modeling it after one already established at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. No action was taken on his proposal at that time.
For the next five years Mr. Seymour led an active campaign to win support for his idea. As a result, a number of schools throughout the state organized similar societies. Two of these, National City and San Luis Obispo, began to use a seal patterned after the one used by Long Beach. These were the first steps toward affiliation.
In 1921 Mr. Seymour, now head of the Social Studies Department at Long Beach Polytechnic, again appeared before the Principals’ Convention in San Rafael and asked that a state-wide scholarship society be founded. Despite significant opposition, Mr. Seymour’s idea carried the day, and a few weeks later all high school principals received an invitation to send representatives to Los Angeles on June 4 to establish such an organization.
In June, a committee of five began work on a constitution, which was finally ratified on October 15. Once the California Scholarship Federation had become a reality, thirty-four schools applied for charter membership. Twenty-nine of these received full status immediately, and chapter numbers were determined by lot. All subsequent chapter numbers have been assigned in the order of approval.
While students have never participated directly in the establishment and maintenance of eligibility standards, a means of student expression has been sought from the very outset. To this end the first student convention met in Pasadena in December, 1921. This meeting produced a “Student Branch of the California Scholarship Federation” established to hold an annual banquet and conference each Christmas vacation and to serve as a clearing house for the exchange of ideas among student leaders. During the 1925-26 academic year the format was expanded to include two meetings, one in the southern part of the state in December and another in the central or northern part in April. The first spring convention was held in Stockton.
Because of the rapid growth of the organization, the general business meeting of October 1928 in Los Angeles, approved a plan to divide the state into regions for the student conferences. This plan was accepted by the Student Branch Convention held in December in Los Angeles. As a result, the Student Branch semiannual all-state conventions were replaced by regional conferences and the use of a statewide “Student Branch” was discontinued. Three regions (Northern, Central, and Southern) functioned until 1957, at which time the Southern Region was divided into the Southern and South Central Regions. In 1966, the Central Region was divided into the Central and Central Coast Regions. At present, the regional conferences are usually hosted by individual high school chapters often in collaboration with local CJSF chapters, and the use of regional student officers has been discontinued.
To establish more intimate contacts between chapters, affiliated schools were often grouped into districts, each containing six or more chapters. These groups held business and social meetings or outings. District XII in San Francisco was the last of these to continue this practice, until the creation of a new District I, in the southern region, in 1990.
The annual convention in Sacramento on October 18, 1930, voted to incorporate under the laws of California. Articles of Incorporation were adopted and signed at this meeting. The CSF constitution thereupon assumed the nature of by-laws appended to the Articles. The California Scholarship Federation thus became a legal entity, capable of making valid contracts and receiving bequests.
One of the functions of CSF has been to recognize academic accomplishment in tangible ways. The original constitution provided for only one award, an embossed seal placed on the diploma of each qualifying graduate. Many voiced the desire for a pin to be worn by student members, so at a special meeting on December 20, 1922, the CSF lamp pin was approved, to be awarded only to qualifying seniors. Subsequent to this, several chapters began using local membership pins. In 1927, the April CSF meeting held in Fresno approved a “semester membership” pin, but its use was optional and has since been discontinued.
Beginning in 1925, the Board of Directors initiated a program with several colleges and universities so that tuition scholarships were set aside specifically for CSF Life Members. Today there are still a few colleges and universities in California and throughout the nation that participate in the program. CSF Life Members need to check with the individual college or university upon admission. The Seymour Memorial awards were established to honor both Charles F. Seymour and his devoted wife, Marian H. Seymour, who together supplied the inspiration and leadership which fostered the California Scholarship Federation. Each spring, regional subcommittees of five advisers choose outstanding Life Members from among candidates nominated by their advisers within each of the five regions. The selection is made on the basis of character, leadership, and service. In 1936 a single award of $25.00 was given to Elizabeth Murphy of Fresno High School, the first Seymour Award recipient. Currently, fifty finalists receive awards of $2,000 each, and 5 of these (one per region) each receive an additional $3,000 as the regional award recipient. The award is now regarded as one of the highest scholastic honors given to secondary school graduates in the state of California.
Since the organization’s inception, approximately 1400 CSF chapters have been approved. Today’s chapters continue to foster the recognition, motivation, and education of academically talented students. Chapter memberships promote the CSF ideal of service to their communities.