Jeffrey "Jeffers" Armstrong is the current president of Cal Poly. Well known for his love of foreign cats, his most notable contribution to campus has been the passage of the Student Success Fee and his relentless promotion of the semester system.
William Armstrong was born July 8, 1959 in Witchita, Kansas to Sheldon and Mary Armstrong. Highly influenced by his father's career as a Smoke Jumper, Armstrong enlisted in the peace corps at the age of 18 where he was deployed to Uzbekistan. Armstrong would later go on to say that his time in Uzbekistan was "One of the most difficult, inspiring, and thought-provoking times of my life. It was there that I met my companion of 18-years, Pissy-Missy, the Himalayan Persian kitten that would alter my life course in unimaginable ways." Upon returning to the states, Armstrong enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, majoring in gastronomy.
After a period of intense study, Armstrong had a flash of insight while perparing a souffle for the Burmese Ambassador; Armstrong comments that "suddenly all of the doubts of the last six months crystallized into an outright revulsion for the restaurant industry. I'm not ashamed to say that I spat in that ambassador's dish and stormed right out of the kitchen." He decided to leave Canada and start afresh in the US. After seeing an ad for the University of Pheonix's Business school on Television, Armstrong enrolled and earned his B.A. in Business administration in 1982, and Masters in Education in 1984.
After a failed 3 year job search, Armstrong became despondent and spent 3 months living in the basement of Texas A&M's physics lab. Armstrong comments that, "that was one of the most difficult periods of my entire life. All I had to my name was the clothes on my back, a sleeping bag, and of course the companionship of Pissy-Missy." Armstrong was able to get by by taking advantage of the lax security of Texas A&M's dining halls.
Armstrong's close proximity to campus gave him an advantage in applying for jobs on campus and on October 17, 1987 he was hired for the position of Administrative Assistant. Though he was noted for his eccentric behavior, Armstrong was quickly recognized for his outstanding work ethic and he was promoted to Manager of Human relations in 1988. Armstong humbly recounts that he found his drive "because I just wanted Pissy-Missy to have a comfortable life." Armstrong had a relatively uneventful 8 year tenure at Texas A&M, and his prospects for further promotion seemed great until Pissy-Missy passed away in her sleep on March 13, 1996, after which Armstrong suffered a mental breakdown. In a Eulogy written for the The Batallion, A&M's student paper, Armstrong states "This tragic event has shaken me to the very core; how will I ever face the light again when my very sun has been extinguished?" Armstrong was let go from Texas A&M on March 25 after a series of increasingly vitriolic public outbursts.
After 6 months of mental recuperation, Armstrong was hired as Oregon State's Vice President of Student Affairs, the position he would hold for the next 14 years. Though he was once again able to return to his daily life, he was constantly affected by his memories of Pissy-Missy; he formed few relationships with other members of faculty, noted for his chronic absence from campus events. He is said to have spend extensive periods of time volunteering for the local cat shelter, by some estimates up to 30 hours a week. Eventually he decided to leave Oregon for California. According to Armstrong, "Pissy-Missy came to me in a dream and whispered one word in my ear: 'California.' This became a recurring event, with Pissy's pleas becoming gradually louder until she was basically screaming at me; it was then that I knew I had to go."
Armstrong began his tenure as president of Cal Poly on Febuary 1, 2011, after a controversial interview process in which the evaluating committee was later accused of showing up intoxicated, and giving little regard to Armstrong's qualifications. After his arrival it quickly became clear that Armstrong would be one of campus's eccentric characters. As in Oregon, Armstrong is known for spending long periods in Cal Poly's cat shelter, and on April 3, 2011 Armstrong adopted Libbykins, a Cornish Rex that Armstrong says "gave me my hope back for the first time in years."
In 2012 Armstrong began advocating for the Student Success Fee, a measure ostensibly intended to decrease class sizes, fund necessary programs and allow Cal Poly to continue the tradition of learn by doing. After the measure passed, many Cal Poly insiders have raised concerns that despite published reports most of the funds have been diverted to marginally important programs such as Cal Poly's cat shelter, costly renovations to his on-campus residence to "make it more cat-friendly," and several feline-oriented research grants in Cal Poly's Animal Studies department.
Aside from outright criticism stemming from this issue, many have been quick to take note of Armstrong's many odd behaviors, such as his tendency to yell "You have my axe!" in response to colleagues' requests for assistance. Other noted oddities include the prominance of cat statues in his office, and the taxidermied cat he had put on display on the top floor of the administration building, rumored to be the remains of Pissy-Missy herself.
Recently Armstrong has come under fire for his promotion of a switch to the semester system, a move almost universally hated by Cal Poly students and faculty. In an editorial, The Mustang Daily decried the plans as "Literally batshit insane" and "antithetical to almost everything Cal Poly stands for."