Gator game-changers: SF State honors groundbreaking alumni
Annual celebration recognized graduates who are distinguished in their fields
San Francisco State University honored five outstanding alumni who have distinguished themselves in their fields and demonstrate the University’s core values of courage, community, life of the mind, equity and resilience.
Four, including 2016 Alumnus of the Year Gregory Fischbach, were inducted into the SF State Alumni Hall of Fame, while a fifth was recognized for her exceptional record of service to the community.
“This year’s honorees are truly representative of SF State’s mission to educate graduates who challenge norms, push boundaries and become global leaders,” said President Les Wong. “From business and technology visionaries to a Bay Area broadcasting legend to a pioneer in the hunt for extrasolar planets, they are game-changers in their fields, and we are proud that they are part of the Gator family.”
The President’s Dinner and Alumni Hall of Fame Celebration, which took place on Nov. 4 in downtown San Francisco, is held annually to recognize alumni who have made exceptional contributions in their fields. The event includes the indication of new members of the Alumni Hall of Fame, which was created in 1994 to honor alumni who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in their professional and civic endeavors.
President’s Dinner and Alumni Hall of Fame honorees:
- 2016 Alumnus of the Year: Gregory Fischbach, entrepreneur, attorney, business executive and founder of social media app Rabbit, Inc.
- Hall of Fame: Debra Fischer, pioneer in the discovery of planets outside our solar system
- Hall of Fame: Dennis O’Donnell, Bay Area sports broadcasting mainstay
- Hall of Fame: Jayshree Ullal, leading executive in the technology industry
- Alumni Service Award: Janice Herwegh Gumas, community leader and advocate for parents
The honorees are among more than 230,000 SF State graduates who make their mark every day across the globe.
For more information about the event, visit the Alumni Association website.
Alumnus of the Year: Gregory Fischbach
B.S., 1963, Economics
Founder and Executive Chairman at Rabbit, Inc.
Gregory Fischbach is founder and executive chairman of Rabbit, Inc., the social media app that brings the living room online, allowing people to watch television, movies and media together from anywhere in the world while video and text chatting, all on one screen. Fischbach received his B.S. degree in economics from SF State in 1963 and earned his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings in 1966. Following an experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Santiago, Chile, he began work as a trial attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and subsequently served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California.
Turning to private practice, Fischbach joined Orenstein, Arrow, Silverman and Parcher, a law firm representing record companies, music publishers and recording artists, before establishing his own firm, Fischbach & Fischbach, which counted among its notable clients Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Steve Miller Band, Emmylou Harris, Boz Scaggs, Thin Lizzy and Merle Haggard, as well as Richard Branson’s Virgin Records and Chrysalis Records, among others. He went on to serve as president of Activision International and president of RCA Records International before co-founding the company for which he is perhaps best known, the worldwide video game publisher and media conglomerate Acclaim Entertainment. As co-chairman and CEO, Fischbach led the company that developed, produced and marketed some of the biggest hits of the video game industry, including Mortal Kombat, Turok, NBA Jam, All Star Baseball, Legends of Wrestling and South Park among many others. In 2004, Fischbach founded Hampton Farms Ventures, a firm that invests in and consults with technology, media and video game companies. Apart from his numerous professional accomplishments, Fischbach is also a licensed pilot and an avid sports fan.
Hall of Fame inductees
M.S., 1990, Physics
Professor of Astronomy, Yale University
Debra Fischer is a professor of astronomy at Yale University, where her team is developing next-generation instrument designs to break current measurement precision records and detect planets similar to our own that can serve as targets in the search for life beyond Earth. She earned her B.S. degree at the University of Iowa in 1975, her M.S. degree in physics at SF State in 1992 and her Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1998.
Fischer began searching for exoplanets as a postdoctoral fellow at SF State in 1997 by measuring Doppler shifts in the spectra of stars. She has discovered hundreds of extrasolar planets with this technique, including the first known multiple planet system in 1999 while a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2003, she was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at SF State and was promoted to associate professor in 2008. During this time, she led an international consortium that detected more than 30 new extrasolar planets. In 2009, she joined the faculty at Yale University as a professor in the Department of Astronomy. In recognition of her pioneering work in astronomy, Fischer has received honors and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Science, the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies and the Cottrell Scholar program. Fischer is also the co-chair for the NASA study of LUVOIR, a 12- to 16-meter space telescope currently under evaluation as a possible future mission.
B.A., 1982, Radio/TV
Sports Director, KPIX 5
Dennis O’Donnell has been a fixture in Bay Area sports broadcasting since 1982, having covered every major Bay Area sports team in their respective championship. He is currently the sports director at KPIX 5, the Bay Area’s CBS TV channel. In addition to a daily sportscast on KPIX 5 Eyewitness News, O’Donnell hosts or has hosted CBS 5’s NFL post-game show “The 5th Quarter,” “49ers Preview,” “Last Honest Sports Show” and the number one-rated Sunday night sports show, “Gameday.”
Discovering a passion for broadcasting at a young age, O’Donnell completed courses in journalism at Diablo Valley College before transferring to SF State, where he earned his B.A. in radio/TV in 1982. While in college, O’Donnell worked for the San Francisco Giants and major league baseball shooting footage and writing highlights of baseball games for “This Week in Baseball.” A subsequent internship in the sports department at KRON TV led to his position as a producer just out of college. While at KRON, O’Donnell’s contributions helped earn the station “The Best Sportscast in California” award by the Associated Press on five occasions. He also anchored sports with KOVR in Sacramento and KFTY in Santa Rosa. O’Donnell spent 13 seasons as the pre-season voice of the San Francisco 49ers and currently serves as the sideline reporter. He has provided football and basketball play-by-play for Fox Sports, KPIX, Comcast Sports Network and Bay TV. His work garnered him four APTRA awards for Best Sports Segment and multiple Northern California Emmy awards, including Emmys for his work as a sports anchor and feature reporter. O’Donnell also serves as emcee for all major Northern California Alzheimer’s events, including Memory Walk and Memories in the Making.
B.S., 1981, Electrical Engineering
President and Chief Executive Officer, Arista Networks
Jayshree Ullal is a leading executive in the technology industry, with a career in Silicon Valley spanning more than 30 years. She is currently president and CEO of Arista Networks, where she is responsible for building the company's business in cloud networking and has forged strategic alliances with Microsoft, HP and VMware, to name a few.
Ullal earned a B.S. in engineering (electrical) from SF State in 1981 and an M.S. in engineering management and leadership from Santa Clara University in 1986. She began her professional career in the tech industry with engineering and strategy positions at Advanced Micro Devices, Fairchild Semiconductor and Ungermann-Bass before joining Crescendo Communications, where she became vice president of marketing. When Cisco Systems acquired Crescendo in 1993, Ullal rose to the rank of senior vice president, overseeing for Cisco numerous mergers and acquisitions and approximately $15 billion in annual revenue. In 2008, she was appointed president and CEO of Arista Networks, where she led a successful IPO on the New York Stock Exchange and earned recognition by Forbes Magazine as one of the top five most influential people in the networking industry. Ullal is also a former trustee of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, an international organization devoted to promoting the role of women in innovative technology. Through a foundation she established with her husband, she also supports cancer research, social services projects and hunger relief programs in India. Ullal is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for her work, including EY Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2015, Forbes Magazine named her one its Top 50 Most Successful Self-Made Women.
Alumni Service Award
Janice Herwegh Gumas
B.S., 1985, Marketing
Community Leader and Parent Advocate
Janice Herwegh Gumas is a former marketing executive who became a leading advocate for parent engagement at SF State. She earned a B.S. in marketing in 1985 and enjoyed a successful career in advertising, developing media strategies for local, national and international clients. Following the birth of her third child, she chose to step away from the business world to focus full time on raising her children. When her oldest son enrolled at SF State, Herwegh Gumas brought her business expertise and insight as an alumna to a new role at the University as founding president of the Parents Council, serving as an advocate for parents and encouraging them to stay informed and involved in their children’s education. She was instrumental in launching outreach to parents and families on social media and helped establish the University’s first regional Parents Council chapter in Southern California. She also represented SF State throughout the California State University system at advocacy, alumni and parent events. Herwegh Gumas is married to John Gumas, immediate past chair of the SF State Foundation Board and chair of the University’s first comprehensive fund-raising campaign. Together, they established a scholarship at SF State for students in marketing. Active in the community, they also support a variety of educational, political, social and health care organizations in the Bay Area.