SF State celebrates class of 2018 at 117th Commencement

Ramona Tascoe addresses the SF State class of 2018

"There's something very liberating about fighting for a cause and winning." —Dr. Ramona Tascoe (B.A., '70)

Speakers at AT&T Park ceremony stress activism, social justice

Speakers at San Francisco State University’s 117th Commencement urged the class of 2018 to put their passion into action and tackle the big issues facing the world today.

“I call on each of you to actively care about a cause, commit to a cure, devote your time, your talent and your treasure in good conscience and with courage,” the evening’s featured speaker, humanitarian, physician and alumna Ramona Tascoe, M.D., told a crowd of approximately 33,000 graduates and guests at AT&T Park. “Because our nation cannot survive on passive citizenship.”

San Francisco State conferred more than 8,400 undergraduate and graduate degrees to its latest graduating class, and around 4,700 new graduates were in attendance at the Commencement ceremony. Arianna Vargas, a Latina/Latino Studies and Health Education graduate who spoke on behalf of those receiving bachelor’s degrees, vowed that “any time a marginalized community is being targeted due to gender, sexuality and presentation, ethnicity, race, language, immigration status, national origin or disability, we will all stand up.” Angela Torres, a master’s in education recipient, represented graduate students at the podium and echoed those sentiments while calling for unity and acceptance, saying, “We can work toward social justice by seeing the strengths, and not the deficits, of one another. So find your allies and give space for one another.”

Tascoe is intimately familiar with the University’s culture of social justice activism. As a San Francisco State student in the late ’60s, she took part in the historic protests that led to the creation of the University’s College of Ethnic Studies.

“There’s something very liberating about fighting for a cause and winning,” said Tascoe, an internal medicine specialist and ordained minister who leads medical missions around the world. “I cut my first teeth in activism at San Francisco State.”

In addition to the undergraduate and graduate degrees conferred during the ceremony, honorary degrees were presented to two other SF State alumni: Grammy-winning conductor and music director Kent Nagano (M.A., ’76), who’s worked with orchestras around the world, and Randy Hayes (M.A., ’83), the Rainforest Action Network founder who’s been called “an environmental pit bull” by The Wall Street Journal.

“It was a wise SF State professor that taught that when our careers are attached to a greater cause, a more meaningful life emerges for every one of us,” Hayes told the crowd. “So after [earning] my master’s at this very University, I set out to support the rights of Indigenous peoples, starting Rainforest Action Network.”

Nagano was unable to attend, but his mother and brother were at AT&T Park on his behalf.

“For this extraordinary education, which helped me realize my talents, I’d like to thank San Francisco State University with all my heart for having allowed me to share ideas of arts with the wider public,” Nagano said in a prerecorded acceptance speech that was played during the ceremony.

SF State President Les Wong praised Tascoe and the other honorees as examples of the idealism and passion that set the University’s graduates apart.

“She embodies the Gator spirit of SF State,” Wong said, “committed to equity, inclusion and social justice and to making the world a better place.”