SF State to honor three outstanding alumni, 8,400 grads at 117th Commencement

Three graduates holds a SF State pennant at Comemncement

About 8,500 graduates are expected to participate in SF State’s Commencement ceremony at AT&T Park on Thursday, May 24.

Physician and humanitarian Ramona Tascoe (B.A., ’70), environmental activist Randall Hayes (M.A., ’83) and Grammy award-winning musician and conductor Kent Nagano (M.A., ’76) will be honored at San Francisco State University’s 117th Commencement ceremony on May 24 at AT&T Park.

Tascoe is the featured Commencement speaker, while Hayes and Nagano will receive honorary doctorates. Two students — Angela Torres, who will receive a graduate degree in education, and Arianna Vargas, who will receive undergraduate degrees in both Latina/Latino studies and health education — will be the featured student speakers. Each honoree has uniquely impacted society through career and public service.

Approximately 8,400 undergraduate and graduate degrees will be conferred this year, and about 33,000 guests are expected to attend. The graduate procession begins at 5:30 p.m., with Commencement starting at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks will close out the event at about 9:30 p.m.

Live updates and photos from the ceremony will be posted to the University’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat accounts. Graduates and guests can tag their Commencement posts on social media using the hashtag #SFSU2018. A Commencement app will keep graduates and guests plugged in to the latest news and events leading up to the ceremony. Details are also available online at commencement.sfsu.edu.

Commencement speaker

Ramona Tascoe, M.D.  Ramona Tascoe

Ramona Tascoe earned a special triple major in political science, sociology and psychology. As a result of her fearless commitment to her ideals, she became an essential part of the University’s enduring legacy.

In 1967, Tascoe took part in campus protests that grew into the historic student strike of 1968, which led to the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies. But before that milestone there were many intense confrontations. In the midst of one of them, Tascoe became the first of the student protesters to be arrested.

Tascoe has practiced internal medicine in Oakland for decades and has led humanitarian medical missions to Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, India and Sri Lanka. She’s worked extensively with Haiti’s Ministry of Health and the University General Hospital of Haiti, that nation’s largest public hospital.

Student speakers

Undergraduate: Arianna Vargas

Arianna Vargas

Arianna Vargas is recognized for her outstanding leadership and academic achievement during her years as a double major in Latina/Latino studies and health education, with a minor in education.

As an SF State freshman, Vargas carried her activist and advocacy work from high school into the larger context of the University. She is a vocal advocate for youth, focusing on the rights and needs of underrepresented youth of color and issues of public health in underserved communities. Her many achievements add up to a pattern of leadership and advocacy for progressive change and community empowerment that reflects the core values of the College of Ethnic Studies. 

Graduate: Angela Torres

Angela Torres

As she graduates with her master’s degree in education, Angela Torres jokes that she has spent 19 years here — first getting her undergraduate degree, then earning a teaching credential and now her master’s degree — with breaks in between to teach high school math for 10 years. In her ongoing work for the San Francisco Unified School District, Torres has helped reform the teaching and learning of mathematics.

Torres credits SF State with affording her a first look at social justice and the ways specific systems perpetuate inequities for some races and cultures. Through her work, she wants to ensure that underrepresented minorities have the opportunity to be successful.

Honorary doctorate degree recipients

Randall Hayes

Randall Hayes

Rainforest Action Network founder and executive director at Foundation Earth, Randy Hayes was called “an environmental pit bull” by The Wall Street Journal for fighting tenaciously for the environment and human rights for decades.

He attended Bowling Green State University for undergraduate studies, then moved to a Hopi reservation in Arizona and campaigned to block coal mining on tribal land.

At SF State, he earned a master’s degree in environmental planning. His thesis project highlighted coal and uranium mining on Native lands and won a Student Academy Award for best documentary in 1983. After graduating, he co-founded the Rainforest Action Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving pristine forests and protecting the human rights of indigenous people.

He will receive an honorary degree in humane letters.

Kent George Nagano

 Kent George Nagano

After studying sociology and music at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Kent George Nagano came to SF State and earned a master’s degree in music. After graduating, he landed his first conducting job as an assistant conductor with the Opera Company of Boston. He eventually returned to Berkeley to become the music director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra — a position he would hold for the next 30 years.

Nagano has worked with symphonies all over the world. He is currently the music director of Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, artistic advisor and principal guest conductor of Sweden’s Gothenburg Symphony, general music director of the Hamburg State Opera and chief conductor of the Philharmonic State Orchestra Hamburg.

He will be awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.

Additional Commencement information