Alumna turned top business leader in tech to deliver May 26 Commencement address
CEO of Arista Networks Jayshree Ullal will address more than 30,000 at the University’s 122nd graduation ceremony
President and CEO of cloud networking company Arista Networks Jayshree Ullal (B.S., ’81) will be the keynote speaker at the University’s 122nd Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 26, at Oracle Park. She will celebrate the accomplishments of the 7,900 graduates from the class of 2023, alongside their families, friends and members of the SF State community.
The University will also award honorary doctoral degrees to former Rolling Stone journalist Ben Fong-Torres (B.A., ’66) and activist, psychotherapist and filmmaker Satsuki Ina.
The graduate procession begins at 5:30 p.m., with the Commencement ceremony starting at 6:30 p.m. The ceremony will be streamed live online, but updates and photos will be posted throughout the evening to the University’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. More details are available at commencement.sfsu.edu.
Jayshree Ullal (B.S., ’81)
Jayshree Ullal is president and CEO for Arista Networks, a position she’s held since 2008. She’s responsible for leading the cloud networking company to a successful IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in June 2014 and shepherding its entry into the S&P 500 in 2018.
Prior to joining Santa Clara-based Arista, Ullal worked at Cisco Systems for 15 years and rose to the rank of senior vice president, reporting directly to the company’s CEO. She was responsible for the modular Nexus and Catalyst Data Center Switching products and Application/Security services. She oversaw more than a dozen mergers and acquisitions in the enterprise sector and $15 billion in annual revenue.
She began her career with engineering and strategy positions at Advanced Micro Devices and Fairchild Semiconductor. She later joined Crescendo Communications — a company that was acquired by Cisco Systems — where she became a director of marketing.
She’s been recognized by several publications and organizations as a top business leader, including Forbes, which named her “one of the top five most influential people in the networking industry in 2012.” Barron’s named her one of the World’s Best CEOs in 2018. She was also included in Fortune’s list of the Business People of the Year in 2019. She has mentored several high-tech networking firms in Silicon Valley as a board member or adviser and is a prominent industry spokesperson. Most recently, she was named the 2023 Global Indian of the Year by The Economic Times.
Ullal was born in London and raised in New Delhi, India. She studied electrical engineering at SF State, graduating in 1981. She earned a master’s degree in Engineering Management from Santa Clara University in 1986. In 2013 she received the Santa Clara University School of Engineering Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award. She was inducted into SF State’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 2016. She lives in Saratoga, California with her husband and two daughters.
Honorary Degree Recipient
Ben Fong-Torres (B.A., ’66)
Ben Fong-Torres has been many things in a long, illustrious career: radio DJ, author, newspaper columnist, magazine editor and TV host, just to name a few. But it was his stint at Rolling Stone magazine that made him famous — so much so that actor Terry Chen portrayed him in “Almost Famous,” Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film about a budding rock journalist. So “movie character” can be added to his already singular resume. He is the subject of the documentary “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres,” now on Netflix.
Fong-Torres began working for Rolling Stone as a writer in 1968, two years after graduating from SF State. He eventually became senior editor, going on to interview some of the most prominent musicians of the time, including Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, Paul McCartney and many more. He won the Deems Taylor Award in 1974 for magazine writing for a profile of Ray Charles.
After leaving Rolling Stone in 1981, he wrote for several top magazines, including GQ, Esquire, Parade, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, Harper’s Bazaar and more. In 1983 he became a feature writer and radio columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. He left in 1992 to write books, including his memoir, “The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese American/From Number Two Son to Rock and Roll,” which made the San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller list. He’s written 10 other books about musicians and the music industry.
Fong-Torres was also a weekend DJ on KSAN-FM from 1970 to 1980. Later, he was the host of KQED-FM’s live, weekly arts show, “Fog City Radio.” He has a DJ show on www.MoonaliceRadio.com. He won five Emmys for his coverage of San Francisco’s Chinese New Year parades, which he co-anchored on KTVU-TV.
Fong-Torres is the son of two Chinese immigrants. He was born in Alameda, California and raised in Oakland’s Chinatown, where his parents owned a restaurant. He graduated from SF State in 1966 with a degree in Radio-Television-Film. He met his wife Dianne Sweet while they were both SF State students. In 2004, he was named SF State’s Alumni of the Year. A year later, he delivered the University’s Commencement address. He emcees community and fundraising events, including SF State’s annual Alumni Hall of Fame celebration.
Honorary Degree Recipient
Satsuki Ina is a Japanese American activist, filmmaker, author and psychotherapist. She was born in a concentration camp at the Tule Lake Segregation Center during World War II. Her parents were incarcerated for four and a half years. This experience has been both a source of trauma and inspiration, informing much of her work in her adult life.
Ina was a psychotherapist for 30 years and helped thousands of formerly imprisoned Japanese American families cope with the trauma they experienced during their incarceration. She has also helped other groups who have endured similar traumatic experiences. She is a professor emeritus of Counselor Education at California State University’s School of Education. She has also published research on the long-term effects of collective trauma.
She produced two award-winning documentary films about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. “Children of the Camps” debuted on PBS in 1999. In 2005, she produced a second documentary film, “From a Silk Cocoon,” which was based on letters exchanged between her parents while held in separate prison camps. It was awarded a Northern California Emmy for Outstanding Cultural and Historical Programming.
Since retiring, she co-founded Tsuru for Solidarity, a grassroots coalition formed to protest government policies incarcerating innocent children and families. In 2020 she received an American Psychological Association Presidential Citation for her work with the organization.
She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1966 with a degree in Social Welfare/Psychology and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Oregon State University, which she earned in 1986.
More information about Commencement is available online at commencement.sfsu.edu.