SF State celebrates 111th Commencement: transcript

May 21, 2012 -- Following is a transcript of San Francisco State University's 111th Commencement held on Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Cox Stadium on campus before an audience of 20,000.

Section links:


Processional and National Anthem


Now, ladies and gentlemen would you please rise for the singing of the National Anthem. The processional was performed by the San Francisco State University Brass ensemble, also providing music for today's ceremony are the Alexander String Quartet, the Andrew Speight Quartet and the Holloway Quartet.

Our soloist today for the National Anthem is Alexandra Sessler, who graduates today with a Master of Music in classical vocal performance.


Return to top


Introductions and Welcome

Please be seated. Thank you, Ms. Sessler, what a stirring and a great opening for our 111th Commencement celebration! Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon! I said, students, good afternoon!


A warm welcome to all of our guests and to the families of our graduates. For you, as it is for them, this is a historic day. You've looked forward to this ceremony almost as eagerly as our students have and your presence this afternoon adds greatly to their pride and pleasure.

Today as we mark the completion of San Francisco State's 113th year, I am pleased to report that this graduating class is one of the largest and most diverse -- and certainly one of the most accomplished classes in the history of this great University.


I'm particularly proud to announce that among the members of the class of 2012 who are seated here today are 105 individuals to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude -- veterans of the armed forces who chose to serve their country before pursuing their degrees.


To our veterans -- thank you for all that you have done on our behalf, and please, please accept our congratulations and deeply felt gratitude.

Now, this day, of course, marks a milestone in the lives of our graduates. And while I take great pride in acknowledging that, it's really I guess not quite enough to simply say hey, you've done a great job. We need to talk a little about perhaps the challenges that you need to meet to go out and live by the values that have marked this remarkable University for over a century, the values we hope have been of great importance to you.

We believe, have always believed, that it is our responsibility to educate hearts as well as minds. We're proud to be a University of activism, of personal responsibility, of concern about major issues, about determination of how to engage those issues.

Where, but at San Francisco State, would you find a University whose faculty have made a commitment to social justice and equity, the first of its fundamental goals -- exhibiting that commitment in many ways -- hiring, for example, the most diverse faculty of any university in this nation?

Where, but at San Francisco State, would you find a faculty who care so passionately about the world beyond the campus and who have constantly encouraged you, their students, to take an active role in the community? A role, I might add, that has earned us the designation as a college with a conscience as well as the highest federal recognition, a college or university can receive for this work, the President's Award for Civic Engagement.

I applaud both you, our graduates, and the faculty who have helped you to apply what you are learning to the needs of those around us -- people lacking affordable health care; former foster youth seeking guidance and education; families plagued by neighborhood violence, children who need a head start on basic educational skills, immigrants whose children -- with your help -- may one day sit where you are sitting.

Where, but at San Francisco State, could you be so challenged by a diversity of views yet so supported in learning how to disagree strongly -- indeed passionately -- but without hatred -- a skill the world sorely needs, and you have learned?

We are so keenly aware that decisions by our elected officials continue to shift the state's financial burdens disproportionately and unfairly to higher education students and their families, leaving many students with debts that will follow them for decades. And I want to acknowledge for those of you who are actively engaged in this change and who have decided in a very peaceful but visible way to show your concern that you've done so here today, as you are celebrating our graduation, you're also sending a message about the needs that your fellow students who will be continuing have to meet.

And where, but at San Francisco State, would you be asked so often to apply an ethical perspective to the subjects you have studied -- whether that subject is the environment, health care, the media, business management, public education -- virtually any field I could name?

I have said repeatedly that we try to make this campus a model of the kind of world in which all of us want to live. And now that you're moving from this campus into a new stage of your lives, I ask you to hold that model in your mind, and in your heart.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you can do that, you will have more than met our expectations of you, and we will take great pride in you as graduates -- graduates of SF State.


Joining us on the platform are some special guests who will be introduced by our announcer for today’s Commencement exercises, Professor Martin Gonzalez of the Department of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts. Professor Gonzalez 

Thank you, President Corrigan.

Please stand as your name is called, and audience, please hold your applause until everyone has been introduced.

From the California State University, the Chair of the Board of Trustees:

  • A. Robert Linscheid

From the campus:

  • Pamela Vaughn , chair of the Academic Senate
  • Gail G. Evans, dean of Undergraduate Studies
  • Deborah Masters, librarian of the University
  • Sacha Bunge, dean of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development
  • Nancy K. Hayes, vice president and chief financial officer
  • Don Scoble, chair, The University Corporation, San Francisco State University, and
  • Adenike Hamilton, president of the Associated Students.



Also with us on the platform are representatives of the group that is the true heart and soul of the University -- our outstanding faculty. While you have been students here, they have helped you to gain knowledge of self and of subject matter, as they have both challenged and supported you.

Principled women and men of intellectual distinction, they care deeply about you. I know that as they sit facing you, they will feel both deep pride in your achievements and a touch of sorrow as you prepare to leave us.

Please join me in a round of applause for these dedicated faculty members who have devoted their lives to teaching and learning.


To help us recollect the spirit in which we have gathered here this afternoon, I am honored to invite to the podium the Reverend Calvin Jones, Pastor of Providence Baptist Church in San Francisco. Pastor Jones.

Return to top


Opening and Invocation

My task is very simple. It's to pray for this occasion. I will be praying in my language and using the terms I believe in. And I understand there are other religions here today, but I'm just so proud to be able to pray and if we all, just the graduates, could you touch the person next to you. Just touch and we're going to pray together. God's going to change things. Yahweh is able. 

Oh, God, we come right now, thank you, God, as we unite together, different races, different genders. Lord, we ask You that You bless these graduates this day.  Not only just for a job, God.  We need people to be people and leaders in this world that we live in. We thank You for the opportunity to educate our minds at a university like this. We thank You for the teachers and the administrators.  We thank You for living in this great city, people come from all over the world to visit and to be a part of. 

Now, God, we ask Your choice blessing on each graduate, that they might be all that they can be and that they learn to touch one another in the right way. Be a blessing! Be a blessing!


Be a blessing! Be a blessing to each other and that we might be a blessing for those who are coming after us. In the name of Christ Jesus we pray. Let us all say amen. Amen


Thank you, Pastor Jones, for your inspiring words. You remind us that in our wonderful diversity, this campus community is linked by strong shared values.

Return to top


Introduction of the Student Speaker

And now, ladies and gentlemen, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Penny Saffold will now introduce the student speaker.

Thank you. Aznaur Midov was born and raised in the Russian Republic of Kabardin Balkar. In 2005, he came to San Francisco to create a new life for himself. He knew few people and little English. While working at a diner, he began to learn English and was soon accepted to San Francisco State's American Language Institute. In 2008 he started studying finance at SF State. 

Aznaur quickly proved himself as a leader on campus. In his first year he co-founded a student organization called Financial Analysis and Management Education, or FAME. He began cold-calling Bay Area investment leaders to ask them to speak at FAME events. Due to his determination, the group established relationships that led to prestigious internships for finance students. FAME's membership grew as the group created conferences, student investment funds, and networking opportunities. He was instrumental in launching FAME's annual student investment conference which draws students, journalists, and finance leaders from the West Coast. 

In 2009, Aznaur arranged a trip to a shareholders' meeting at Warren Buffett's Corporation, Berkshire Hathaway. And in 2010, he created the first-ever pre-graduation celebration for finance students. These remarkable accomplishments all occurred while Aznaur excelled in his classes and worked two jobs to pay for his education. In 2009, he was awarded the University's Outstanding Student Leader award for his commitment to his fellow students. With the wealth of experience in financing and networking, Aznaur plans to become an investment analyst in New York or in the Bay Area. Aznaur's energy and enthusiasm are boundless. And he uses those qualities to ensure excellence in others. I am delighted to present, representing the Class of 2012, Aznaur K. Midov!


Student Speaker for the Class of 2011

Thank you.  Thank you, Vice President Saffold.  Okay, give me some more support.  Come on.


Thank you. Thank you. President Corrigan, faculty, students, family members, and distinguished guests, I am honored to speak on behalf of all students today, especially since just a few years ago I didn't even have any plans to be in the United States and didn't even speak English. I was supposed to follow this script but it was in a different language and I don't understand half of it. So every time I pause it means I'm translating my Russian notes into English.

I'm going to share with you one skill that I found very useful when I was looking for a job. It's kind of challenging to find a job when you don't speak the language. So what I did, I was looking around the diners around the area and I tried to get as many interviews as possible so I could memorize the typical questions that interviewers asked. And most of the time they were the same, where was I from, what did I do, how did I like it. But every once in a while this interviewer would become creative and they were asking questions I had never heard of. That was painful. So what I did; I was just pretending to nod and say yeah, yeah. And I was hoping the next question she asked was actually something that I know. I later go to my friends and ask them what did she ask me right now? How should I respond? Well, eventually it worked out I got a job and hopefully you won't need these tactics.

I got to San Francisco State and it was a very fortunate moment for me. As a student of SF State we all experienced the great strengths of this University. One of the great strengths of it is its commitment to diversity. This is a place where unique backgrounds and different personalities are celebrated rather than ostracized. Just looking across the campus, you can hear people speaking Spanish, Italian, French, whatever else language you've never heard about. Sometimes you even hear Russians. This is a big place. Yes.


This is a big place. But diversity really makes -- allows us all to feel like home.

Another great strength of this University is the support that it provides to its students. As a freshman, I approached Finance Department Chair Alan Jung and I made the ridiculous request asking, asking him to help us to create a student investment conference and make it the largest on the West Coast. Instead of dismissing me as naive, he immediately offered his help and he also enlisted the support of Nancy Hayes who was Dean of the College of Business at that time. Well, we've created the conference and it is the largest on the West Coast, and all happened because Dr. Jung and Dean Hayes believed in us. On behalf of us all, I would like to thank faculty who believed in us and became partners in our dreams.


San Francisco State taught me many lessons that I will take with me as I go through life. I've learned what leadership is: people always impress you when they give, when you give them tasks that they love to do and you support them while staying out of their way. I learned what real teamwork is. It's not enough just to work together. Members of the group must share common goals and must be willing to sacrifice their own interests to achieve those goals. If you ever been part of this team you will know how much you can achieve. It's unbelievable. I've learned these lessons from my fellow classmates and from FAME members and some of them are graduating with me today. It's Hannah, Nicole, Novjak, Ben, Ivan, I can't pronounce this name. I'm sorry.


It's in English. Marco and others. Some of them have graduated in the past. Some of them graduate in the future. I want you guys to know how much impact you've made on my life. I owe you all my thanks. Give them a round of applause please, and yourself too. 

There are 7,928 of us who are graduating from San Francisco State University today. What that means is, there are 7,928 unique stories to celebrate. 7,928 of us faced our obstacles to getting here. But we got through. 7,928 of us watched, watched our tuition rise almost, almost double the last few years. But guess what? We found a way to pay it! 7,928 of us faced challenging coursework and we prevailed. But most importantly, 7,928 of us showed up here as a diverse group of strangers and today we're graduating together as the Class of 2012.

[Cheers and Applause]

Thank you very much and congratulations. Give yourself a round of applause.


Thank you, Mr. Midov, for giving voice to the hopes and aspirations of your classmates.

Return to top


Presentation of Faculty Emerita/Emeritus

And now, University Provost and Vice President for Student Affairs Sue Rosser will present the emeritus faculty.

It is appropriate that at Commencement we acknowledge the contribution of those faculty who, like our graduates, are leaving the University. These individuals have served with distinction, and upon their retirement, are being granted emeritus status.

Mr. President, I am pleased to present them to you today. Will the faculty emeriti please rise as I call their names:

  • Robert W. Cherny, Professor Of History
  • V.V. Krishnan, Professor Of Engineering
  • David B. Meredith, Professor Of Mathematics
  • Amy A. Nichols, Associate Professor Of Nursing


My friends and colleagues. It is with great pride and deep admiration that, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I confer upon each of you the title of Professor Emeritus or Emerita of San Francisco State University. May you find fulfillment in this next stage of your life -- and remember that you will always be a part of the San Francisco State family.

Return to top


Recognition of Alumnus of the Year

And now, the Vice President for University Advancement, Robert Nava, will present the Alumnus of the Year.

Thank you, President Corrigan. Class of 2012! Today, today you reach a major milestone and begin a new relationship with San Francisco State. As proud alumni, you're joining a special group that includes more than 200,000 graduates and stretches around the world. Please remember, graduates, that wherever you go, you will always be a part of this great University.

It's now my great pleasure to introduce our 2012 Alumnus of the Year, Jose Antonio Vargas. Mr. Vargas, please join me at the podium.


Jose Vargas, just two days after you graduated from SF State you joined the staff of one of the nation's premier newspapers, The Washington Post. And just four years later, you earned your profession's highest honor: a Pulitzer Prize.

You have excelled by combining first-rate reporting and writing with your expertise in journalism's exploding 21st century form: social media. As a member of The Washington Post team covering the fast-breaking story of the Virginia Tech shootings, you turned to Facebook to connect with student eyewitnesses, producing both news and feature articles for the Post's Virginia Tech series. The result was the Pulitzer Prize.

You have reported on the connection between politics and the internet, covered the 2008 presidential campaign and written a groundbreaking series on AIDS in Washington D.C.

But the article that changed your life was your 2011 essay in The New York Times Magazine. In that piece, you revealed that you are an undocumented immigrant, brought here from the Philippines as a child, only discovering your illegal status in your high school years.


After that, you launched a nonprofit, nonpartisan media campaign titled "Define American." It's aim is to elevate the conversation about immigration in the United States.

Jose Antonio Vargas, your journalistic achievements are reason enough to honor you, but your courage, integrity and determination to help our nation understand that to thrive as a nation we must act together in the best interests of all Americans reflect the values that SF State shares. We are proud to name you our 2012 Alumnus of the Year.


Return to top


Response by Alumnus of the Year


Hi. So I'm a writer. And I live by words and there's only one real word to describe what I'm feeling right now and it's surreal. So this is a little surreal. And I am going to take a picture for Facebook and Twitter. So smile. Everybody smile. Awesome. Great.

So it felt like it was just yesterday when I was eating burritos and drinking horchata at the Cesar Chavez Student Center, just like yesterday when I was stuck on Muni on the M line, running late for my Black literature class. And it seems like it was just yesterday when I read this guy, this writer named James Baldwin who hit me like a ton of bricks. He said in one of his poems, "Our history is each other. That is our only guide." And I'm proud to be a part of this school's history.

You know, eight years ago I was amongst you sitting there wondering about my future. What choices will I make? What kind of professional career will I have? How do I define success? You know, it's hard for all of us, given this economy and given the age of disruption -- and this is the age of disruption that we're living in -- but it was particularly hard for me and millions others like me because I'm an undocumented immigrant. What some people call "an illegal." You know there are at least 300 to maybe even 600 undocumented students right here at San Francisco State today.


I wasn't privileged enough to be born in this country and be considered American. I don't have the right papers to prove that I'm American. So I have to believe in my heart that I am American. And I thank my teachers, my fellow students and friends, I thank the kind and generous people here at San Francisco State for welcoming and embracing me as an American. You embraced me then, and you embrace me now.

I got more than an education in this school. This institution allowed me to be my own institution. And if I can impart anything to graduates, to all of you, 7,900 graduates today, it's just that. You must be your own institution. Success is not simply defined by the degrees you earn, the cars and houses you buy, and the money you have. Success is also defined by standing up for other people, even when it's inconvenient. Success is also defined by the relationships you keep and the people you treasure. And when you honor me you really honor my two families. You honor my Filipino family, my lola, and my uncle, and my aunt, and my (inaudible) sitting over there, their love is as deep and as wide as the ocean they crossed to get to America.

You also honor the family of friends and mentors I was blessed to have. That's my high school principal and my high school superintendent, Pat Highland and Rich Fisher. My lifelong mentors, Mary Moore and Jim Strand. You know, when I graduated from high school in 2000 people like me couldn't apply for financial aid to go to school and it was because of this guy named Jim Strand who set up a scholarship fund that I was even able to be here amongst you.

All of them believed in me long before I believed in myself. And I dedicate this honor, this amazing honor, to the estimated two million undocumented students enrolled in schools all around America.


There is more to us, to each of us, than pieces of paper. I am proud, I am as proud today as I was eight years ago to say I am a graduate of San Francisco State University. Thank you very, very much.


Thank you, Mr. Vargas. You are surely an inspiration to these graduates and those who will follow them.

Return to top



Presentation of the President's Medal on Jacob E. Perea

The President's Medal for Service is the highest award that the president of a California State University campus may bestow on his or her own.

Conferred on rare occasions, the medal recognizes an individual whose work has long-lasting and widespread benefits for the University and for society at large.

I can think of no more fitting a recipient than the man and the woman I am about to introduce. First off, the Dean of our Graduate College of Education, Dr. Jacob E. Perea. Dean Perea, will you join me?

Jacob Perea, throughout your far-ranging educational career you have pursued one overarching goal: promoting excellence and access for the fullest population of students.

You are passionate about reaching out to those who have too often been overlooked -- students who may not recognize that they are college material -- but who, with encouragement and support, can someday wear a university cap and gown.

Energetic, optimistic, and tireless, you know how to inspire students to aim high.

In your 37-year career at San Francisco State, you have excelled in developing the kinds of teachers that diverse urban classrooms demand. You have promoted cutting-edge programs that prepare K-12 teachers with the bilingual and cross-cultural skills they will need to help their students succeed.

But no achievement ranks larger than your creation more than 25 years ago of the innovative program you named "Step to College." Step takes the university directly to urban high school classrooms, preparing and encouraging students to aim for college.

More than 12,000 students have participated in Step to College since you founded the program. Many have gone on to earn degrees from San Francisco State and from other universities as well.

Jacob Perea, you embody the commitment to social justice and equity that is San Francisco State's signature value, and it is with the greatest admiration that I present to you the President's Medal for Service. As this medal reads, you are, indeed, and I quote, "A Drum Major for Justice."


Return to top


Presentation of the President's Medal of Service on Penny Saffold

Today, we are presenting a second President's Medal to another of our own, who is leaving after years of distinguished service to San Francisco State. Vice President Saffold, would you please join me?

Penny Saffold, for more than three decades you have been a powerful mentor and model for San Francisco State University students.

In the 28 years you have served as Dean of Students -- a title that for 18 years you held together with that of Vice President for Student Affairs -- for that period of time you have helped our students to develop both conscience and character, as they have practiced the skills of effective, ethical leadership.

You have guided, inspired -- and yes, when necessary, laid down the law -- to ensure that this lively and globally-minded campus maintains civil discourse and mutual respect, while at the same time allowing student leaders to learn, to grow and to act.

During your years at SF State, as the resident student population has multiplied, student life has moved from the margins to the center. You and the talented staff you have nurtured have made our student life program one of the University's special strengths.

But, Vice President Saffold, your impact extends well beyond Student Affairs. As a member of the University's top leadership team, you have had a profound impact on your colleagues, me in particular.

The inscription on your medal reads: "Shaping Student Leaders of Conscience and Character." Penny Saffold, it is a joy to present to you the President's Medal for Service.



Return to top


Conferral of the Honorary Degree on Barbro Osher

At Commencement at San Francisco State, we not only recognize all that you, our graduates, have excelled in, we look ahead to what you can accomplish as educated and concerned citizens.

And so, each year, we choose this day to honor outstanding men and women who can serve as role models -- exhibiting the highest values and achievements to which you can aspire.

You have met two such individuals already, three actually. Now I would like to present a remarkable woman on whom we have chosen to bestow the academic world's highest award -- the Honorary Doctorate.

Joining me for this honorary degree conferral is the Chair of the California State University Board of Trustees, Bob Linscheid.



Thank you, President Corrigan. It is my pleasure to be here on behalf of the entire Board of Trustees of the California State University, which oversees all 23 campuses and is the most diverse and largest four-year higher education institution in the United States. President Corrigan has said that the San Francisco State University graduating class of 2012 is the greatest class in the areas of diversity and accomplishment. We are very proud of you.

We wish you much success in your future endeavor and we congratulate you and wish that you celebrate safely.



Would the honorable Barbro Osher please join us.

Barbro Osher, in you a creative mind, a generous heart, and a global perspective have come together to make you an enormous force for good.

As Chairman of the Board of the Bernard Osher Foundation, you help to direct one of the nation's largest and most generous philanthropic organizations -- one that ranks in the top 100 U.S. foundations by total giving.

Your Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation supports cultural and educational projects involving Sweden, your native country. I am told by mutual friends in your home town of Gothenburg (and my home for three years) that you represent the single source of philanthropic giving for that city.

You have spurred the creation of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, a national network of university-based enrichment programs for older adults. SF State is proud to be the home of an Osher Institute. You also have looked to the needs of students who have been eager -- but unable -- to finish their degree, establishing the Osher Reentry Scholarships. The Osher Foundation has also provided major support to SF State's Presidential Scholars Program.

Through your own foundation, Barbro Osher, you have worked closely with SF State to create and support arts programs that have enabled the University to partner with such major organizations as San Francisco's De Young Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Canada and the Shanghai Museum.

You have said that SF State's values of diversity, tolerance and equal opportunity led you to support the University, noting that these are the same values that drew you to the United States.

Barbro Osher, we applaud you and Bernard Osher for your decision to be among the first to sign the "Giving Pledge" -- the challenge issued by billionaire Warren Buffet asking families and individuals in the U.S. with a great capacity to give to commit at least 50 percent of their means to charitable causes. For you, it was a clear path. As you have said, "we want to give in life." You are doing so, and millions are the better for it.

Your wide-ranging philanthropy and support for education exemplify key values of San Francisco State University and the California State University, and we are proud to honor you today.


The California State University, on the recommendation of San Francisco State University, hereby confers on Barbro Osher, the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters with all of the rights, privileges and honors pertaining thereto. President Corrigan, would you help me do the honors.





Wow! Graduates of Class 2012, you did it and so did I!


Fantastic. I am deeply touched and very moved by being part of your 7,938 plus 1, plus 2. To stand here under the watch of President Corrigan and his president, Joyce Corrigan. I am to be part of the ceremony that also includes Jose Antonio Vargas. Fantastic. Honored. How many Swedes are out there?


Wow! I come as an immigrant from a small country big as California but with only nine million people. So we have four Swedes out here among you, that's a lot. My husband was the son of immigrants who fled oppression in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the former century and it is he whom I have to thank today also for empowering me as an immigrant to do what we do best: give away while we are alive. And I hope many of you benefit from that and that you go out and build a legacy for yourselves. Can you imagine what power these 7,938 minds have to change the world, change everything around you for the better. Thank you for letting me be part of your Class of 2012.



Thank you, Dr. Osher. You are an exemplar for us all. Your concern for the greater society is a quality we can all seek to emulate.

Return to top


Presentation of Commencement Speaker

Throughout a career in public service that stretches back over three decades, Ed Lee has repeatedly demonstrated both his idealism and his pragmatism.

His social conscience showed itself early. Fresh out of law school, with a degree from UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, he helped to lead San Francisco's first organized rent strike. He would spend 10 years with the caucus, working to protect the rights of some of the city's most vulnerable residents.

For the last two decades, Ed Lee has served as the city of San Francisco's director of city works. He used that position effectively, winning unanimous support for a budget designed to close a $380 million deficit, negotiating with labor leaders on a pension reform measure that voters approved last November, and keeping such major employers as Twitter in the city.

He is a strong education advocate and SF State partner in programs that serve our community and strengthen our schools. A key partnership is the "SF Promise," which joins the city, the University, and the Unified School District to bring more under-represented graduates of our local high schools to San Francisco State.

Ed Lee's story is an all-American one. Like many of today's graduates, he is a first-generation American, the son of Chinese immigrants. He became San Francisco's first Asian American mayor in January 2011.


He had been appointed at that time by the Board of Supervisors unanimously to serve out the remainder of Mayor Gavin Newsom's term. The following November, the rest of the voters reinforced that choice, giving Mayor Lee a full term in office.

Ed Lee to me exemplifies the commitment to service and to improving our shared society that are central SF State values. He is our mayor -- our kind of mayor -- as he likes to say, and I quote, "I was a progressive before progressive was a political faction in town." I am delighted to present to you our 2012 Commencement speaker, the Honorable Edwin M. Lee!


Return to top


Commencement Address


Greetings. Greetings to the members of the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff of San Francisco State University, family and friends. Good afternoon Class of 2012.

(Cheers and Applause)

I'm certainly in a San Francisco State of mind today! Nearly 8,000 graduates from across 109 countries right here, you truly represent the incredible diversity and promise that is our great city San Francisco. And thank you, President Corrigan, for that very kind introduction. Thank you for your leadership for the last 24 years. You have been a wonderful partner to our city, actively shaping our education policies and making sure our youth are career-ready professionals for the 21st century new economy. You are a true champion of change.  You have taught us that social justice and diversity are values which we as leaders need to live by. You have advanced much-needed reforms in higher education that have impacted generations of students across the nation and world.  Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement, President Corrigan. And a big welcome, a big welcome to Dr. Leslie Wong, the incoming president who will have to fill big shoes.

And I want to say to alumnus Jose Vargas, as you go around the rest of the world, write about your values and your ideas and how proud you are to be a graduate from this university, make sure you let people know San Francisco is, and always will be, a sanctuary city for the rest of the nation.


And to Aznaur Midov, your student commencement speaker.  If I may say


Congratulations. You didn't know I could speak Russian, did you? But Aznaur, with your leadership and entrepreneurial spirit I hope to see you start and invest in a new tech company right here in the innovation capital of the world, San Francisco.

You know, being mayor is a job that I love and I thank the people of this city every single day for giving me the opportunity to serve San Francisco. It is a privilege to wake up each morning and go to city hall and work for you, the people of the city, to do everything I can to help you succeed and grow in your lives. Because SF State Class of 2012, that is what today is about, succeeding and growing in your lives. For yourselves, for your families, and as mayor I'll say selfishly for your city or whatever community you go from here. I just turned 60 a couple of weeks ago and I've been thinking lately, you know, we did some good things in my generation. Here in San Francisco we raised our voices against the needless rush to war, whether in Vietnam or Iraq, we blazed new trails for social justice and pushed the rest of America to embrace equal rights for all of our people, women, African-Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, gay, lesbian, transgender people and people with disabilities. We are a leader in protecting our environment and we were the first city in America to have universal healthcare for all of our residents.


And this university and this student body at San Francisco State has always been, and will be, the vanguard of these movements. When I was not much older than you, after I graduated from Bowdoin College, I came to the Bay Area to join others and raise a little heck, just to make the world a better place. We locked arms and stood in the doorway of the International Hotel to prevent the wrongful eviction of elderly Filipino and Chinese immigrants who had no money and no place to go.


We sued the San Francisco Fire Department to give women and people of color a chance to be a firefighter and put their lives on the line for the public safety. And I think we made a difference.

Today I'm proud that our city hired a woman to lead our fire department. And I could have never imagined that in our lifetime, in my lifetime the country would elect an African-American president. Or that even the people of San Francisco would elect a Chinese-American mayor. But we also screwed a few things up along the way. From the economy to the environment to social justice, we are still working at it. And now that you're graduating, Class of 2012, the challenges and the problems of the world are your challenges and problems, too. And so your next assignment, your homework for the rest of your life -- I get to do this because I'm mayor -- is to run the ball a few, a little farther down the field and help make our, your community and this world a better place. I know, I know, some of you are thinking, "but Mayor, I've got to get a job! I got to repay my student loans! I got to pay rent and pay for my mortgage! I got to care for my family!" Yes, you do. And I know it might seem like we're just letting you out into the world today to fend for yourself in an economy where too many young people are still looking for too few jobs. It's kind of like survival of the fittest, like something out of "Hunger Games."


But my message to you is that here in San Francisco you are not on your own. It's more like "The Avengers."  No, no, I, don't have any special super powers, though I often wish I did at City Hall. What I mean is that while it may not always be evident, and though you may face many challenges as you leave this university and throughout your life, always remember that you are surrounded by a not-so-secret society of people who want to help you. They are people in business and government, law, technology, sports, entertainment, healthcare, education, and the arts -- in every field -- who have achieved some measure of success or wisdom in their own lives. The greatest gift they can ever give is to pass on a little bit of that wisdom and a little bit of what they learned to you and help you succeed to an even greater degree.

Don't get me wrong, it's up to you and you alone to decide what you're going to do with this education and with this opportunity and not to waste it. But don't ever be afraid to ask for help. Whether it's your boss, your family, your colleague or your mayor. And along the way to your success don't lose yourself and your values amidst the distractions and challenges of life. Don't forget where you came even from amidst the successes you may achieve. Look to your own communities and ask yourself, "How can I give back?" "How can I use my education to add to the valuable work that is going on all around me in my neighborhood or in my city?" Because if there's one thing I see in this new economy that is emerging -- all these great start-ups in technology and clean tech and biotech that are adding so many jobs to our city -- it's that success does not come from going it alone. Success comes from collaboration, from interaction, from bringing diverse backgrounds and skills towards a common vision and goal. Go to these new companies, whether it's Dropbox or Airbnb, any of the incubators south of Market or in Mission Bay. They don't have offices.  They've got big open tables. They have white boards everywhere and glass-walled conference rooms. The entire company is built around the notion of collaboration. The idea that success comes from sharing ideas and talent and goals. Because that's how we get innovation.

And that's how you, Class of 2012, will leave the world a better place than you found it and fix the things my generation didn't quite get right. Not just innovation in technology and our economy. But innovative approaches to healthcare, curing diseases, to cleaning our air and water, to delivering social services and social justice. And there's no better place than here, the innovation capital of the world, to start the rest of your life. We are the gateway to the Pacific Rim and Asia to the west and to the growing economies of Latin America and Brazil to the south. We are an international destination and a brand known around the world. You, Class of 2012, are part of that made-in-San Francisco brand, a brand that represents new ideas, new frontiers and new beginnings. I'll close with a little astrology. As some of you may know, in the Chinese zodiac, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon.


Now the dragon is the only mythical animal in the Chinese zodiac and the most powerful of all the rest. The Year of the Dragon is fittingly a time for risk-taking, bold decisions and innovation. Class of 2012 of San Francisco, the world needs your risk-taking. Seize this Year of the Dragon for yourselves, for your family, for the rest of you -- and the rest of us. You are graduating at a time of momentous opportunity and promise. And I know I'm a little biased, but it is no better city on earth in which to begin the rest of your life with your new degree in hand. We're so proud of you and always remember that we are counting on you and we are here to help you realize your greatest potential. Thank you and congratulations for the Class of 2012.


Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for words that could not be more appropriate for our graduates. You remind them that the world deeply needs their talents, their involvement, and their lifelong commitment to the greater good.

Return to top


President's Remarks

I have a couple more words to impart. Ah, come on. You know, talking to 8,000, or you're not all here, but get a message across to 8,000 future leaders.

I don't know how many of you remember Daniel from the old testament, Daniel in the lion's den. This isn't a secular message -- this is a secular message, not a particular religious one. Thank you. He was a king who decided, a king who decided to hold this man to a set of values which were not his own. And for us he's become a symbol of principled purposeful courageous life. 

A Daniel is a person who operates from strong ethical beliefs. A Daniel engages with the world and leaves a strong positive imprint. I believe that this Daniel has prepared this, this university has prepared all of you to be Daniels, if you choose to.

And don't let this be a daunting challenge. We don't need to demand of ourselves that we change the world. We only need to act every day in a way that reflects our best values. You're graduating, as Mayor Lee has said, into a world of extraordinary challenges. But we know that you will rise up to meet them.  Thank you.


Return to top


Conferring of Doctoral Degrees

We now begin the Conferral of Degrees. University Provost Sue Rosser and Dean of Graduate Studies Ann Hallum will present the candidates for the Doctoral Degree.

San Francisco State University offers four doctoral degrees: Doctor of Physical Therapy and Doctor of Physical Therapy Science, both in partnership with the University of California San Francisco; Doctor of Philosophy in Education, Special Education emphasis, in partnership with the University of California Berkeley, and Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, which we offer independently.

With us on the platform are students who today will earn a doctoral degree through one of these programs. We will invest each of them with an academic hood. Provost Rosser will present them now.

By the joint action of the Board Of Regents of the University Of California, the Trustees of the California State University, we are awarding both the Doctor of Physical Therapy and the Doctor of Physical Therapy Science degree. We are conferring these degrees with the University of California, San Francisco.

Will the candidate for the degree Doctor of Physical Therapy Science, Monica Rivera, please come forward for hooding by Dean Hallum.

Mr. President, subject to the completion of all requirements as prescribed by the Board of Regents of the University of California, the Trustees of the California State University, and the faculties of the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco State University, Monica Rivera is presented for receipt of the degree Doctor of Physical Therapy Science.

Upon the recommendation of the administrative and teaching faculty of San Francisco State University and of the University of California, San Francisco, and by the authority vested in me as President of the University by the State of California under the provisions of the Donahoe Higher Education Act, I confer upon you, Monica Rivera, the degree, Doctor of Physical Therapy Science, with all the rights, honors and opportunities attached thereto.


Will the candidate for the degree Doctor of Physical Therapy, Morgan Nicole-Antoinette Johnson, who is representing all the students who this year have earned this degree, please come forward for investiture of the hood.


Mr. President, subject to the completion of all requirements as prescribed by the Board of Regents of the University of California, the Trustees of the California State University, and the faculties of the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco State University, Morgan Nicole-Antoinette Johnson is presented for receipt of the degree Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Upon the recommendation of the administrative and teaching faculty of San Francisco State University and of the University of California, San Francisco, and by the authority vested in me as President of the University by the State of California under the provisions of the Donahoe Higher Education Act, I confer upon you, Morgan Nicole-Antoinette Johnson, the degree, Doctor of Physical Therapy, with all the rights, honors and opportunities attached thereto.


This year we graduate the third group of students to earn the degree Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership. This is an independent degree offered by the California State University.

Representing all our 2012 Ed.D. graduates is Victoria May Quijano. Will Ms. Quijano please come forward for hooding by Dean Hallum.


Mr. President, subject to the completion of all requirements as prescribed by the Trustees of the California State University, and the faculty of San Francisco State University, Victoria May Quijano is presented for receipt of the degree Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.

Upon the recommendation of the administrative and teaching faculty of San Francisco State University and by the authority vested in me as President of the University by the State of California under the provisions of the Donahoe Higher Education Act, I confer upon you, Victoria May Quijano, the degree, Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, with all the rights, honors and opportunities attached thereto.



Return to top


Presentation of the Hood Recipients

It is now time to introduce the graduating students on the platform whom President Corrigan mentioned earlier -- our 2012 hood recipients.

It is an academic custom to invest those earning degrees with hoods that designate the degree bestowed. Time does not allow us to present each of the graduates here today with a hood.

Therefore the graduate program has chosen an outstanding student to represent all of those receiving their master's degree and each college of the University has chosen an outstanding student to represent those earning undergraduate degrees. These students will receive the hood on behalf of their fellow members of the Class of 2012.

Would the hood recipients and the respective deans please come forward.


Audience, please hold your applause until all the hood recipients have been presented.

Representing all students receiving their master's degree today is Ms. Adrienne Wilson, who is receiving a Master of Public Health degree.


Family health issues spurred Adrienne Wilson's desire to help others obtain health care. Service in the Peace Corps in East Africa introduced her to global public health issues, and her master's research project explores the effect of socioeconomic inequalities on breast cancer rates for women in the developing world. Ms. Wilson has been a mentor and teacher for SF State's nationally-recognized Metro Academies Program, which guides under-represented students through the first two years of college. She has received major recognition for her academic promise, including a California State University Trustee Award and a CSU pre-doctoral program scholarship, which will send her to a summer internship at Columbia University. She plans to earn a doctoral degree in social epidemiology.

Dean of the Graduate Division, Ann Hallum, will now present the hood.


Mr. Aznaur K. Midov, a Corporate Finance major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Business.


You have already met Mr. Midov but I would like to share something he has said about his experiences in America: "In Russia, you lead by just requiring people to do what you think is right. Here, you learn to inspire people; you create opportunities for people to achieve something new, and they always impress you."

Caran Colvin, Interim Dean of the College of Business, will now confer the hood.


Ms. Reyhaneh Rajabzadeh, a Communicative Disorders major, has been selected to receive the hood for the Graduate College of Education



Reyhaneh Rajabzadeh was born in Iran, raised in the U.S. and feels at home in both cultures. When she noticed the inadequacy of speech therapy programs in Farsi, the language of Iran, she recognized a goal.

Ms.Rajabzadeh is one of just five undergraduates in the nation selected by a prestigious speech organization for its minority leadership program. She plans to use her knowledge of Farsi -- one of the three languages she speaks -- to serve those with communicative disorders in Persian communities in the U.S. and Iran. Next fall, she will enter a speech-language pathology program at the University of Washington on a scholarship and plans to earn a doctorate.

The Dean of the Graduate College of Education, Jacob Perea, will confer the hood.


Ms. Shontrice Renee Williamson, a major in Africana Studies, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all graduates in the College of Ethnic Studies.


The second in a combined family of 15 siblings, Shontrice Williamson became the caretaker early on. Nevertheless, she held to the childhood goal she is realizing today: a college degree. Family demands slowed her plans, but as a re-entry student at Laney College, she discovered Africana Studies. She transferred to SF State where she has excelled both academically and in community service. Ms. Williamson has made the dean's list every semester, published in the Africana Studies Journal and volunteered extensively in the community. Next fall, she begins graduate school to earn an Education Degree with an emphasis on Black Child Development and Black Family Studies. Her ultimate aim is to become a university professor.

The Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, Kenneth Monteiro, will confer the hood.


Ms. Marilyn L. Bunag, a Sociology major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Health and Human Services.


Born in the Philippines, Marilyn Bunag grew up in San Francisco with a busy single mother and took on responsibility for helping to raise five siblings. Ms. Bunag would later struggle with problems of her own, including homelessness, while raising her four children. Thoughts of their future redirected her and she entered City College, then transferred to SF State. Ms. Bunag found a field in Sociology that gave context to the poverty and other issues she had experienced. Now a case manager at a vocational training nonprofit, she also serves on the board of directors for the shelter and family services program where she was once a client. Ms. Bunag plans to earn a graduate degree in Social Work or Public Administration.

The Dean of the College of Health and Human Services, Don Taylor, will confer the hood.


Ms. Gioconda Vanessa Almanza, a Communication Studies major, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all graduate in the College of Liberal and Creative Arts.

Born and raised in San Francisco's Mission District to parents who had emigrated from Nicaragua just a year earlier, Gioconda Almanza, like her older sisters, worked throughout high school to help support the family. Yet she dared to dream of earning a college degree. At SF State she has excelled in all subject areas. She has continued to work part-time, while serving as an intern at a nonprofit that provides Internet access and computer skills to residents of low-income housing projects. She also volunteers 70 hours a month in her church. She envisions using her communication and other skills to improve the circumstances of vulnerable populations. Her major and her minor in French offer many possibilities, both here and abroad.

Paul Sherwin, Dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts, will confer the hood.


Mr. Apurwa Sharma, a Biochemistry major, has been selected to receive the hood on behalf of all graduates in the College of Science and Engineering.


Raised in a working class family in Nepal, Apurwa Sharma graduates today Magna Cum Laude, with a record of research and publication that a graduate student might envy. He is one of the few undergraduate students allowed to train and supervise his peers -- and even graduate students -- in the lab. He has contributed to three major projects and will co-author three publications, one of which will become a grant application to the National Science Foundation. Mr. Sharma has also volunteered on- and off-campus, teaching Bay Area youth about science. He will begin his Ph.D. in Biochemistry this fall at Washington University in St. Louis. He aims to become both a researcher and an advocate for scientific education.

Sheldon Axler, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, will confer the hood.


We are tremendously proud of these outstanding students. Please join me in a round of applause for our 2012 hood recipients!


Return to top


Conferral of Master's Degrees

We now begin the conferral of Master's and Bachelor's degrees. University Provost Sue Rosser will present the candidates for the master's degree. 

Will all the candidates for the degree Master of Arts please rise.

  • The candidates for the degree Master of Fine Arts.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Business Administration.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Music.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Public Administration.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Public Health.
  • The candidates for the degree Master of Science.
  • And the candidates for the degree Master of Social Work.

Mr. President, subject to the completion of all requirements as prescribed by the trustees of the California State University and the faculty of San Francisco State University, these candidates are presented for receipt of the appropriate master's degrees.

Upon the recommendation of the administrative and teaching faculty of San Francisco State University, and by the authority vested in me as President of the University by the State of California, I confer upon each of you who has completed the requirements, the master's degree for which you are listed in the commencement program, together with all rights, privileges and responsibilities attached thereto.

Will the master's degree recipients please be seated. In a few moments, the faculty marshals will be guiding you to the stages, row by row.

Return to top


Distribution of Diplomas to Doctoral Master's Degree Candidates

Will the deans please go to their respective stages.

Will the faculty marshals please direct the doctoral and master's degree recipients to the stages, starting from the front. We ask that graduates wait for the marshals' instructions. After leaving the stages, graduates will proceed to the rear of the stadium and will be guided out.

Coming forward to the north stage -- to the right of the jumbo screen -- will be graduates from the Colleges of Liberal and Creative Arts and the Graduate College of Education.

And to the south stage -- to the left of the screen -- graduates from the colleges of Ethnic Studies, Science and Engineering, Health and Human Services, and Business.


Return to top


Conferring of Bachelor's Degrees

And now, the moment for which so many have been waiting!

Will the candidates for the degrees Bachelor of Arts please rise!

The candidates for the Bachelor of Music, and the candidates for the degree Bachelor of Science!

Mr. President subject to the completion of all requirements as prescribed by the trustees of the California State University and the faculty of San Francisco State University, these candidates are presented for receipt of the appropriate baccalaureate degree.

Upon the recommendation of the administrative and teaching faculty of San Francisco State University, and by the authority vested in me as President of the University by the State of California, I confer upon each of you who have completed the requirements, the baccalaureate degree for which you are listed in the commencement program, together with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities attached thereto.

It is customary that those receiving the baccalaureate degree move the tassels of their caps from the right side to the left side. I ask that you who have just received your degrees move your tassels now. You've just graduated!

Members of the audience, I present to you the Class of 2012! Please join me in a round of applause for all of them. Class of 2012, as you leave us today, you take with you our affection and respect, our belief in you, and our hope that you will fulfill all of your dreams. God bless you all!

The faculty marshals will now guide the bachelor's degree recipients to the stage, row by row, starting from the front.

Coming forward to the stage on the right of the jumbo screen will be graduates from the College of Liberal and Creative Arts and the Graduate College of Education.

And to the stage on the left of the screen, graduates from the colleges of Ethnic Studies, Science and Engineering, Health and Human Services, and Business.

Return to top


Distribution of Diplomas to Bachelor's Degree Candidates 


Return to top


-- University Communications