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SFSU Celebrates 102nd Commencement: Transcript

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May 24, 2003



The following is a transcript of San Francisco State University's 102nd Commencement on Saturday, May 24, 2003 in Cox Statium on campus before an audience of 22,000.

Processional and National Anthem - Opening - Invocation- Introductions and Welcome
Greetings from the Class of 2003 - Ms. Lau's Remarks - Presentation of Faculty Emerita/Emeritus
Recognition of Alumnus of the Year - Response by Alumnus of the Year Fong-Torres
Conferral of the President's Medal on Bernard Goldstein - Dr. Goldstein's Remarks
Conferral of the Honorary Degree on Peter Yarrow - Presentation of Commencement Speaker
Commencement Address
- President's Remarks - Presentation of the Hood Recipients
Conferring of Master's Degrees - Distribution of Diplomas to Master's Degree Candidates
Conferring of Bachelor's Degrees - Distribution of Diplomas to Bachelor's Degree


Processional and National Anthem

On reaching their places on the platform, the processional participants remained standing for the National Anthem.


Ladies and gentlemen: would you please rise for the singing of the national anthem.  The processional was performed by the San Francisco State University Symphonic Band under the direction of Robert Busan.  Our soloist for the national anthem is Anishka Lee-Skorepa, a senior majoring in Vocal Performance.


Opening and Invocation


Thank you, Ms. Lee-Skorepa.  What a marvelous start for our commencement celebration!  Ladies and gentlemen – please be seated. Members of the San Francisco State University Class of 2003 – good afternoon! I said, good afternoon!

BienvenidosBienvenidos! Huan ying! Huan yingMabuhayKonnichi-wa! Shalom! Salaam!

Welcome to all of our guests and families!

What an absolutely spectacular occasion!  What a glorious day!   It is a joyous day! A serious day!  It is a day of lifetime significance to you, our graduates. A day of pride and joy for your families and friends who have joined us.   It is a day of celebration.

To help us recollect the spirit in which we have gathered here this afternoon, we have one of the city’s most dynamic speakers and passionate advocates for social change.  I am pleased to present the reverend Amos C. Brown, Senior Pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco.



I invite your indulgence as we evoke divine presence upon this fateful day. Let us pray.

A moral, invisible, and all wise God, some of us have called you Yahweh. Others have elected to call you Jesus. Some of us have found you in the quiet meditative moments of Buddha. Indeed, others of us have called you Allah in submission. Some of us have even called you through the chants of the eupanoshants (phonetic). Yet, oh, God it's not a matter of what we call you, but what you respond to.

And that in a profound sense, you have responded to those seekers of truth who have discovered that in all of our religious persuasion, we are mandated to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

We thank you for Robert Corrigan and for his great, stirring, and soulful leadership that has embraced the entire world in order that students might be a part of this academic enterprise, with faculty, staff, and the governance systems, so that we would, as a university, live out the responsibility of making education and training a right for all persons.

We pray this day that thou willst bless those parents who have struggled to pay tuition fees. We thank you for the caring and loving moments of teachers. Especially do we thank you for those who kept the faith and who graduated – some cum laude, others magna cum laude. But we know there are those who kept struggling and have graduated today. Thank you, Lord.

And though this may be a celebration, oh, God, help us to realize that celebrations only last for a moment. But the struggles of life go on from one generation to the next. Help these graduates, we pray Thee, to embrace the struggle for justice, inclusion, equality of opportunity for all, so that the day will come when all of your children will be able to say, "I'm black and I'm proud." "I'm brown and I'm sound." "I'm yellow and I'm mellow." "I'm red, but I ain't dead." "I'm white, and I'm all right."

Thanks be to God.

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Thank you, Reverend Brown, for your inspiring words – words that reflect so well the spirit of this graduating class. 


Introductions and Welcome


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


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

From the Board of Trustees of the California State University:      

  • Ms. Roberta Achtenberg

From the President’s Advisory Board and SfSU Foundation Board of Directors:

  • Mr. George Martinez, who is seated with our guests in the audience.

From the campus:

  • Robert Cherny, Chair of the Academic Senate;
  • Natalie Batista, President of the Associated Students;
  • Deborah Masters, Librarian of the University;
  • James Collier, Vice President for University Advancement;
  • Leroy Morishita, Vice President for Administration and Finance;
  • Don Scoble, Chief of Staff;
  • Gail Whitaker, Dean of the College of Extended Learning;
  • Marilyn Verhey, Acting Dean of Faculty Affairs; and
  • Kenneth Monteiro, University Dean of Human Relations.



It is a real joy to be here with you today at our 102nd Commencement. Graduation is surely the most important event in any university's life – and the happiest.

You, our graduates, have every right to be proud of yourselves.  For many of you, this has been more than a four-year path. You have had to balance work – perhaps even family responsibilities – with your academic studies. But you persevered, and we congratulate you for your achievement.

You are a virtual world unto yourselves.  In all, you are the native sons and daughters of 115 nations. 

Some of your families have been in the United States far longer than this university has existed; others of you arrived but a year or two ago.  Virtually all of you are California residents – mostly from the Bay Area.  But almost one-quarter of you were born outside of the United States. That is right – 25%!

You, the members of the class of 2003, are a richly diverse community, and your varied life experiences, cultural backgrounds and perspectives have made this campus a richer, more exciting place. 

Ten of your classmates, our hood recipients, are seated on this platform. Among them are:

  • A daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, the first in  her family to graduate from college, who found time to volunteer in the community while earning straight A’s in her major.  She starts law school next fall, where she will pursue her interest in social justice.
  • A student whose family moved from Czechoslovakia to give their daughter greater opportunity. She found it at San Francisco State, where she graduates with highest honors and a desire to work for environmental protection.
  • A student who was admitted through the equal opportunity program and, while attending full-time, tutored other students, worked as many as three jobs at a time – and who graduates today with honors!
  • An energetic student who came here because she “wanted to study at the campus where the ethnic studies movement was born,” and who is graduating three and one-half years later with a double major and a strong record of volunteering and internships.
  • A Greek and Latin scholar  who is also a poet, translator, editor, and creator of a successful poetry reading series that paired students with well-known Bay Area poets – and who intends to return to the university classroom, as a teacher.

In their diversity, their courage and their determination to make a difference, our hood recipients are a microcosm of all of you, the Class of 2003, a visible reminder of what makes this University so singular.

As you leave San Francisco State, I pray that you will take with you far more than factual learning.  We have sought to give you lifetime learning skills – and lifetime values.

While you have been students here, you have gained much of your academic and personal strength from your vital partners in university life – our outstanding faculty.   Men and women of principle and intellectual distinction, they have cared deeply about you. They sit facing you now, sharing my pride in your many achievements and watching with mixed emotions as you prepare to leave us.

I would like you to join me now in a round of applause for these faculty members who have given so much of themselves to you.

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Greetings from the Class of 2003


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


Engineering major Nelly Lau is graduating today with an academic triple crown.  She is this year’s student commencement speaker.  She is the hood recipient – the outstanding graduate – for the College of Science and Engineering, and she is leaving San Francisco State with an exceptional academic honor: a national Science Foundation graduate fellowship in electrical engineering – one of only 46 of these fellowships awarded in the nation.

Nelly will use the fellowship to earn a doctoral degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University! She hopes someday to return to SFSU as a faculty member and role model for other young women interested in science, particularly in the male-dominated field of engineering.

For Nelly Lau, everything seems to come in threes. She is the oldest of three children; she has served as president of three honor societies – and founder of one – and she is successful in the three realms that dominate her life – academics, leadership, and community service.

She began to volunteer at 10, helping other children learn to read, and she has never stopped – planting trees in Chinatown, registering voters, caring for the elderly, and more.

We couldn’t be more proud of this well-rounded young woman. President Corrigan, I am delighted to present Nelly Puiyee Lau, speaking on behalf of the Class of 2003.



President Corrigan, Distinguished guests, Family, and Friends:

Greetings Class of 2003! We have done it! No more homework! No more exams! No more term papers!

Congratulations to my fellow graduates on reaching this important milestone in our lives. And on behalf of the graduating class, I want to thank our families, friends, and the campus community for providing a supportive environment that helped us to reach our goals. There are three messages I would like to share with you.

When I entered San Francisco State, I felt, as maybe some of you did, somewhat lost and uncertain. Being in a new environment was overwhelming, and we were presented with multiple options: making new friends, joining clubs, selecting classes, and choosing majors. I settled on engineering because it fulfills my interests in math and science. I also discovered that there were few females in engineering. In the ensuing years, I found, in both our school of engineering and the larger campus community, a nurturing environment that is far better than other universities. I want personally to thank Dr. Whitaker, Dr. Liou, and my mentor, Dr. Hu, for their support and guidance. I think engineering is a wonderful profession for the clear mind of a female. Therefore, my first message is this: do not be limited by society’s stereotypes. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

While we attended SFSU, scientists completed human genome sequencing, engineers advanced cell phones and MP3, and over 200 million computers entered homes, schools and businesses. That is to say that science and technology are evolving at a fast pace. Commencement marks the beginning of our new journey but we cannot stop learning. New technologies affect how we live and what we do. One of my professors told me that what he teaches is not what he learned in school, but rather things that he learned afterwards. So my second message is, borrowing a Chinese proverb: "Learning is like rowing upstream; if you stop rowing, you are bound to go backwards."

My third message is 3 com’s. During our years at San Francisco State, we have seen the world go through many tragic events: 9-11, anthrax scares, conflicts in the Middle East, to list just a few. Almost all intentional tragedies are results of misunderstanding, selfishness or hatred. We must resolve conflicts in a civilized way with communication, compromise, and compassion – the 3 com’s. Communication avoids misunderstanding; compromise removes selfishness; compassion overcomes hatred. The University has a theme banner, “Love is stronger than hate.” I hope we will all remember these powerful words even after we leave this campus. Rabbi Harold Kushner once said, “When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasures you have brought into other people’s lives than you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them.”

In closing, I would like to read the first part of a song written and sung by a famous artist and a great humanitarian:

I traveled the banks of the River of Jordan
to find where it flows to the sea
I looked in the eyes of the cold and hungry
and I saw I was looking at me.

I wanted to know if life had a purpose
and what it all means in the end.
In the silence I listened to voices inside me
and they told me again and again.

There is only one river. There is only one sea.
And it flows through you, and it flows through me.
There is only one people. We are one and the same.
We are all one spirit. We are all one name.

From River of Jordan by Peter Yarrow.

Thank you.



Thank you, Ms. Lau, for giving a warm and  personal voice to the Class of 2003.

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Presentation of Faculty Emerita/Emeritus


Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John Gemello will now present the emeritus faculty.  


It is appropriate that at commencement we mark 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:

  • H. Leigh Auleb, Professor of Biology
  • Marilyn Boxer, Professor of History
  • John P. De Cecco, Professor of Psychology
  • Ludmila Ershov, Professor of Foreign Languages And Literatures
  • Bernard Goldstein, Professor of Biology
  • Martin I. Heinstein, Professor of Psychology
  • Ruth G. Knier, Professor of Humanities
  • Myron J. Lunine, Professor of Humanities
  • Alice Nemon, Professor of Counseling
  • Shannon E. Perry, Professor of Nursing
  • Dorothy C. Piontkowski, Professor of Psychology
  • H. Eric Solomon, Professor of English, and
  • Sheila G. Zipf, Professor of Psychology


My friends and colleagues.  It is with 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 take joy in this next stage of your lif – and remember that you will always be a part of this university family.

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Recognition of Alumnus Of The Year

PROF. GONZALEZ, ANNOUNCER:                    

The president of the San Francisco State University Alumni Association, Danelle Zeavin, will now present the Alumnus Of The Year.


On behalf of the San Francisco State University Alumni Association, I welcome you in your new status as alumni, joining the more than 200,000 graduates who have preceded you.  You will now serve as this University’s ambassadors to the world for the rest of your lives! We are proud of you, and we hope that you will stay connected to this great institution, joining the Alumni Association and helping us to give back to the students who will follow you.

It is a great pleasure now to introduce our 2003 Alumnus Of The Year. Ben Fong-Torres, would you please join me?

Ben Fong-Torres has dedicated his life to rock and roll and words. When a new little magazine named “Rolling Stone” was getting started in San Francisco in the late ‘60s, Ben wrote a short free-lance article for it.

That was the start of a path that would make “Ben Fong-Torres” one of the best – and best-known by-lines in the world of music journalism. In the 11 years he spent at Rolling Stone – arguably the magazine’s heyday – he interviewed and often hung out with The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, Joni Mitchell, and many more.

In some 35 years of writing, he has interviewed hundreds of world-famous musicians and actors and written for a wide range of publications. He spent many years as a writer and columnist  at the San Francisco Chronicle, leaving in 1992 to write his well-received memoirs, “The Rice Room: From Number Two Son To Rock And Roll.” He is the author of several other books, most recently, “Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass To 20 Years Of Rock & Roll.”

Ben is a man of many media.  He is, after all, a graduate of our Radio and Television Program, and he is a busy broadcaster, appearing frequently on TV and radio. Ben credits a career that he calls “pretty incredible” to the welcome he got at San Francisco State. “There were no closed doors,” he has said, no one trying to suggest that as an Asian, he might be better off considering fields other than journalism and broadcasting.

Last night, we inducted Ben Fong-Torres into the University’s Alumni Hall of Fame. Today, Mr. Fong-Torres, I am delighted to join President Corrigan in recognizing you as our 2003 Alumnus Of The Year.

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Response by Alumnus Of The Year


Wow. Thanks a lot.

Thank you very much. Wow. Put that aside.

Good afternoon. I'm Mr. Fong Torres, your substitute Alumnus Of The Year. The real one is lost somewhere in the garage under The Village.

What a crowd! I have not seen so many job seekers all in one place.

And, unfortunately, we only have three openings. So....

And, you know, you're all overqualified anyway.

President Corrigan, members of the San Francisco State Alumni Association, distinguished guests, friends and family, members of the class of 2003, thank you.

This must be a special day for you to be here at San Francisco State, facing a series of talks, and you don't have to take a single damn note.

For me, it is great to be here on an SF State version of a sunny day. To be named Alumnus Of The Year, to which I replied, "And what year was that?" and to be invited to be among you here today. I cannot help but think back to June 1966. That was my own graduation day here at San Francisco State. And I can't think of anything, because I didn't attend. It was the '60s.

My friends and I probably meant to come, but we couldn't find our way to the field.

As for wearing a gown, we did it all the time. We called them togas.

Last night, I was one of four Gators inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame. And that is just so weird. The thing is, I was essentially kicked out of here back in 1967. This is my first time back.

I had received my B.A. in Radio, T.V., Film, now better known as BECA, in 1966.

And then, I started grad work while I served as editor of the Gator, but I neglected to register for the spring semester and somebody found out and, bye bye. But everything worked out fine. I got into radio and then into Rolling Stone Magazine and my life was forever changed.

I have had, as I have said before, a quite incredible career, and I believe I owe it all to San Francisco State.

When I first registered in the summer of '62, I thought about the things I wanted to learn and to do in writing and in broadcasting. But I saw them as kind of long shot fantasies. I was, after all, and still am, a Chinese American out of Oakland's Chinatown. Forty years ago, there simply were no role models, at least none who were Asian American.

But I was in the right school at the right time.

Here, there were no closed doors, no well meaning little chats about how I might want to consider other lines of work where Asians have done well.

In radio, TV, and film, we actually did deejay shows. And in journalism, we put out a newspaper every day.

At the Gator in the '60s, our beat became the '60s. Whatever was happening on or off campus that affected us as students and as people was worthy of coverage.

At the newspaper offices, I remember feeling we were all an oasis of living life the way we wanted. With no concerns or few, anyway, about money, careers, and the long term future, many of us lived for the day. Well, college was an oasis, and ultimately, we did have to go into the real world. It wasn't pretty. And many people were in for some very rude shocks.

I was lucky. I jumped onto another oasis, a rock and roll fantasy island called Rolling Stone. And I got that gig, I think, because of the freedom that we had to experiment with journalism here at San Francisco State and the lessons learned from that freedom ultimately gave me an edge when Rolling Stone was hiring a new editor. And it didn't hurt that the managing editor at Rolling Stone was another San Francisco State graduate, John Burkes. J.B.'s back there, still rocking.

You know, I don't like to be a name dropper. I think it was Mick Jagger, or was it Diana Ross, who told me that dropping names was gauche.

Who uses a word like gauche, either one of them?

Anyway, I can't help but tell you that a few nights ago I came home and checked my answering machines and there was a message from Quincy Jones, "Q," the man who have been making music from bebop to hip hop. He was just calling to say, "Hey." Literally, he said, "Hey," and hung up. It was very, very strange.

But hearing his voice instantly reminded me that last year at just about this time, I delivered a commencement speech at Thurgood Marshall College in San Diego, and that I quoted Mr. Jones.

Just before I gave that speech, we had spoken, and he told me about how he delivered a graduation address at Harvard and how smooth it had gone except for the moment when he beseeched the graduating class, "don't take no shit."

Of course, I stole that line for my own speech. And it went over pretty well with everyone, except maybe the poor woman who was doing sign language at the ceremonies.

But here at San Francisco State, I don't think I have to give that kind of advice. This is a university whose students, as far as I know, have never taken shit.

At least that's how it was when I was attending school here. And I trust that's how it's been with you. And all that means is you stick up for your values, your principles, for what you think is right. And I'm hoping that your sense of what's right is not just what's right for you, but what's good for your friends, your family, your community, and your world.

In this troubled world, doing good is easier said than done. But what you've accomplished in your time here at San Francisco State is easier said than done, and you did it.

Thank you, San Francisco State, for these honors, and congratulations, seniors, on yours.

May this be but one of many milestones in your lives and careers. As Buddy Holly says in the song I used to sign off my radio show with on KSAN, "Rave on!"

Thank you.


Conferral of the President's Medal on Bernard Goldstein


Thank you, Ben. You credit San Francisco State with giving you a chance, and we credit you with making the absolute most of it.

At commencement, we not only recognize all that you, our graduates, have already achieved, but we also look ahead to what you may become.

And so each year, we choose this day to honor outstanding individuals who can serve as stirring models of the highest values and achievements to which you can aspire. You have met one such person already, our Alumnus of the Year.
It is my privilege now to present another, and to confer on him the highest award that the president of a California State University campus may bestow on his or her own, the President's Medal for Service. Conferred on rare occasions, the medal recognizes an individual whose work has long lasting and widespread benefits to the university and our society at large.

That definition seems custom made for the man I am about to introduce to you, Professor Bernard Goldstein.
Bernie, would you please join me at the podium.

Bernard Goldstein, if you were a varsity athlete, you would be at least a triple threat. In your long and distinguished career in higher education, you've excelled in every aspect of academic life: Teaching, scholarship, faculty governance, mentoring, and above all, sharing your inspiring spirit with all who come your way.

It is San Francisco State University's great good fortune that you, Bernard Goldstein, have been a part of our community for more than three decades, stretching from your undergraduate study to the rich faculty years that would follow.

As a professor of biology, you, Bernard Goldstein, proved to be a gifted teacher, you shared your zest for your discipline, and students responded enthusiastically.

Long before you created the ground breaking course in human sexuality that attracted national attention, and won national respect, the waiting lists for your classes were long.

Yet, Bernard Goldstein, your mark extended far beyond the classroom. You have been many things to this campus:

  • Cofounder of our Human Sexuality Studies program, now nationally-known and respected.
  • Chosen faculty leader – as Department Chair and as Chair of the Academic Senate.
  • Proud alumnus – honored on this stage in 1986 as Alumnus Of The Year, past President of the Alumni Association, and member of its Hall of Fame.
  • Gifted administrator – and always witty, warm, a joyous presence on this campus.

Bernard Goldstein, like the great educational leaders after whom buildings,scholarships, and even the occasional baby were named, your footprints are deep and not easily broken away. What you have done for this university would be enough. But you have served California higher education beyond the campus. As the longest serving faculty trustee in California State University history, you left a legacy of sound policies and admiring colleagues.

And while you left us for a few years to serve as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Sonoma State University, we claim you, Bernard Goldstein, as ours, a loved and permanent memberof this campus community.

Bernard Goldstein, what you have done is impressive. But how you have done it is even more so: With integrity and vigor, with insight and compassion, with joy and a good laugh.

Bernie, you exemplify everything we look for in our colleagues that would like to be ourselves. It is with the greatest admiration and affection that I present to you the President's Medal for Service.


Dr. Goldstein's Remarks


Thank you, President Corrigan, for your more than generous remarks. I have heard that a person can live for a month on a compliment. If that's true, you have just made it possible for me to live a long time.

Fifty years ago this coming September, I walked on this campus for the very first time. I was not quite 18 years old. I had black, curly hair, no money, little self confidence, just an average high school graduate. And I had never met the campus president.

On and off for the next ten years, this campus and its faculty nurtured me and helped me discover everything I needed for a great life and a really fulfilling career. At some point in the last 35 years, they even arranged to have me meet the president.

If California State University Jim Hensill and Jack Mackey hadn't worked so hard to employ me, I would not be standing before you today. The university system, a dean, and a major professor who dramatically changed my life.

And so, President Corrigan, being brought back to campus today, back home, and being presented with the president's service medal, has given me one of the highlights of my life.

Many of the things for which I am being honored here today were my way of paying back and paying forward all that San Francisco State gave to me.

Thank you to you and to the campus that you so ably lead hardly seems adequate. But I hope you can sense my utter delight and my sincere gratitude. Thank you very much for this medal.

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Conferral of the Honorary Degree on Peter Yarrow


The academic world’s highest honor is the one we are about to bestow – the Honorary Doctorate.

Joining me for this honorary degree conferral is a member of the California State University Board Of Trustees, Ms. Roberta Achtenberg.



Good afternoon! I am pleased to be here to share this commencement day with all of you and to participate in the awarding of this honorary degree.

It is now my privilege to invite to the podium an individual whose life speaks to the highest values of the California State University, and who won the Trustees’ immediate approval for conferral of an Honorary Doctorate. Would Mr. Peter Yarrow please join us?



Peter Yarrow, to say that music has shaped your life is to tell only half the story. When the now-legendary folk trio, “Peter, Paul and Mary,” leapt to chart-topping, international stardom in the activist 60’s, the rest of your story was already there to see.

You were drawn to folk music because you saw its power as “music of conscience.”  And the songs we identify most strongly with Peter, Paul and Mary are, indeed, anthems for social change:  “If I Had A Hammer,” “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “I Ain’t Gonna Study War No More” – these and many more spoke to the fundamental issues: equality, freedom for all, peace.

Peter Yarrow, the double strands of music and social activism have continued to shape your life.

You were there, in the march on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., you were there at the Selma-Montgomery march.

You were there at the anti-war and pro-peace rallies of the Vietnam era – organizing, producing, and always, using music to help spread the message.

You have never stopped working to create the kind of world that you – and all of us – would like to see: a world where peace replaces war, freedom replaces tyranny, and an honest respect for others – even those whose views we do not share – replaces anger, ostracizing, or bullying.

Peter Yarrow, we could be honoring you today for your artistry and your music. We recognize and applaud those talents, but what we truly honor today is the strong, consistent values that have shaped your use of your gifts. 

Your values sing out in the most ambitious social justice effort of your life: your creation of “Operation Respect” – a program that has, in just two years, reached tens of thousands of schoolchildren across the nation.

From tragic headlines to minor playground incidents, we are reminded of how often our children suffer the pain of exclusion, bullying, and prejudice – and how terrible the consequences can be.

You, Peter Yarrow, created this powerful program to teach children key  values that we, too, seek to reinforce on this campus: respect for others, the ability to disagree without hate or bitterness, appreciation, not suspicion, of our differences.

Peter Yarrow, you have said that education of the heart is “the only path to world peace, the only way to untie the generational knots of hatred.” “Operation Respect” is that education of the heart.

Because you know that music has a special power to reach us, you built “Operation Respect,” starting with the program’s anthem, “Don’t Laugh At Me.”

Peter Yarrow, your life is one long song – one song of conscience. You are a splendid exemplar, and it is with the greatest admiration that we award you this degree.

By the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, and in the name of the California State University and San Francisco State University, I hereby confer upon you, Peter  Yarrow, the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa, with all the rights, honors and opportunities which it imparts.

[Trustee Achtenberg placed the hood on Mr. Yarrow, gave him the diploma and they shook hands]


Presentation of Commencement Speaker


Class of 2003, who better to speak to you today than the man we have just honored. I am delighted to present to you now, our commencement speaker, Dr. Peter Yarrow!


Commencement Address


I could sing Puff the Magic Dragon.

I could sing "Blowing in the Wind." I've been trying to decide how to show my appreciation for this honor.

(AUDIENCE: Puff, Puff, Puff, Puff, Puff, Puff!)

I think that besides a commitment to at least sing part of that, that I have to recognize how important it is for me to have this moment to tell you what I've learned as it relates to this moment in your lives, which is most extraordinary. Extraordinary not just because you're graduating, but because of the people that you are and the faculty that has guided you and the spirit of a school that is living a portion of the dream that we are challenged to continue.

You are graduating in very, very challenging times, I believe the most dangerous, in a way, of my entire life. And with that in mind, although I'll end this little 15 minute diatribe with a little bit of Puff and a little bit of Hammer, I want to share with you first an anthem that brought me here.

Not the first anthem. Certainly "Blowing in the Wind", "If I Had a Hammer," and "We Shall Overcome," were the anthems of the civil rights movement that allowed us, as a nation, to become aware of the fact that we had a possibility in our lives of changing the our future, of changing the law of the land. It was with the heart connection of those songs that people marched together and watched as their brothers and sisters, indeed, some of them were injured, some of them were killed, but we continued marching and caring until the mother of all movements in this country, at least in my lifetime, made us realize that the future is to one degree or another in our hands.

And with that in mind, let me sing this song that was just alluded to by your president.

You don't know what the song is yet, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.

If you're so pleased at the introduction, God knows how you will relate to this song itself.

I'm a little boy with glasses, I'm the one they call a geek, a little girl who never smiles, 'cause I got braces on my teeth. And I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep.

Yes, I'm the kid on every playground, I'm the one that's chosen last, I'm the single teenaged mother trying to overcome my past. You don't have to be my friend, but is it too much to ask?

Don't laugh at me. Don't call me names. Don't get your pleasure from my pain. In God's eyes, we're all the same. Someday we'll all have perfect wings.

Don't laugh at me. Don't laugh at me. Don't laugh at me.

I am the beggar on the corner. You've passed me on the street. And I wouldn't be out here begging if I had enough to eat. And don't think I don't notice that our eyes never meet.

Don't laugh at me. Don't call me names. Don't get your pleasure from my pain. In God's eyes, we're all the same. Someday we'll all have perfect wings.

Don't laugh at me.

I am fat. I am thin. I am short. I am tall. I'm deaf. I'm blind. Hey, aren't we all?

Don't laugh at me. Don't call me names. Don't get your pleasure from my pain.

Sing it with me, please.

Don't laugh at me. Don't call me names. Don't get your pleasure from my pain. In God's eyes, we're all the same. Someday we'll all have perfect wings.

Don't laugh at me.

But I'm fat and I'm thin, yes, I'm short and I'm tall. I'm deaf, I'm blind. And disabled. Hey, I think in a way we are all. I'm black, I'm white, I'm brown, I'm Jewish, I'm Christian, I'm Muslim, I'm Buddhist. I was born in Sarajevo. I was born in Kosovo. I was born in Northern Ireland. I was born in Africa. I am a tribe. I'm a Tutsi tribe. I am gay. I am lesbian, I am American Indian. I was born in Afghanistan, in Iraq. I was born in the United States of America. I'm Israeli, I'm Palestinian. I'm very young. I'm very aged. I'm very, very wealthy. I am very, very poor. Don't laugh at me. Don't call me names. Don't get your pleasure from my pain.

Don't laugh at me. Don't call me names. Don't get your pleasure from my pain. In God's eyes, we're all the same. Someday we will all have perfect wings. Don't laugh at me.

My country 'tis of thee. Oh, sweet land of liberty, it is of thee that I sing.

Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you to the writers of this song, Steve Seskin and Allan Chamblin. Steve Seskin is from San Francisco, and he's here. A great spirit.

Now, as you listen to this song, you hear that what was added.

Boy, you guys are going to have a good time out there. But you're also going to be meeting a world that's going to need your humanity and your compassion, because we are facing some really challenging dilemmas.

Can somebody hang on to that ball for a wee bit? Thanks. Just for a few moments. Thanks.

Well, I want to share something, I came here to share something that's really important.

I'd like to tell you what makes my life tick, what I have learned that I hope won't take you as long as it took me to learn.

And it relates to this song. Do you know, Peter, Paul, and Mary have been extremely successful, before the Beatles, we were the number one performing act in the world. And folk music enjoyed what was called the Renaissance of folk music. And what shifted was a world that was so so insular that in our own country, we could say the pledge of allegiance, with liberty and justice for all, ironically, incredibly foolishly, while there was a lynching every three days. When I was in high school, if you were black, you couldn't sit at a lunch counter in some of the states of our union with a white person. And if you were black, you couldn't use the same bathroom as a white person.

How could we have the temerity to say "with liberty and justice for all."

What the '60s was that birthed the kind of music of which "Don't Laugh At Me" is a legacy was mainly a search for authentic exchange so that the scales would fall from our eyes, men and women would look at each other with real love and compassion, not as economic partners in a very long history of economic inequality and interpersonal injustice.

We were part of an attempt to say we will be individuals that believe in something and live and walk that way. And so it was, as was mentioned in the very generous introduction of me, Peter, Paul, and Mary sang, "If I Had A Hammer," and "Blowing in the Wind" at the march on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. And we were then with our lives threatened. We marched in the Selma Montgomery march. And then we sang at the grave site of Andrew Goodman, who was one of the three civil rights college students could have been any of you who died and was killed. He didn't go to Wall Street in the summers to make a lot of money. He was sticking up for something that was sweeping the nation, the imperative of having justice in our country. And he, Goodman, Cheney, and Swarner, were killed in the service of that effort.

And I learned something by being a part of that march. And I wanted to tell you about what I learned. I learned that the most important moments of my life and I'm now echoing the words and the sagasity of Nelly who had the generosity to quote the song that I wrote, we are only one people, one name. We are the father, mother, daughter, and son, and from the dawn of creation, we are one.

I learned that my life was made meaningful when I was walking the walk of caring about others, when I was devoted to changing the world so that there was less suffering.

I learned in the beginning that knowing what the people feel, what the ordinary human beings feel and being a part of the enfranchisement of ordinary people was the key, the key to my own happiness.

I learned that all of what Peter, Paul, and Mary achieved in terms of recognition and millions of albums sold was very secondary to the extraordinary gift that we received to be a part of the struggles of this country to identify itself with social justice. To be a part of trying to end a war, and ultimately successfully doing so, that nobody wanted, that never should have been fought in the first place. To be a part of the anti-Apartheid movement, to say that our brothers and sisters are in South Africa, a part of the gender equality movement, a part of the environmental movement, which all have one thing in common, which I discovered. They are all manifestations of disrespect.

What is the civil rights movement but a movement around racism? And what is racism other than a virulent form of disrespect? What is the gender equality movement about? What is the environmental movement about but the antipathy and disrespect that invests people with the incapacity to think about the next generation and the good of the planet and the environment.

But I learned something else, and I want to give this message clearly to you. I also learned that in doing what I was doing, I had to also be very pragmatic and go to the seat of power. It was not enough to be a voice in the streets. That's where my heart had to be. But I had to become a part of the determination of the policies that emanated from the powerful structures. I had to be a part of the administration.

I started out storming the administration building. And I would say to you now, all right, everybody, we've sung these songs. Let's storm the administration building.

But the problem is, I am the administration now. And, in fact, sometimes the administration has to storm the students. Sometimes we have to tell you what has made us passionate and how it is that we know that we, all of us, each of us, no matter how humble, can make a difference, and in making a difference, in activating that commitment, we bring reason and focus to our lives.

We need that focus. And we need that determination. But we also need magic.


When you're very young, you believe in dragons. But when you get older, you cease to believe in them, too. You want cell phones and cars, I know. The things that once were precious to you aren't anymore so precious. You know what you want to do. Yes, you want to be successful, but if you're lucky, you want to help the world become more like a place that's loving and caring for everyone. And if you want to do that all you gotta do is believe and sing this song:

Oh, Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee. Little Jackie Paper, he loved that rascal Puff. And brought him strings and ceiling wax and other fancy stuff.

Oh, sing it now:

Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea. Frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee. Oh, Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea. And frolicked in the autumn mist, in a land called Honalee.

Yes, together, together. They would frolic on a boat with a little old sail. Jackie kept a lookout, perched on puff's gigantic tail.

Noble kings and princes will bow whenever they came. Ships will lower their flags when Puff roared out his name. I'm graduating now.

Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea. Frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.

Wait, there's something wrong here. Something desperately wrong. I can't sing this song alone without people on this stage joining me.

We have to have some of your members of your distinguished faculty and administration come up to this microphone and affirm that Puff is still alive.

We need Ben Fong Torres first and foremost.

Unaccustomed as I am to singing with the entire faculty of any university, let me tell that you we are affirming now and together and forever that if the dragons are no longer believed in when you get older and you believe in an ethnic and a sense of your own honor, then your dragons remain strong as you sing.

(All singing)

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea. And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea. And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee!

Here's the sad part. And you can hum along.

The dragon lives forever. (Humming). But not so little girls and boys.

Painted wings and giant's rings make way for other toys. One gray night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more. Puff, that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain. Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.

Without his lifelong friend, Puff could not be brave. So Puff, that mighty dragon, sadly slipped into his cave, until his son and daughter starting singing Puff, and then he could roar again.

Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea. And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.

Oh, Puff, the magic dragon still lives, lives by the and frolics, and frolics in the autumn mist in a land called San Francisco University.



Thank you, Doctor Yarrow.  Your life and your work inspire us to seize our power to make a positive difference.

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President's Remarks


Listen up, Class of 2003!

In just a few minutes, we will arrive at the part of the program for which you all have been waiting – the awarding of degrees!

But one final word before we do so. You, our Class of 2003, are the faces – and futures – of the 21st century. In all your wonderful diversity, you will be this young century’s heart, its mind, its leadership.

White…black…brown…tan…male…female…old…young – always remember that you are as exceptionally talented and as well-educated a group as can be found anywhere.

You are graduating into a world of exceptional challenges, where global issues are our nation’s issues, too.

We hope that we have helped to prepare you to be a positive force in a tumultuous world. We have sought to offer you an education that has addressed spirit, as well as mind, values, as well as knowledge.

No value seems more critical now than the one that flies from the banners you passed as, from whatever direction, you entered the campus.

“Love is stronger than hate,” the banners read. That is as urgent a message today as when we first flew those banners, shortly after September 11th, 2001.

Since then we have seen a war, the fragile beginning of a new society, and renewed efforts to bring an end to the bitter conflict that has tormented the people of Israel, the people of Palestine, and all of us around the world who seek peace.

The banners remind us that it is possible – and vital – to disagree without hate, argue without violence, and balance passionate differences with decency and recognition of our common humanity.

Peace depends on those principles. As you leave us today, we hope – and believe – that you are ready to be a force for good, wherever life takes you. We believe that you are ready to take personal responsibility to address the ethical and moral issues of our society, to work actively in your communities, and to help build a more just and caring world.

It is particularly important that you – San Francisco State University graduates – see yourselves in this role. Diverse and multicultural, with roots that stretch around the globe, you have the perspectives and experiences that we need to help guide a complex world in a new millennium.

I know that you will rise to this challenge!

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Presentation of the Hood Recipients


It is time now to introduce the graduating students on the platform, whom President Corrigan mentioned earlier – our 2003 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 master’s degree program and each college of the university have chosen an outstanding student to represent all the graduates from that college and, on their behalf, to receive the hood.

The respective deans will now confer the Hood on these Honor Graduates.

Dean Ann Hallum will now present the Hood recipient for the master's degree program.


Ms. Chrisma Aryani Albandjar, who is receiving a Master of Arts degree in Radio and Television, has been selected to receive the investiture of the Hood on behalf of all those receiving their master's degree.


Dean Joel Kassiola of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences will present the Hood recipient from that college.


Ms. Tiffany Gabrielle Morales, a major in Sociology, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.


Dean Gerald Platt of the College of Business will now present the Business hood recipient.


Ms. Vendula Kobzinek, a Marketing major, has been selected to receive the investiture for the College of Business.


Dean Keith Morrison of the College of Creative Arts will now present the hood to the Creative Arts Honor Graduate.


Ms. Frenchette Venneat Sherman, a Drama major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Creative Arts.


Dean Jake Perea will now present the hood recipient from the College of Education.


Ms. Goenna Carstens, Communicative Disorders major, has been selected to receive the hood for the College of Education.


Dean Tomás Almaguer of the College of Ethnic Studies will now present the hood for the Ethnic Studies Honor Graduate.


Ms. Valerie Rabino Villarta, a double major in Asian American Studies and Speech Communication, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Ethnic Studies.


Dean Donald Zingale of the College of Health and Human Services will now present the hood to the Honor Graduate from that college.


Ms. Ariana Fors Schoellhorn, a major in Recreation and Leisure Studies, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Health and Human Services.


Dean Paul Sherwin of the College of Humanities will now present the hood for the Humanities Honor Graduate.


Mr. Brandon James Brown, a Creative Writing major, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Humanities.


Dean Sheldon Axler will now present the hood for the Honor Graduate from the College of Science and Engineering.


Ms. Nelly Puiyee Lau, an Electrical Engineering major, and our student speaker, has been selected to receive the investiture in the College of Science and Engineering.


Dean of Undergraduate Studies Daniel Buttlaire will now present the honor graduate for Liberal Studies and Special majors.


Ms. Corinna Ann Low, a Liberal Studies major, has been selected to receive the investiture on behalf of Liberal Studies and Special Majors graduates.

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Conferring of Master's Degrees


Provost Gemello will now 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 guide you to the stages, row by row.

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Distribution of Diplomas to Master's Degree Candidates


Will the deans please go to their respective stages.

Will the faculty marshals please guide the master’s degree recipients to the stages, starting from the front. We ask that graduates wait to be directed by the marshals. After leaving the stages, graduates will proceed to the rear of the stadium and will be guided out. 

Coming forward to the north stage will be graduates from the colleges of Humanities; Health and Human Services; Liberal Studies/Special Majors, and Behavioral and Social Sciences.

And to the south stage, graduates from the colleges of Education; Creative Arts; Science and Engineering; Ethnic Studies, and Business.



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Conferring of Bachelor's Degrees


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


Will the candidates for the degrees Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Vocational Education, please rise!


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.                  


Members of the audience, I am delighted to present to you the Class of 2003.  They are our future leaders, and they are the most splendid resource this state has to offer!  Please join me in a round of applause for all of them.

 Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2003.  Our commencement is nearing its close.  After you receive your diplomas, you will leave the stadium, to join family and friends, and enjoy the college receptions.

You leave us with a full and excellent university education, and with reserves of energy and commitment on which to draw in the years ahead. Our nation and our world  present many challenges, and I am confident that you are ready for them.  As you leave, you take with you our love and our respect, our belief in you, and our hope that you will fulfill all your dreams. God bless you all!


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

On the north stage, graduates from the colleges of Humanities; Health and Human Services; Liberal Studies/Special majors, and  Behavioral and Social Sciences.

On the south stage, graduates from the colleges of Education; Creative Arts; Science and Engineering; Ethnic Studies, and Business.


Distribution of Diplomas to Bachelor's Degree Candidates 

Deans distribute diplomas as before, students exit stadium after receiving their diplomas.

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