Trio to receive honorary degrees
May 9, 2008 -- Three individuals who have contributed greatly to their professions and society will receive honorary degrees at SF State's 107th Commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 24. Alumnus Manny Mashouf, founder of the fashion company bebe, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from SF State. Author and social activist Isabel Allende and labor leader Walter Johnson will each receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the California State University.
The trio joins a distinguished list of SF State honorary degree recipients that includes Bridge School founder Pegi Young, singer Neil Young, South Africa President Nelson Mandela, Bay Area philanthropist Richard N. Goldman, actor Danny Glover, artist and teacher Ruth Asawa, Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
In 1972, Manny Mashouf took the fashion experience he learned as a child in the markets of Tehran, Iran, and opened his first women's clothing store on Polk Street in San Francisco. Four years later he bought out a competitor on Union Street and named all the stores bebe, from the line in Hamlet -- "to be or not to be."
Nearly three decades later, Mashouf now oversees a publicly traded company, with more than 300 stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, which was named one of the fastest-growing small companies in the U.S. by Business Week. Under Mashouf's guidance, the brand and company have become internationally recognizable and are associated with chic, cutting-edge clothing worn by some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Since graduating from SF State in 1966, Mashouf has never forgotten the University. He has served as a member of the SF State College of Business Advisory Board for nearly a decade. He and Neda Mashouf, who earned a computer science degree in 1984, made the biggest donation in SF State history, giving $10 million in 2005 to help fund a new building for the College of Creative Arts.
Mashouf was also named Alumnus of the Year in 2005 and inducted into the Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 2003.
"Manny Mashouf's talent, drive and passion have taken him to the top of his profession," President Robert A. Corrigan said. "His generosity of spirit and support has helped greatly to enhance the student experience at San Francisco State, for which our entire University community is grateful."
Best-selling author, philanthropist and social activist Isabel Allende has devoted her life to giving voice and opportunity to women and children fleeing war, famine, poverty and persecution.
The most widely read Latin American female author in the world, Allende has channeled her success toward the empowerment of others. The Isabel Allende Foundation supports organizations and programs that make profound changes in the lives of women and children around the world.
Allende, who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1987, established her foundation in 1996 as a tribute to her late daughter. Throughout its first decade, the Foundation has influenced the establishment of reproductive rights and fair pay for women in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The recipient of numerous literary awards and author of 17 books, Allende began writing novels and memoirs at the suggestion of the renowned Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Her first novel, "The House of the Spirits," described as an exorcism of the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship, and subsequent work has been translated into 30 languages, sold more than 51 million copies and been made into major motion pictures.
"Isabel Allende's dedication and generosity speak for her compassion and sense of social responsibility," Corrigan said. "These are characteristics that we hope our students obtain in higher education and cultivate throughout their lives."
In the course of a distinguished career in the labor union movement, Walter Johnson's leadership has improved conditions for thousands of San Francisco workers.
Rising through the ranks of Retail Clerks Union, Local 1100, Johnson fought for the rights of women, people of color and gays and lesbians who were working in stores across San Francisco. Johnson was elected secretary-treasurer of the local Retail Clerks Union in 1964 and continued to influence the labor landscape when he was elected secretary-treasurer of the San Francisco Labor Council in 1985. He played a pivotal role in this organization, which unites more than 100,000 workers with one voice, and he still holds the honored position secretary-treasurer emeritus.
Johnson put his commitment to human rights into practice on a daily basis: getting unfairly-fired workers back into jobs, enabling women to move up the career ladder, and pushing against the prejudice that he saw all around him.
For more than forty years as a labor, community and church leader, Johnson has worked tirelessly to find common ground among diverse groups and has championed the rights of marginalized people. Johnson has shared his expertise with SF State as a member of the President's Advisory Board and the advisory boards for the Labor Studies Program and the Labor Archives.
"Walter Johnson is a man of conscience who has never wavered from his conviction that organized labor has the power and responsibility to advance social justice both in and beyond the work place," Corrigan said. "He has helped to make San Francisco a better place for all of us."
Share this story: