SF State News {University Communications}

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Willie Mays to receive honorary degree

April 20, 2009 -- Willie Mays came to San Francisco when the Giants moved from New York in 1958. Since then, the "Say Hey Kid" has become synonymous with San Francisco and opened the door to higher education for countless underprivileged youth in the Bay Area.

A photograph of Willie Mays.

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays. Photo Courtesy: San Francisco Giants.

Mays began his professional baseball career at age 16, playing with the Birmingham Black Barons in the segregated Negro Southern League until he was signed by the New York Giants after his high school graduation. He appeared in his first major league game in 1951 at age 20, and quickly became a force on the baseball diamond.

Regarded by many as the best all-around player in baseball history, Mays became the face of the New York and San Francisco Giants, winning two Most Valuable Player awards and finishing his career with 660 home runs to rank fourth on the all-time career home run list. The Sporting News ranked Mays No. 2 on its list of the best baseball players of the 20th century. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.

Off the field, Mays has continued to be a difference-maker. The Willie Mays Say Hey Foundation was founded in 1972 to support education and enrichment of underprivileged youth through education, training and community support. The foundation has provided college scholarships to youth and continues to emphasize vocational training and community enrichment in the Bay Area.

The Say Hey Foundation donated $12,000 to the Guardian Scholars program at SF State to fund student housing during winter and summer breaks for undergraduate students who were previously in foster care. In addition to his work with the Say Hey Foundation, Mays serves as assistant to the president for the San Francisco Giants.

"Willie Mays has been a tireless ambassador for the city of San Francisco and underprivileged youth in the Bay Area," President Robert A. Corrigan said. "We honor his work on and off the baseball field for inspiring so many and paving the way for underrepresented youth to pursue a college degree."

Mays 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, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Mays will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters at the University's 108th Commencement exercises held Saturday, May 23 at 1 p.m. in Cox Stadium on campus.

For more information about SF State's Commencement, visit www.sfsu.edu/commencement/

-- Michael Bruntz


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