Outstanding alumni honored
June 3, 2009 -- The campus community honored five outstanding alumni at the Alumni Hall of Fame reception held on May 22.
Actor Jeffrey Tambor, who earned a B.A. in Drama in 1965, was named Alumnus of the Year and inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame. A six-time Emmy nominee, Tambor's four-decade acting career includes starring roles on the television hits "Arrested Development" and "The Larry Sanders Show," and appearances on other legendary sitcoms including "M*A*S*H," and "Taxi." Tambor, who made his Broadway debut in 1975 opposite George C. Scott in "Sly Fox," appeared in the feature film "Hellboy II." Growing up in Park Merced, Tambor would wander into SF State theatre rehearsals and volunteered in productions before he enrolled as a student. "I owe my career to SF State," Tambor said. "Here, I was trained in every aspect of the theatre -- lights, sound, costumes." He credited several professors for "teaching me how to speak convincingly on stage."
Three additional alumni were welcomed into the Alumni Hall of Fame: Bill Baird, Darlene Iskra and Steven Okazaki.
Football legend Bill Baird, who earned a B.A. in Kinesiology and credentials in Secondary Education in 1962, was a seven-year defensive starter for the New York Jets. Upon retirement Baird held several team records including most interceptions and longest punt return. In 2003, when fans chose their dream team of Jets greats, Baird was selected for the Four Decade Team. Baird also coached the Jets and several college and high school teams including Fresno State University. A member of the 1959 undefeated Gators; Baird was previously inducted into the SF State Athletics Hall of Fame. "I have great memories of my time here," Baird said. "I am grateful for my diploma that says San Francisco State University."
Retired U.S. Navy Commander Darlene Iskra earned a B.A. in Recreation in 1974 when women were not permitted to serve on naval vessels. But in 1990 she broke the "brass ceiling" and became the nation's first woman commander of a commissioned naval vessel, the U.S.S. Opportune. A Navy-trained diver, Iskra skippered the salvage ship in the Mediterranean during the Persian Gulf War. Iskra furthered the rights of servicewomen by helping to pass the Defense Authorization Bill, which prevented the Department of Defense from requiring U.S. servicewomen to wear ethnic garments while stationed in Saudi Arabia. "I never thought I'd be a trailblazer," Iskra said. "I tried to figure out how I could best apply my degree to life. I followed my dream and went for it."
After earning a B.A. in film in 1976, Steven Okazaki became an award-winning filmmaker who received his fourth Academy Award nomination in 2009 for the documentary short "The Conscience of Nhem En." He won an Oscar and a Peabody Award for his 1990 short subject documentary, "Days of Waiting," about a Caucasian artist who accompanied her Japanese American husband to a World War II internment camp. Okazaki's "White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and won an Emmy in 2007. "Film gives you a ticket to explore other people's lives and I have had the honor of interviewing many including Hiroshima survivors," Okazaki said. "SF State was where I was introduced to the richness of the Asian-American community."
The SF State Alumni Hall of Fame recognizes alumni who have earned the respect of their peers through professional, cultural and civic achievements.
At the reception, Alumni Hall of Famer and retired San Francisco Unified School District teacher and administrator Isadore (Izzy) Pivnick was awarded the prestigious President's Medal. The medal, which recognizes individuals whose contributions have provided long-lasting and widespread benefits for the community and University, was presented to Pivnick in honor of his devotion to public education and his significant role in SF State history. Earning a baccalaureate in elementary education, Pivnick was SF State student body president in 1946-47. He led 2,000 students in a peaceful City Hall demonstration that resulted in the sale of property to the state that is now the University's campus. "That was a stellar year for me," Pivnick said. "But this is an honor I never expected. I deeply, deeply appreciate it."
The highest award that a CSU president can bestow, the President's Medal has been previously awarded to a host of distinguished individuals including Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
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