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Volume 59, Number 38    June 21 , 2012         

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In Memoriam

We mark the passing of Emerita Professor of Economics Betty J. Blecha, Emeritus Dean of the College of Extended Learning Peter Dewees, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Ethnic and Asian American Studies and first Dean of Ethnic Studies James Akira Hirabayashi and Emeritus Professor of Mathematics Fred Neustadter.


Betty Blecha
Emerita Professor of Economics Betty J. Blecha died of cancer on Friday, June 8, while in the comfort of her family in Tucson, Arizona. She will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by her family, friends, colleagues and students.

Blecha began her academic studies in political science, but was attracted to the analytical models of economics during graduate school. She received her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Iowa and began her tenure track career at the University of San Francisco. In 1983, she joined SF State as an Associate Professor in Economics. Due to her illness, she retired in May 2012.

Professor Blecha's career at SF State began with research in the area of public finance, which was published in The American Economic Review and the Journal of Political Economy. More recently, her research focused on the effects of technology on learning economics. She received national level funding from the Mellon foundation, chaired numerous sessions at academic conferences and published a number of papers. Blecha was also active in the American Economics Association and often served as a grant reader for the National Science Foundation.

Blecha will also be remembered for her teaching; despite teaching some of the most difficult quantitative classes in economics -- mathematical economics and econometrics -- she still had superb teaching evaluations and student feedback. As part of her commitment to teaching, she wrote an econometrics workbook (published by Wadsworth Press) and was on contract to write a mathematical economics textbook with Prentice Hall. She contributed much of her time to the department and campus, serving on numerous committees, volunteering for the Friends of the J. Paul Leonard Library and worked for the local chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

Many of her friends and colleagues also knew that she had a second career as a photographer, in which she focused on southwestern American landscapes. Her photos are well regarded and led to her being appointed summer artist-in-residence at Grand Canyon National Park for two years. A small sample of her work can be viewed online at In accordance with her wishes, the family will not hold a service or memorial in Arizona. Instead, her ashes will be scattered in the Grand Canyon which she loved so dearly.

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Peter Dewees
Peter Dewees, who served as dean of the College of Extended Learning for 21 years, died on May 28 at his home in San Francisco. Dewees began his 35-year career at SF State in 1966 at the downtown extension center. He became acting dean of Extended Education in 1977 and later spearheaded the name-change to College of Extended Learning (CEL). As dean, Dewees worked to establish a downtown presence for SF State, first opening a location at 4th and Mission Street for programs designed for working adults, then moving to 425 Market and ultimately to the current Downtown Campus located at 835 Market in the Westfield Center. Dewees also understood the importance of strong connections with campus deans and academic departments in the programs developed and offered by Extended Learning. “Peter had an unrelenting goal of integrating SF State into the life of the city and saw the education of working adults as a clear embodiment of the University’s social justice mission,” according to Jo Volkert, associate vice president for enrollment management, who served as associate dean of extended learning under Dewees.

For further information on Dewees’ life and accomplishments and for information on a memorial planned for July 1, read his obituary in the San Franciso Chronicle.

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James Akira Hirabayashi
Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Ethnic and Asian American Studies and first Dean of Ethnic Studies James Akira Hirabayashi passed away peacefully on May 23. He was 85 years old. Hirabayashi was born in 1926 to Issei parents who instilled in him and his siblings values and ethics that would shape their passion for social justice. During his sophomore year in high school, he and his family were forced to move from their Washington state home to a Wartime Civil Control Administration Internment camp in Pinedale, California, and again to internment camp at Tule Lake, experiences he later recounted in the documentary Rabbit in the Moon.

Hirabayashi earned his bachelor’s (1949) and master’s (1952) degrees in anthropology at the University of Washington while helping his family run a nursing home. He received a Fulbright Scholarship in 1954 and pursued graduate studies at the University of Tokyo and conducted fieldwork in his familial Nagano prefecture. A 1957 scholarship from the John Hay Whitney Foundation enabled Hirabayashi to earn his Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University in 1962. In 1959, while earning his Ph.D., he began his teaching career at SF State, a distinguished teaching and administrative career that would span 30 years.

In 1968 Hirabayashi became advisor to the Asian American Political Alliance and subsequently went on strike with other faculty colleagues in support of the Black Student Union and the Third World Libration Front Movement. This movement led to the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies at SF State. The following year, he became the chair of Asian American Studies. He became the first dean of the College of Ethnic Studies in 1970, guiding and influencing its development over the next six years. Hirabayashi served as Dean of Undergraduate Studies from 1985 until his retirement in 1988.

During his retirement, he served as curator, advisor and consultant to the Japanese American National Museum, for which he was honored in 2004. Hirabayashi authored and edited numerous publications in anthropology and Asian American studies. His last project was a book about his brother Gordon’s wartime prison diaries, which he wrote with his son Lane; A Principled Stand: Gordon Hirabayashi vs. The United States will be published in 2013 by the University of Washington Press. In the 1980s, he launched his acting career, appearing in many stage productions by the Asian American Theatre Company in San Francisco and in several films.

During the 40th anniversary commemoration of the College of Ethnic Studies in 2009, he was awarded the College of Ethnic Studies Life Time Achievement Award, and the San Francisco State University President’s Medal.

Hirabayashi was preceded in death by his first wife, Joanne, and his last wife, Christine. He is survived by his sister Esther Toshiko Furugori, and his children Lane R. (Marilyn Alquizola), Jan M. (Steve Rice), and Tai-Lan C. Hirabayashi. The Jim Hirabayashi Memorial Celebration will be held from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 28 at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, 1840 Sutter Street (between Buchanan and Webster Sts), S.F. CA. In lieu of flowers the family suggests that donations be made an SF State scholarship fund in his honor or Kimochi -- contact Rosalie Alfonso at ext. 8-1694 or Colleagues who wish to share memories of Jim can send their stories to Rosalie to forward to the family.

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Fred Neustadter
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Fred Neustadter died on April 27, from complications of a severe stroke. He was born in Neumarkt, Germany in 1923 and came to San Francisco in 1938 with his family as refugees from Nazi Germany. Neustadter graduated from Lowell High School in 1940, completing the four-year curriculum in two years, and earned a scholarship to attend the University of California, Berkeley where he completed academic majors in physics, chemistry and mathematics in only three years. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics and wrote a thesis that earned him a Benjamin Pierce Instructorship at Harvard University, where he served for three years, earning high praise for his teaching. Following his instructorship, he worked as a mathematician for the Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and as consultant for Sylvania Electronics Laboratory.

Neustadter joined the SF State faculty in 1958 and retired in 1993. During this period, he continued consulting work for Sylvania and became one of the chief consultants for the Department of Mathematics. In addition to assisting fellow colleagues in a number of departments on mathematical applications to their disciplines, he was the initial co-author of the present program of applied mathematics and published scholarly works on applied mathematics. Neustadter had a continuous record of outstanding teaching evaluations from his students.

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Last modified June 21, 2012 by University Communications.