San Francisco State University, Established 1899, 1600 Holloway Ave. SF, CA 94132

SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.

Contact: SFSU Office of Public Affairs
(415) 338-1665/


Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to keynote; jazz artist Wesla Whitfield to sing and scholar Thomas Ehrlich, philanthropist Richard Goldman to be honored

SAN FRANCISCO, May 7, 2001 --- One hundred years after graduating its first class of 36 students, San Francisco State University will award diplomas to its nearly 6,500-student Class of 2001 during commencement exercises on the campus on Saturday, May 26 at 12:30 p.m.

  U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who has been an ardent supporter of human rights, the environment, health and education during her almost 15 years in Congress, will be the keynote commencement speaker. The University also will honor jazz artist Wesla Whitfield as its Alumna of the Year, scholar Thomas Ehrlich as the University's Presidential Medal awardee and philanthropist Richard N. Goldman as recipient of an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the California State University system .

  Although the university was established in 1899, its first class of 36 women graduated two years later in commencement exercises in 1901. Since it was first established as San Francisco Normal School for training teachers, SFSU has become a comprehensive urban university offering bachelor's, master's and joint doctorate degrees within 83 academic departments and programs.

  SFSU's Commencement for its nearly 6,500 graduates begins on Saturday, May 26 begins at 12:30 p.m. with San Francisco State University President A. Corrigan presiding. An estimated crowd of 22,000 graduates, family and friends are expected to attend. Entrance to the stadium is by ticket only. The exercises will be shown live on SFSU's Cable 27.

  "We are honored to have Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi as our commencement speaker as she embodies so many of the values we hold dear on this campus: equal access to education, commitment to community and concern for the world around us," said Corrigan. "Her congressional leadership on such issues as human rights, AIDS and breast cancer prevention and research, education, and protection of the environment makes her voice one that will resonate with our graduates."

  Pelosi, now serving her seventh term representing the citizens of San Francisco in California's Eighth Congressional District, has emerged as a congressional leader, playing a pivotal role in forging appropriations bills for the country's domestic programs and foreign investments. She has consistently advocated increased spending for prevention and research on AIDS/HIV and breast cancer.

  As a long time friend and advocate for SFSU, Congresswoman Pelosi has been successful in sponsoring legislation on behalf of the University and in helping to secure support for scientific research, early childhood education programs and minority access.

  Recipient of the Presidential Medal in 1996, Pelosi is known as a champion of U.S. global leadership for human rights and sustainable development. She also led legislative efforts in support of jobs, pension security for American workers and international family planning.

  Richard N. Goldman, chairman of Goldman Insurance Services, is perhaps best known as the co-founder, along with his late wife Rhoda, of the Goldman Environmental Prize, a yearly award that honors a grassroots environmental activist from each of the six populated continental regions. Through the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Goldman supports research and programs that have a positive impact on a variety of communities especially those in the Bay Area.

  A $1 million gift to San Francisco State in 1997 by Goldman created the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in Jewish Studies and Social Responsibility. The endowed chair, one of three at SF State, will allow the Jewish Studies Department to hire a leading scholar who will research the intersection of Jewish tradition and thought with ethical dilemmas and questions in areas such as health care, education, business, politics and the environment. The endowed chair is the first ever devoted to Judaism and social responsibility.

  The Goldman Fund also established the Diplomat-in-Residence program at San Francisco State. In 1998, the program brought Ambassador David Fischer to campus to teach classes in international relations and act as a resource for students and faculty.

  Wesla Whitfield has brought her smooth jazz vocals to venues across the United States and beyond for more than 25 years. While at SFSU, she began singing in Bay Area clubs, bars and even in restaurants as a singing waitress - all the while supporting herself as a paralegal and computer programmer. After graduating, she performed with the San Francisco Opera for four years before deciding to focus on jazz, blues and cabaret performing.

  While walking home from a rehearsal in 1977, Whitfield's life was changed forever. Two adolescent boys grabbed her and flashed a gun. She was shot several times, paralyzing her permanently from the waist down. Undeterred by her disability, the Santa Maria, Calif., native has persevered to tour nationwide frequently and garner praise from critics at the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and the Village Voice.

  The annual Alumnus of the Year award goes to former SFSU students who have gained recognition for significant contributions to their field of work. Whitfield, who will sing the national anthem at SFSU's Commencement, joins an illustrious roster of SFSU alumni to receive the award, including last year's honoree, Robert Pasker, a history graduate who gave $2.4 million to SFSU, the largest private donation in the history of the University. In previous years, the SFSU Alumni Association has hono red recording artist Johnny Mathis, stage and film actress Annette Bening, conductor Kent Nagano, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, and physician and NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle.

  Thomas Ehrlich, a senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Menlo Park, has been selected to receive the San Francisco State University Presidential Medal for his long commitment to community service learning in higher education. Ehrlich was a Distinguished University Scholar who was based at San Francisco State University from 1995 until 2000.

  The award honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the University and the city of San Francisco that will have long-lasting and widespread benefits for San Francisco State University students and faculty. Past medal winners include arts patron Jane Hohfeld Galante, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, philanthropist Richard Goldman and August Coppola, dean emeritus of SFSU's College of Creative Arts. Recipients are chosen by the University's president, Robert A. Corrigan.

  Ehrlich, who was president of Indiana University from 1987 to 1994, joined San Francisco State University in 1995 after his retirement from Indiana University. The provost at the University of Pennsylvania from 1982 to 1987, Ehrlich was dean of the Stanford University Law School in the 1970s. He also served as the first director of the International Development Cooperation Agency and the first president of the Legal Services Corporation.

  Currently chair of the American Association of Higher Education, Ehrlich is the former chair of the Campus Compact Executive Committee. In addition, Ehrlich serves on the boards of Bennett College, the Center for Civic Education, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Corporation for National Service, the Public Welfare Foundation and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. He is also a trustee for the University of Pennsylvania.

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NOTE TO EDITORS: A transcript of SFSU's commencement will be posted online at the Office of Public Affairs home page shortly after the conclusion of commencement on May 26. SFSU's Public Affairs home page is:

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Last modified May 14, 2001, by Office of Public Affairs