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, Lakeview Center.

Contact: Christina Holmes
Cell Phone: (415) 609-1666
Main Office: (415) 338-1665

Fact Sheet San Francisco State University's 100th Commencement

This year San Francisco State University will graduate 6,575 students from nine colleges and 25 percent of those students will receive Masters Degrees. Graduates range in age from 20 to 79 and come from diverse ethnic, language and religious backgrounds. More than 3,500 students of the Class of 2001 will participate in commencement exercises on Saturday, May 26, 2001 before an expected audience of 22,000.

In 1901, 100 years ago, SF State Normal School graduated its first class of 36 women.

How it all started: In 1899, a contingent of San Francisco State Normal School teachers, students, and local supporters pressed the Legislature in Sacramento to convert the school into a state-funded normal school. With great effort, the bill passes by a narrow margin; the institution that would become San Francisco State was established with an appropriation of $10,000 and opened in a rented building. Frederic Lister Burk was appointed the first president of the San Francisco State Normal School. A scholar of child development and psychology, he worked for six years as a journalist in the Bay Area before teaching in public and private schools to finance his post-graduate work at Stanford. He chose the motto Experientia docet - "Experience teaches" (Seneca) - for the new school, and incorporated practical teaching experience into the curriculum. San Francisco State Normal School's first "Circular of Information" (catalog) stated that "candidates for admission must be at least sixteen years of age, of good moral character, and in perfect health" and that "tuition is free in all departments . . . Board and room may be obtained in families from $4 or $5 per week upward."

Radical teaching method: At the turn of the century, San Francisco State caught the eyes of the world with its radical teaching method of "individual instruction." This teaching style recognized that the new city is populated by immigrants from across the globe, and that its children have different social backgrounds, varying abilities, and learn best at their own pace. The schoolteachers graduating from SF State became known throughout the state as well-prepared and dedicated, and their methods are copied as far away as England and Australia.


NOTE: To view a transcript of SFSU's 100th Commencement, visit:

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SFSU, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132
Last modified June 29, 2001, by Office of Public Affairs