features 84-year-old grandmother,
students from diverse backgrounds
SAN FRANCISCO, May 21, 2002 -- Nearly 7,200 students will receive degrees from San Francisco State University at the 101st Commencement on Saturday, May 25. They comprise the biggest graduating class in SFSU history, with many fascinating and compelling stories. The following graduates, including an 84-year-old grandmother and her granddaughter and the Hood Recipients - top graduates chosen to represent their fellow students from each of SFSU's eight academic colleges and the Liberal Studies Program - represent the nearly 7,200 students earning degrees from SFSU in 2002.
At a spry 84, Harriet Miller is believed to be the oldest graduate of SFSU's class of 2002. She explains that she "took a long break" between a high school diploma and a college degree, although in the last two decades she often found herself on Bay Area university campuses. She began taking classes for fun, mostly physical fitness, cooking and language courses, but in 1996 decided to pursue a degree. On Saturday she graduates with a bachelor's degree in the psychosocial aspects of aging. She says other students have treated her like one of the crowd, and she appreciates that no one makes a fuss over her age. A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., she moved to San Francisco in 1952 and held a variety of administrative jobs as she raised her children. She retired in her 70s. Miller gives credit to her daughter, Kathy Kanewske, for encouraging her to earn a degree. "When I told Kathy I would be 90 by the time I finished, she said, 'Well, you'll be 90 anyway so you might as well have a degree,'" explains Miller, who lives in the city's Richmond District.
Standing beside Miller at Commencement will be her 23-year-old granddaughter, Rachel Kanewske, who will receive a bachelor's degree in geography. Kanewske and her grandmother studied together a handful of times. When they ran into each other on campus, Kanewske would run up to Miller, give her a hug and say, "What's up?" She adds, "My grandma is such a great role model, and I'm totally proud of her."
Glendy Chan (Hood recipient, College of Business) will deliver the student speech during Commencement. She graduates with a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting. A graduate of San Francisco's Lowell High School, Chan, 22, is an SFSU Presidential Scholar, the most distinguished academic award SFSU bestows upon an entering undergraduate student. She also has served as an officer in Beta Alpha Psi - the national honor society for financial information professionals -president of the German Club, and an intern with Deutsche Bank in Germany. This summer she will work for accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The resident of San Francisco's Visitacion Valley neighborhood plans to pursue foreign assignments once she earns her CPA.
Kirsten Leising (Hood recipient, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences), 38, dropped out of high school when she was 15, then returned in 1990 to earn her GED. She is now one of the first students at SFSU to earn a degree in environmental studies and plans to work in the field of watershed restoration. "I want to let people know that comebacks are possible, so never give up on your dreams," she says. Leising lives in San Francisco's Richmond District.
Olubukola Esho (Hood recipient, College of Science and Engineering), a 23-year-old biochemistry major, left her home in Nigeria five years ago to pursue her dream of becoming a pediatrician for underprivileged children in her country. Currently living in San Leandro, she actively volunteers as a youth activities supervisor for her church and tutors underserved middle school children in Oakland. Esho credits her parents for much of her success. When her father, himself a physician, became ill, her mother worked multiple jobs to meet her tuition needs and ensure her daughter's dream.
Ute Prince (Hood recipient, Liberal Studies) was born and raised in Germany and forced to quit high school at 16 to enter the workforce. After moving to the United States and raising two daughters, the Millbrae resident went back to school and earned her GED - but she didn't stop there. She enrolled at Skyline College and later transferred to SFSU. Prince, 41, graduates with a bachelor's degree in liberal studies and will return to the University in the fall to earn a teaching credential. She hopes to someday teach in an elementary school classroom of her own.
It took nearly five years, three universities and three majors for J. Guevara (Hood recipient, College of Humanities) to find his niche in the Creative Writing Department at SFSU. Previously, the fledgling poet studied theatre arts and literature at the University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is interested in journalism and works as an intern news reporter for KPFA-FM in Berkeley and as a classifieds coordinator for the Daily Journal Corp. Guevara, 25, grew up in Minnetonka, Minn., and now lives in San Francisco's Richmond District.
Vanessa Lane (Hood recipient, College of Health and Human Services) graduates with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and, in the fall, enrolls in a doctorate program in physical therapy. Her goal is to become a physical therapist, working one-on-one with patients. Lane, 23, grew up in Danville and went to Diablo Valley College where she majored in business. After volunteering at San Ramon Regional Medical Center, she quickly realized that her calling was physical therapy and switched career tracks.
Maki Morizumi (Hood recipient, College of Creative Arts) has been interested in environmental causes since she was a child. During her teenage years, she became fascinated by the mass media's power to influence public opinion. Combining these two interests, the 22-year-old radio and television major from Osaka, Japan, has acquired strong media production skills while striving toward her goal to use the media to promote awareness of environmental issues and eco-friendly lifestyles. Morizumi, a resident of San Francisco's Japantown, earned a 3.98 grade-point average, the highest of any student in her major.
Vicky Gomez (Hood recipient, College of Ethnic Studies), 25, waited to start college two years after she graduated from Mission High School in San Francisco. She first worked in retail then became a mother at 19. The Raza studies major has been in college since 1996 and wants to earn four college degrees in all. Her ultimate goals are to teach health science in high school and develop public health clinics in urban high schools. Gomez lives in San Francisco's Mission District.
Allison Rae Kowalczyk (Hood recipient, College of Education) graduates with a bachelor's degree in communicative disorders. A Redwood City resident, Kowalcyzk, 29, will pursue a master's degree in audiology in the fall at the University. Her goal is to teach hearing-impaired children. She earned the undergraduate degree while raising a 3-year-old son, and her second child is expected in early June.
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