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Writer, broadcaster Ben Fong-Torres named SFSU Alumnus of Year

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Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs

 



Famed Rolling Stone editor who chronicled lives of musicians to receive award at May 24 Commencement 

SAN FRANCISCO, May 8, 2003 - Ben Fong-Torres, a Bay Area media personality who has dedicated his life to rock 'n' roll and words, has been named San Francisco State University's 2003 Alumnus of the Year by the SFSU Alumni Association.

Fong-Torres, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in radio-television-film in 1966, will receive the award at the University's 102nd annual Commencement exercises at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 24, in Cox Stadium.

From Ray Charles to Paul McCartney and Elton John to the Grateful Dead, Fong-Torres has interviewed hundreds of world famous musicians and actors and written stories for Rolling Stone and other magazines and newspapers during the last 35 years. His time wasn't only spent punching out stories on a typewriter, as his voice was also heard on Bay Area radio stations KSAN and KQED and his face appeared on television programs in the late 1970s. Today, he continues to write and he's often invited to emcee community events.

"I've had a pretty incredible career and I owe it all to having attended San Francisco State. When I first registered in the summer of 1962 and plunked down the $48 tuition, I thought about the things I wanted to learn and to do in writing and in broadcasting but I also saw them as long shot fantasies," said Fong-Torres, 58. "But I was at the right school at the right time. Here at San Francisco State there were no closed doors, no well-meaning little chats about how I might want to consider other lines of work where Asians have done well."

Fong-Torres found work that melded his love of music with journalism. As Billboard Magazine recently exclaimed, "You couldn't hope for a more upbeat, sane and dryly revealing observer of popular music's halcyon era."

"Ben Fong-Torres is an outstanding choice for Alumnus of the Year. He has made remarkable contributions as editor of Rolling Stone magazine, author of numerous books and magazine articles, as feature writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, as a radio and television personality and interviewer of people of note," said Danell S. Zeavin, president of the SFSU Alumni Association. "He's an icon in the Bay Area's broadcast world."

In addition to his Alumnus of the Year honor, Fong-Torres will be one of four inductees into the SFSU Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Friday, May 23.

"It gives me and this entire University great pleasure to honor Ben Fong-Torres for his extraordinary work as a journalist, author and broadcaster," President Robert A. Corrigan said. "San Francisco State University was his training ground for a successful career in newspapers, radio and television. We are proud to call him one of our own and we look forward to welcoming him back to campus to present this award."

Born in Alameda, Fong-Torres, the son of restaurant owners, studied at SFSU in the 1960s where he was a reporter and editor for the student newspaper. Two years after graduating he was writing for the just-launched Rolling Stone and a year later he joined the magazine as news editor where he remained until 1981. He's written celebrity features for dozens of magazines, including Esquire, People, GQ, Parade, Playboy and Sports Illustrated.

In 1983 Fong-Torres joined the San Francisco Chronicle as a feature writer and radio columnist until 1992 when he left to write his memoirs, "The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese-American: From Number Two Son to Rock N'Roll." Since 1993 Fong-Torres has worked for various trade publications for the radio and recording industries and is now vice president of content at Collabrys, Inc., a company that produces branded e-magazines. The Academy Award-winning movie "Almost Famous" -- director Cameron Crowe's autobiography of a teen journalist traveling with a rock band -- includes Fong-Torres' character as a Rolling Stone editor.

Fong-Torres lives in San Francisco with his wife, Dianne, also an SFSU alum. The two met on campus when, as Fong-Torres describes it, "Dianne Sweet was a homecoming queen candidate and I was a campus newspaper geek."

The annual Alumnus of the Year award goes to former students who have gained recognition for significant contributions to their field of work. Fong-Torres joins an illustrious roster of alumni, including last year's honoree, "Cheers" executive producer Peter Casey, along with renowned jazz and cabaret singer Wesla Whitfield, stage and film actress Annette Bening, conductor Kent Nagano, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and physician and NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle.

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