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Record numbers graduate at San Francisco State



SFSU Office of Public Affairs & Publications
(415) 338-1665

Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications


Outstanding graduates include mother and son, cancer survivor, and S.F. Police Officer

SAN FRANCISCO, May 19, 2005 -- San Francisco State University will confer a record number of bachelor's and master's degrees and the first in a new joint doctorate at its 104th Commencement at 12:15p.m. Saturday, May 28. The 7,832 graduates -- the largest class in the University's history -- include representatives of 117 countries. Below you will find selected stories of outstanding graduates, including this year's hood recipients, who are top graduates chosen to represent their fellow students from each of S.F. State's academic Colleges and Liberal Studies program. For assistance in contacting any of these students, please call the S.F. State Office of Public Affairs and Publications at (415) 338-1665. The sampling below includes:

  • a mother and son graduating together
  • a cancer survivor
  • a San Francisco police officer who wants to teach junior high
  • outstanding students representing each college or division at SFSU

Jessica Diane Jones, Youngest in Class of '05
Barely 19, the youngest grad this year wasted no time on the way to her bachelor's in English literature. She attended Middle College High in San Pablo, which shares a campus with Contra Costa Community College. There she was able to simultaneously pursue her high school diploma and associate's degree from Contra Costa C.C. The Oakland-born, Pinole resident admits that she chose to major in English literature because "I wanted to get as far away from math as I could!" While Jones originally planned to enter law school after graduation, she has decided to pursue a teaching credential because she wants to help high schoolers "get into literature like I did." In fact, she's already at it -- tutoring students back at Middle College High.

Rhodes Young, Oldest in Class of '05
The desire to write and publish his own poetry haunted the 78-year-old Young throughout fatherhood and his career as a psychologist at University of California, San Francisco. In addition to earning a master of fine arts in creative writing, Young's thesis, a collection of "spare poetry" titled "Stretching the Strings," provided him with the opportunity to "achieve that sense of perfection that makes you just want to write more." The Missouri native and long-time Mill Valley resident says he relished every class at SFSU and will miss the company of classmates as he pursues publication of his work. Young, who once taught a statistics course at SFSU, maintains there is at least one advantage to postponing a poetry career until retirement. "All good writing draws on life experience and I certainly have enough of that."

Kathy Ryan Collis and James Valoria, Mother and son support each other in college
Collis, of Millbrae, raised her two children as a single parent while earning her college credits one class at a time. In time her son James Valoria caught up with her and enrolled at SFSU too. Though the two rarely crossed paths on campus while completing their undergraduate degrees, they won't be far from one another on Commencement day. Valoria, an Alameda resident, will graduate with a bachelor's in speech and communication; Collis will receive hers in psychology. They credit a single class assignment with strengthening their relationship. A few years ago, Valoria was asked to write his life mentor a thank-you letter. His mother was the obvious choice. "I thanked her for raising [my sister and me] as a single mother, for everything she's done for me," he says.

Sean O'Leary, Taking it to the streets
" It's a two-way street," says the native San Franciscan and 14-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department who will earn his bachelor's in sociology. The beat cop maintains that his experience on the streets fed his studies just as much as his class work influenced his work. The San Rafael resident and father of four plans to retire in nine years and return to SFSU for a teaching credential. "You don't have many chances to make a deep enough impression on kids to keep them off the streets," he said. "I figure I might have the opportunity to make one if I taught junior high. Education is tethered to success. If I can inspire just one kid a year to stay in school, I'd be happy."

Lathem A. Bonem, Transgender student's research helps his community
Bonem, winner of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences' Graduate Student Award for Distinguished Achievement, focuses his academic work on health-care access among female-to-male (FTM) transgender people. As an FTM himself, Bonem can relate to the struggles and discrimination that transgenders face. "You don't see many transgender people in media and getting jobs, and I've internalized that," the masters degree candidate in human sexuality studies said. Bonem came out as a lesbian immediately after graduating from Cleveland Heights High School in Cleveland in 1997. Several years later he began identifying as male, changing his name and undergoing breast reconstruction surgery. Bonem plans to continue his research and teach part-time at SFSU. "Being in this program with such wonderful people has helped me," he said. "I now know I don't have to choose between being out and having a job."

Meredith Edwards Wampler, First doctorate in physical therapy science
Wampler will receive her doctoral hood at ceremonies at both SFSU and University of California, San Francisco, as the first graduate of the joint doctoral program in physical therapy science. Wampler says she received exactly what she wanted out of her advanced degree -- a solid science base with heavy emphasis on clinical research. The Missouri native, now Sunset District resident, will return to the SFSU campus in the fall as a member of the Physical Therapy faculty. She also plans to continue the clinical research at UCSF's Comprehensive Cancer Center that she began during her studies. "Ultimately," she says, "I want to design physical therapy programs and protocol for cancer survivors."


HOOD RECIPIENTS: One outstanding student from each academic college, the Liberal Studies program and Division of Graduate Studies will receive the symbolic investiture of the hood on behalf of their fellow students. The hood recipients are as follows.

Natasha Scholtz (Behavioral and Social Sciences), Class of '05 student speaker,
Economics major adds excellence into the equation

Scholtz, a native of Half Moon Bay, will become the first person in her family to graduate from college. Although she has worked full-time since her senior year of high school, she has found time to tutor her peers at SFSU in economics. In Half Moon Bay she has worked on a watershed creek project and coached a girls' softball team. Now a project manager at Instill, an e-company in the food-service industry, she aspires to one day teach economics to high school students. "It's not so much about mastering time management," she explains. "If you're going to do something, you have to do it well."

Felicity Fyfe (College of Business), Accounting is "beautiful"
The native of England, now San Francisco resident, was an advertising, marketing and fund-raising professional before moving to the United States with her husband 11 years ago. While raising two sons, she decided to pursue a college education and discovered -- much to her surprise -- that she loved numbers. She even goes so far as to say that accounting is "beautiful." Fyfe, the hood recipient for the College of Business, served as Webmaster and president of Beta Alpha Psi, the national honors accounting students organization. After completing a spring internship with West Coast accounting firm Moss Adams, she was offered a position and will join the firm in the fall.

Cameron Fuller (Creative Arts), Printmaker on to St. Louis
Art is his passion, although it took a while to realize that it could become his career. His art tends to be complex, crossing boundaries between print, sculpture and theory.
Fuller's professor, Barbara Foster, said that he is one of the most outstanding students that the Art Department has had over the past 10 years and adds that his research papers were often used as models. Fuller, 29, attended Centralia High in Centralia, Washington. He will soon move to St. Louis to enter the master of fine arts program in printmaking at Washington University.

Simone Kytle (Education), Coaxing the brain
Kytle combined outstanding academic performance with community work while getting
her bachelor's in communicative disorders -- even though she had to battle melanoma along the way. The Palo Alto resident worked with young children with communicative disorders at California Pacific Medical Center and tutored fellow undergrads who were struggling with psychology courses. She also was an active member of the Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association. Inspired by her work caring for an autistic boy, she became particularly interested in neuro-linguistic disorders and plans to become a speech-language pathologist and was accepted into SFSU's graduate program in communicative disorders.

Shawnna Vel Demmons (Ethnic Studies), Bettering the black community
Oakland resident Demmons, 40, a Black Studies major in the College of Ethnic Studies, balanced her undergraduate studies with a full-time career as a clinical case manager in San Francisco's Tenderloin district, helping underserved people of color who have multiple diagnoses. In addition, she was a writer and co-editor of the College's Black Studies Journal. Raised in Los Angeles, she spent a decade counseling teen youth with HIV and worked with queer youth of color. Demmons is the first in her family to earn a bachelor's degree. After a year off she plans to pursue a degree in law, social services or public health, with the eventual goal of making a difference in the black community. "Employment and education are the issues in the African-American community," she said. "The violence is residual."

Sarah Kathleen Baldwin (Health and Human Services), Community means recreation
The recreation and leisure studies major's outstanding academic performance is matched by an impressive history of community service. While attending SFSU, she has volunteered as a tutor at a Daly City after-school program and assisted people with disabilities during kayak adventures that promote personal growth. As a member of the Board of Directors of the Recreation for Students Club Baldwin worked to increase awareness of the importance of recreation to health and quality of life. Baldwin will pursue a career as an event planner immediately following a busman's holiday of sorts -- a tour of Europe.

Matthew Parn (Humanities), Australian writer finds niche in technology
Parn began to write speeches for elected government officials in his native Australia at the ripe old age of 20. After nearly a decade as a writer and editor for members of parliament and government agencies, he decided to expand his skills and work in the high-technology industry. The technical and professional writing major will earn his bachelor of arts in technical writing magna cum laude. A resident of the Castro district in San Francisco, the 33-year-hopes to land a job writing multimedia Web content for a leading technology company.

Lisa Duque (Liberal Studies), From head of the class to head of the class
Duque is an aspiring teacher who leads an after-school class in cooking and baking in San Francisco's Portola district. As she helps students whip up foods from an
international menu, she not only exposes them to new cultures, but also gives hands-on lessons in math and science. Duque, a recipient of a National Hispanic Scholarship, is proud of her family's Central American roots in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Colombia and proud to be a second-generation San Franciscan. She wants to teach third grade specifically because its coursework focuses on exploring the local community. After four years in SFSU's Liberal Studies Integrated Teacher Education Program, which enables students to earn both their bachelor's degree and teaching credential in just four years, Duque plans to teach full time or enroll in a master's program in education.

Lisa Yong Wu (College of Science and Engineering), From farming to organic chemistry
Wu's advanced research into enzymes that may be connected to prostate cancer belies the fact that she is just completing the first step in her scientific studies. After immigrating to the United States just a few years ago, she is the first in her farming family to complete high school. Despite the fact that she has helped to rear two younger siblings, she has also managed to volunteer in her community with organizations including the Red Cross, Leukemia Society, San Francisco Public Library, Mandarin Elementary School, Asian Art Museum and Asian Women's Shelter. Already the coauthor of two professional journal papers, she plans to continue her higher education, earn a Ph.D. and teach medicinal chemistry.


NOTE TO EDITORS: Reporters interested in covering commencement are asked to contact the SFSU Office Public Affairs and Publications for media credentials. Please call (415) 338-1665 prior to Commencement. A transcript of Commencement will be posted online shortly after the conclusion of Commencement on May 28 at:



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Last modified May 24, 2005, by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications