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Overcoming obstacles, giving back demonstrated at SFSU Commencement



SFSU Office of Public Affairs & Publications
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Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications


Announcement of $10 million gift brings crowd of 20,000 to its feet

SAN FRANCISCO, May 28, 2005 –- Speakers and honorees at San Francisco State University's 104th Commencement drew standing ovations this afternoon in the campus' Cox Stadium as the class of 2005 was graduated. Keynote speaker Ben Fong-Torres and Alumnus of the Year Manny Mashouf, both graduates of the SFSU class of 1966, acknowledged that this year's class was similar to theirs in that most students pursued a college degree while juggling family responsibilities and full-time work.

A theme of giving back was underscored when SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan announced that Mashouf, founder and chairman of bebe stores inc., and his wife Neda, recently pledged $10 million to the University, the largest private individual gift in the University's history. New graduates jumped to their feet with applause when Corrigan made the announcement. Corrigan noted that it is the second largest alumni donation ever to one of the 23 California State University campuses and added that it will go toward a new performing and electronic media arts building planned for the campus.

Mashouf, recalling his time at SFSU, said it "stimulated and shaped my thought processes and attitudes in a way that have affected my life forever." He likened himself to many of the new graduates because he too pursued his degree while working full time and raising a family. "People often doubt that one individual can make a difference," he said. "But, actually, how you live your life can influence society for generations to come."

Also drawing a standing ovation was President's Medal recipient Ralf Hotchkiss, co-founder and chief engineer of Whirlwind Wheelchair International, which is based at SFSU's Urban Institute. He was recognized for his 25 years of training workers in developing countries to produce wheelchairs custom made for local terrain from local materials.

Corrigan told the packed stadium that the class of 2005 was the largest, most diverse and most accomplished in University history. "For many of you, this has been more than a four-year path. … You have had to balance work, perhaps even family responsibilities, with your academic studies. But you have not only persevered, you have prevailed." He described the members of the class of 2005 as "a true global community" representing 117 countries.

In his keynote address, Fong-Torres also recalled his time at SFSU, saying "I was in the right school at the right time. Here, there were no closed doors." In choosing advice for the new graduates he said, "I like a quick hit, like the one from a song writer, Bob Neuwirth, to the tune of, ‘If you don't take a chance, you ain't got a chance.'"

He reminded the students that they would no longer live in a world determined by an academic calendar and that finding a job would be competitive. "Take anything you can get. …Use any contact you may have. … Don't worry about job titles. If you've done your job, you're in line to get a better one."

Student speaker Natasha Scholtz told the graduates, "What is ultimately most important is that you become a resource for someone else. Give back to the community or communities that have helped you." The Half Moon Bay native, who received her bachelor's in economics with highest honors, earned her degree while working full time.

This was San Francisco State University's 104th Commencement. It honored a record number of graduates -- 7,832 -- the largest in the University's history.


NOTE: A transcript of SFSU's Commencement can be found online at:

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Last modified May 28, 2005, by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications