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SFSU to award honorary degrees to Pegi Young, Neil Young and James Brosnahan



Matt Itelson
SFSU Office of Public Affairs & Publications
(415) 338-1743
(415) 338-1665


Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications


Co-founder of The Bridge School, musician-singer-songwriter, and trial lawyer to be honored at University's May 27 Commencement

SAN FRANCISCO, April 24, 2006 -- Pegi Young, co-founder of The Bridge School for young people with disabilities; her husband, musician-singer-songwriter Neil Young, a board member and supporter of The Bridge School; and trial lawyer James Brosnahan, a senior partner at San Francisco-based Morrison and Foerster, will receive honorary degrees during San Francisco State University's Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 27. Pegi and Neil Young will each receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from SFSU and the California State University system. James Brosnahan will receive an honorary doctor of law degree from the CSU.

Twenty years ago, Pegi Young co-founded The Bridge School in Hillsborough, Calif., for children with severe speech and physical impairments. The school uses state-of-the-art assistive communication technology to ensure that these young people have access to a quality education that encompasses a broad base of knowledge and experiences. Pegi knew well the need for such a program. She and her husband, Neil Young, have a son, Ben, who was born with cerebral palsy. It was Pegi's frustration with existing educational programs that led her to envision a school that uses computer technology and a dedicated staff to give children with disabilities the opportunity to share knowledge, express feelings and be heard. Pegi served as an unpaid director of the school for six years and remains active as the president of the board of directors. Through her dedication, the school has become an internationally recognized model that not only teaches students in Hillsborough, but conducts cutting-edge research shared with professionals across the nation.

"Pegi Young has truly built a bridge between the disabled child and the world," said San Francisco State University President Robert A. Corrigan. "Her work is a powerful reminder that with passion and dedication we can improve the lives of young people near and far by ensuring that all have access to education. The mission and principles on which The Bridge School was founded mirror the values and beliefs of San Francisco State: Everyone deserves the opportunity to reach his or her maximum potential."

While Pegi has concentrated on the school itself, building a strong interdisciplinary team and expanding outreach and research programs, her husband, the legendary musician-singer-songwriter Neil Young, has applied his talent and celebrity for the good of The Bridge School. Neil is a board member and the driving force behind the school's annual fundraising concert. His devotion to his son Ben has inspired his strong support over the years. Neil told Time magazine, "Eventually Pegi and I came to the conclusion that we had been chosen, and this is one of the things we're doing with our life, turning this situation into something positive for all kinds of kids."

Neil has not only performed at the benefit concerts but helped bring to the same stage dozens of musicians including Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews. The concerts raise more than half of The Bridge School's yearly budget. Neil is also a co-founder of Farm-Aid, a concert series that has provided much needed support to family farms, and has served on its board of directors since 1985. Neil Young enjoys one of rock music's most enduring and productive careers and is a member of both the American and Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Grammy-nominated musician's latest recording is the forthcoming "Living With War." He was the subject of the recently released documentary, "Neil Young: Heart of Gold."

"Countless fans have been moved and inspired by Neil Young's extraordinary musical talents but it is the voice he has given to those who once had none that stands among his greatest gifts," President Corrigan said. "The passion and dedication he brings to the stage is mirrored by his positive contributions to the lives of children, parents and teachers so that they may continue to push back the limitations of physical disabilities. Neil Young serves as an inspiration and reminder for the class of 2006 to use their talents to reach out and help their fellow community members."

The Youngs attended last year's Commencement exercises at San Francisco State to applaud the success of Thanh Diep, the first Bridge School alum to receive a college degree. Diep has shared what The Bridge School has taught her: "great self-confidence and self-esteem." Had she remained in public school, Diep added that she "would not have had an opportunity to learn to read, write, and achieve academically at a communicative level with my peers."

James Brosnahan is the recipient of an honorary doctor of law degree from the CSU. A senior partner at San Francisco-based Morrison and Foerster, he is one of the nation's most respected and recognized trial lawyers, with expertise in both civil and criminal trial work. Although Brosnahan has represented the largest and most powerful organizations in the nation, he has also devoted himself to serving the poorest and least fortunate Americans. In 1977, as president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, Brosnahan established the Volunteer Legal Services Program, which provides free legal aid for traditionally underserved members of the San Francisco Bay Area community. In 2004 the program provided more than $10 million worth of pro bono legal assistance.

"James Brosnahan embodies the values of community engagement that we hope to strengthen in our students," President Corrigan said. "As exemplified by his long and distinguished legal career, he has been committed to social justice and equity. His mission in life resonates deeply with our own commitment to both civil and human rights."

Known to carry a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket, Brosnahan is guided by a firm belief that all are entitled to legal counsel and has taken on some of the nation's most controversial cases. In 1992 he served as an associate member of the Office of Independent Counsel which prosecuted Caspar Weinberger in the Iran-Contra case. Recently Brosnahan stepped forward to represent John Walker Lindh, the young American charged with fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Brosnahan has served as special counsel to the California Legislature's Joint Subcommittee on Crude Oil Pricing, the lawyers' representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference and Chairman of the Delegation. He also is Master Advocate on the faculty and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. Brosnahan is the author of "Trial Handbook for California Lawyers" (Bancroft-Whitney).

He is a member of the State Bar of California's Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame (1996) and the recipient of the Samuel E. Gates Award from the American College of Trial Lawyers (2000). His many awards and accolades include Trial Lawyer of the Year from the American Board of Trial Advocates (2001). As for his latest honor, from the CSU, Brosnahan said, "Coming from such a tremendous school that has contributed so much over the years, this is a great honor that I very much appreciate."

Each campus in the CSU system nominates honorary degree recipients to recognize those individuals with meritorious and outstanding service to the CSU, the campuses, the state of California, the United States or to humanity at large. The recipients are also individuals whose lives and achievements should serve as examples for CSU's diverse student body. The CSU and each individual campus bestow the degrees during commencement ceremonies.

The Youngs and Brosnahan join a distinguished group of people to receive an honorary degree from SFSU and the CSU, including South Africa President Nelson Mandela, philanthropist Richard N. Goldman, actor Danny Glover, artist and teacher Ruth Asawa, Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

SFSU is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. The University enrolls about 29,000 students each year and graduates about 7,000 annually. With nationally acclaimed programs in a range of fields - from creative writing, cinema and biology to history, broadcast and electronic communication arts, theatre arts and ethnic studies - the University's more than 150,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and beyond.


NOTE: To arrange interviews with Pegi Young, contact Bonnie Levetin of Lookout Management at (310) 319-1331. To arrange interviews with James Brosnahan, call (415) 268-7189. For photos, contact Matt Itelson of the SFSU Office of Public Affairs and Publications at (415) 338-1743 or

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Last modified April 20, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications