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SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.

#078; Media Advisory
Contact: Ligeia Polidora (415) 338-1665

77 year-old Shreveport native Josie Fisher will be oldest grad in San Francisco State's class of 1999


SAN FRANCISCO, CA, May 17, 1999 -- Some graduates may have higher grade point averages or hotter job prospects. But no one will walk across the stage to receive a diploma at San Francisco State University on May 29 with more patience, persistence and life experience than Josie Florence Ford Fisher.

Fisher graduated from Central Colored High School in Shreveport, LA in 1942. In a few weeks, she will receive her B.A. in art on the cusp of her 78th birthday. She is no stranger to overcoming obstacles to get an education. She grew up seven miles from the center of Shreveport. If she and her classmates didnít catch a ride into town with the men going to work in the morning, they walked the seven miles to school and another seven miles back home in the evening.

A poised and thoughtful woman, Fisher recalls these early experiences with remarkable equanimity, and says they strengthened her resolve to get a college education. Fisherís SFSU professors call her "consistent, sweet, intelligent, dedicated and hard working."

"She studies and works very hard," said art professor Sheila OíHara who has had Fisher in two textile classes, quilting and weaving.

"She didnít miss a single class," recalls OíHara, "and she probably wove more than anyone else in the class. She wove two huge blankets."

And yet, in addition to going to school part-time, Fisher has maintained her three-day-a-week work schedule in her beauty salon, Votre Petite Beauty Shoppe, which she opened in San Francisco in 1959.

Fisher began studying "beauty culture" in high school. As juniors, she and her classmates were required to go into training school but her real dream was to go to college. "I would go by Centenary College in Shreveport (an all-white womenís college at that time) and thatís where I wanted to go," she recalls. "Thatís why I was determined to get a college education."

She settled on the West Coast with her late husband, Harvey, a pipe fitter who worked for the Navy. Once she had her business established, she began taking courses at City College where she graduated in 1980.

She then began taking courses at San Francisco State University and chipped away at her degree.

"I started out in business but I was weak in math," she shyly confesses.

But her husbandís avid interest in photography and her own talents led her to study art. Harvey would sometimes take classes with her and always helped her with her schoolwork. Her parents also inspired her to pursue her degree.

"When Daddy would come to visit us from Shreveport, he brought his books," she remembers. "he was taking correspondence courses. He loved to write poetry"

Her father, Lorenzo Ford, remains an inspiration. At 105 years old, he recently received the Medal of Honor from the French Government for active service in World War I.

When Fisher graduates in late May, she will be a semester ahead of her great nephew who is getting his degree at San Jose State University. "I tried to talk him into enrolling here," she says, "but I said: just donít take any classes with me."

Though her sister, nieces and nephews will be attending her commencement, she says she has lost some enthusiasm for it now that Harvey, her husband of 51 years, is no longer here to share the experience.

But she plans to continue taking courses after graduation, pursuing her interest in computers and art.

"Learning is a continuous thing," says Fisher. "Society is changing and if you donít keep learning, youíre going to be lost."

Fisher plans to take classes in the fall. But she plans to take a break in mid-November to travel to Shreveport and help her Daddy celebrate his 106th birthday.


Josie Florence Fisher
279 Montana St.
San Francisco, CA 94112
Home Number: 415-585-3160

Salon Number: 415-468-1146 (she is there on Wed, Fri and Sat.)


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