San Francisco State University, Established 1899, 1600 Holloway Ave. SF, CA 94132

SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

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

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


SAN FRANCISCO, CA, May 24, 1999 -- SFSU will confer degrees on 6,646 students, its largest ever graduating class, this Saturday (May 29). In the mix of graduates are students of all ages and backgrounds, some of whom have surmounted great obstacles to realize their dream of a college degree. Each graduate has his or her own story to tell. Here are some of the more interesting ones.

Ann M. Foley (Accounting)
Phone Number: 415-668-2105

Few have overcome greater obstacles in earning their bachelor’s degree than has Ann Foley, this year’s outstanding graduate in the College of Business. A native of Ireland and the oldest of eight siblings, Foley traveled the world, doing everything from riding camels in Jordan to working in Asia, before finding her way to San Francisco. After working full time, she enrolled at SFSU to learn "the American way of doing business." In March of 1977, she was diagnosed with a serious illness - which is akin to lupus disease. She continued to take 18-21 units a semester until a year ago when she could no longer work, eat or sleep. At that point, with only one class left to complete in her major, she didn’t give up. It took her more than two semesters, but she completed the course and is graduating with on overall GPA of 3.93. Her illness has changed her life and her perspective. Eschewing the business graduate’s dream of working for one of the Big Five accounting firms, Foley has accepted a job with the Children’s Council, a non-profit childcare and resource network.

Josie Florence Fisher (Art)
Phone Number: 415-585-3160

This year's oldest SFSU graduate, Josie Florence Fisher will receive a bachelor's degree in art. Fisher, 76, has been taking classes at SFSU since 1980 when she graduated from City College, but her dream of getting a college degree goes back to her graduation from Central Colored High School in Shreveport, LA in 1942. While going to school, Fisher has continued to work three days a week in her San Francisco beauty shop. Her professors describe her as "consistent, intelligent, dedicated and hard working." Upon graduation, she intends to pursue her education further and take more courses in art and computing. Lifelong learning runs in her family, she says, as exemplified by her father, Lorenzo Ford. Ford, now 105, was recently honored by the French Government for active service in France in World War I.

The Smith Family (Speech Communications)
Phone Number: 415-274-2231

For Scott and Toni Smith and their daughter Junile, 24, Saturday's SFSU Commencement will be the ultimate family affair. Scott, Toni and Junile will graduate together, all in the same major - speech communications. Scott and Toni left their careers and sold their home in Washington State in 1996 to move to the Bay Area where their daughter was going to college at USF. They eventually enrolled at SFSU and gravitated toward the same major with a special interest in organizational communications. All three have worked while going to college; both Scott and Toni are SFSU staff members. Having helped each other through tests and homework, often taking the same classes, the family is now considering doing consulting work together.

Svetlana G. Attestatova (Political Science)
Phone Number: 415-337-7690

Svetlana Attestatova, who was born and grew up in Russia, is being recognized as this year's distinguished graduate in SFSU's College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. A political science major, she is graduating with a 3.96 GPA and has impressed her professors with her "brilliance, devotion to study and academic achievement." Even more impressive, she arrived in the U.S. in the spring of 1996, knowing no one in this country and with limited command of English. Her mother, a communist, is a university professor in Russia and her father is an engineer. Both are coming to the United States to attend Attestatova’s graduation. Svetlana loves America. She says she was too much of an individual and never really felt she "fit in" growing up in Russia. At SFSU, she has appreciated the freedom to choose her academic course and the wonderful diversity of viewpoints at the university. Presently working as a case clerk at a local law firm, she plans to attend law school.

Meghan Teresa Oxelson - Commencement Student Speaker
Phone Number: 559-673-1735

Meghan Oxelson, 21, has been selected as the student speaker for SFSU's Centennial Commencement. Recently inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and graduating with a GPA of 3.92, Meghan just returned from a year studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina at Universidad Belgrano. Fluent in Spanish, she studied language and culture and played volleyball on the Belgrano university team. Oxelson was one of first-ever entering class of Presidential Scholars four years ago, a select group of several dozen students chosen each academic year to receive a full tuition scholarship for four years. While at SFSU, she designed her own special major in Mediation, Reconciliation and Family Communication, combining her interests in law and psychology. Oxelson would like to teach mediation to youngsters, and thereby teach them new ways to solve problems.

Paula Chiyoko Katayanagi (Black Studies)
Phone Number: 510-232-6600

Paula Katayanagi is this year’s distinguished graduate in the College of Ethnic Studies. Her simple but profound objective is to educate and inform everyone about the contributions of people of color to world history. After graduating from high school in the late 1960s, she attended UC Berkeley for two semesters to get married and have a child, Natalie, who has since grown up and graduated from SFSU several years ago. Katayanagi worked various jobs from postal worker and cab driver to paralegal before deciding to return to college. She took a Black studies class and became intrigued. She found her feelings of alienation and rebellion toward the majority culture slowly subsiding as the mistruths about the contributions of non-European ethnic groups in world history were finally being uncovered. Having distinguished herself academically with a GPA of 3.76, Katayanagi’s goal is to become a teacher and help children learn about these contributions. As a step in that direction, she recently started a publishing company, Chiyoko Publishing, which specializes in printing children’s books from authors of different ethnic backgrounds.

Jedediah O. Gildersleeve (Broadcasting & Electronic Communication Arts)
Phone Number: 510-526-4481

Jedediah Gildersleeve has been selected to represent the graduates of the College of Creative Arts at this year’s commencement ceremonies. Graduating with a 3.95 GPA, his professors say he has produced some of the best work in broadcast and electronic communication arts seen at the university in more than 25 years. Early on, he became a self-taught graphic designer and art director, working at Richmond’s Primal Lite, Inc. with clients including Warner Brothers, Disney and Coca Cola. He went back to school and after two years studying at the College of Marin, entered SFSU’s Multimedia Studies Program. He has been a prolific and energetic writer and producer while a student. This semester, his documentary proposal on Capoeria was one of two proposals selected from 40 applicants for production. One faculty member even called on him to help illustrate a new edition of the professor’s textbook. Upon graduation, Gildersleeve plans to continue writing and producing large scale media projects.

Erin Denise Rentz (Botany)
Phone Number: 415-647-5851

Rentz has been selected as the outstanding graduate in SFSU's College of Science & Engineering. She is graduating in Botany with a GPA of 3.98. Her research supervisor has said he has never had a better undergraduate in any of his courses. Rentz grew up in a multicultural household: her father, a carpenter, is an immigrant from Germany and her mother is Native American, is a member of the Kanuk tribe in Humboldt County. Erin came to love the outdoors during summer vacations spent with her grandparents in northern California. She earned a college degree from Cal Poly in graphic communications but after six years working in the printing industry, she decided to return to school. She has received a fellowship and plans to continue with graduate studies in Botany so she can teach and do research on the relationships between native plants and native people.


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