SFSU Public Affairs Press Release
Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.
Keynote address by NASA astronaut, physician, Alumna of the Year Yvonne Cagle
SAN FRANCISCO --- May 29, 1999 --- San Francisco State University's Alumna of the Year NASA astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle speaking to the 6,646-member Class of 1999 on Saturday dared graduates to reach for the stars. "San Francisco State is a place where we began building our dreams and pursuing visions of opportunities," said Cagle, a physician who is one of three African American women astronauts in the U.S. "So hitch your wagon to a star and reach deep for the hero within."
San Francisco State University, which was founded as a teacher training school in 1899, celebrated its Centennial commencement in style before an audience estimated at 25,000. The graduates of the Class of 1999, the largest class in the university's history, wore special purple robes instead of the traditional black in honor of the university's 100th anniversary.
Moved by the sea of purple in the crowd, Cagle, who is scheduled to make her first flight into space in the year 2000, promised that the color scheme of the planned International Space Station would be purple.
S.F. State President Robert A. Corrigan told graduates to remember an important message about their alma mater. "I want all of you to know that San Francisco State will never waiver in its commitment to access and diversity, just as it will never waiver in its commitment to quality and excellence. We ask that you carry the message far and wide-your university remains welcoming and accessible. That is our pledge to you as we enter our second century and a new millennium."
During her speech, Cagle, who received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from S.F. State in 1981, recalled her days at S.F. State. "I remember with the passing of my first semester, questioning my ability still to do simple math as I spent midnight hour after midnight hour trying to prove the theories of advanced mathematics by using factors, derivatives, roots and exponential accelerations to zero out the insurmountable credits I needed to graduate," she said to the cheers of students.
"Yet, something inherent to the integrity of SFSU made each of us persevere," said Cagle, who has a medical degree from the University of Washington and serves as a physician at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston.
In a moving part of the program, President Corrigan awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal for Service to D. Phillip McGee, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at S.F. State. The plaque, in the Bantu language, read : "McGee, the man above the group. McGee, the leader of the house, our royal house. McGee, shining like the sun for his dedication and brilliance. McGee, you have been the man above the group. You have been the leader of our house. You do indeed shine like the sun for your dedication and brilliance, and we thank you."
S.F. State also recognized one of its oldest alumni members. Ninety-one-year-old Ina Andrews Cokeley of San Francisco, who earned her teaching credential from S.F. State in 1928. For a member of the Class of 1999 to receive that honor, quipped S.F. State President Robert Corrigan , they would have to come back to campus in the year 2070.
Daly City teacher Reno Taini, was honored as SFSU's representative to the CSU as it begins its year of "Celebrating Teachers" next fall. Taini who was the subject of a 1988 public television documentary, "Reno's Kids," earned a bachelor's in 1964 and a master's in 1978 from SFSU. Among his innovations was the founding of The Wilderness School for at-risk teenagers to increase their confidence and help them stay in school in Daly City's Jefferson Union High School District.
Meghan Oxelson, who was selected as the student speaker for SFSU's Centennial Commencement, told her fellow students that they should be proud of their college education at S.F. State.
"Under this education from San Francisco State, I am determined to make a difference in the world, make some part of it, however small and close at hand, a more peaceful community. All of us can use our skills for the same purpose. I invite all of you to think of yourselves as potential mediators, helping build a more harmonious world," said the 21-year-old Oxelson, who designed her own special major in mediation, reconciliation and family communication, combining her interests in law and psychology.
And the commencement program also included a message of congratulations to the graduates from President Bill Clinton.
Throughout 1999, the university is celebrating its centennial year of service to San Francisco, the Bay Area, California and beyond. A highly diverse community of 27,000 students and 3,500 faculty and staff, San Francisco State University is one of the largest campuses in the nationally recognized 23-campus California State University system.
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