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SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

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

#004; For Immediate Release
Contact: Ted DeAdwyler/John Essex (415) 338-1665

CSU Trustees’ Award given to SFSU student

SAN FRANCISCO, CA., August 2, 1999--When Susan Jones of San Francisco heard the news that she had won the prestigious California State University Trustees’ award it almost didn’t seem real. Jones grew up in England believing that the doors of higher education were closed to her forever. She has a form of dyslexia that was misdiagnosed as a developmental disability when she was a child. As a result, she spent most of her life second–guessing her intellectual abilities. In fact, not until the age of 50 did she ever give any serious thought to the possibility of earning a college degree.

Now, as one of only three winners of this year’s statewide award, she’s finally putting to rest some of that old, nagging self–doubt. "At first I thought ‘This can’t be me!’" said Jones, 55. "After I realized that it was true, it became a validation that I am smart, that I’m worth something. I know now that I can do it."

The Trustees’ award, given this year to students from CSU Long Beach, CSU Chico, and San Francisco State, recognizes superior academic performance, community service, and personal achievements. The one–time $2,500 annual scholarship is given to a maximum of three students in the 360,000 student CSU system, and was originally funded in 1975 by the Evelyn D. Armer Memorial Scholarship Trust.

For Jones, the award caps an impressive undergraduate career during which she has maintained a 3.90 GPA and won numerous scholarships for academic achievement, including a statewide scholarship that she earned while attending City College of San Francisco and two SF State Alumni Scholarships for seniors.

Her instructors, including S.F. State Humanities professor Mary Scott, have been impressed with the level of Jones’ commitment. "I think that what really makes her stand out among all the students I’ve had anywhere is the intensity and tenacity with which she pursues her intellectual life," Scott said. "She doesn’t just like books and ideas and interesting people, she

loves them." Jones’ determination, persistence, and hard work will pay off this fall when she earns her bachelor’s degree in Humanities from San Francisco State.

As a young girl in London, the strict, traditional English educational system made school difficult for Jones. "It was totally frustrating," she said. "I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write." Through sheer persistence, she taught herself to read at the age of ten and then immersed herself in the large library that existed in her childhood home. "The library had every literary classic in the world. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop," she explained. After she quit school at the age of fifteen, t he library became the true source of her early education.

Jones married at 17 and by the age of 20 had two daughters. After her divorce in the early 1960s, she spent a few years working a variety of jobs in both Europe and the United States—including a stint as a stage performer for the USO in Germany during the early 1960s—before ending up in a theatrical commune in San Francisco called "Magic Jack’s Mind Circus." She found that she had a talent for performing on stage and soon made the transition to the theater. She embarked on an impressive acting career under her professional name Susan Chapman, earning critical praise in both classic and contemporary roles while working at repertory companies throughout the West Coast and back in England. Her passion for acting was immense, she explained, and "for two decades I lived and breathed the theater."

By her own description, Jones’ decision to return to school after a 35 year absence was somewhat spontaneous. When she developed extreme vertigo caused by a problem with her inner ear, she was forced to give up acting. She worked a series of odd jobs, ending up at a beauty parlor where a co-worker suggested that she take a night class at City College of San Francisco. She enrolled in a western civilization course that looked interesting and discovered, to her surprise, that she had an aptitude for sc hoolwork. "I loved the class; it’s not an exaggeration to say that I became intoxicated with learning," she said. Jones became a full-time student so that she could devote herself completely to her studies and found that the maturity that she had gained as a stage actress benefited her schoolwork immensely. "The basis of the theater is discipline. I brought that same discipline to my studies."

In addition to her schoolwork at S.F. State, Jones believes that her experience as a tutor in SFSU’s Educational Opportunity Program is helping her develop the skills that she will need to complete her goal of becoming a teacher. Jones says that for her, teaching is more than a chance to give to others the education that she believed for so long was out of her reach, it’s an opportunity to make a real difference. "A good teacher can give students a gift that they will keep for the rest of their lives. That’s what I want to do."

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 is one of the largest campuses in the nationally recognized 23-campus California State University system.


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