Johnny Mathis (attended '54–'57) --
a star high-jumper at SF State before he began making hit records --
received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 45th Grammys last February.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences hailed the velvety-voiced
singer as "an important influence in sustaining the interest of
contemporary audiences in pop standards." Mathis' best-known songs
include "It's Not for Me to Say," "Chances Are"
and "Wonderful, Wonderful."
In 1955, Mathis was a 19-year-old San Francisco State student when a
Columbia Records producer heard him singing in a jazz club and offered
him a contract. Since then, he has made more than 100 albums, 60 of
which have reached the charts. His 1959 "More Greatest Hits"
holds the record for the longest time on Billboard's Top Albums chart
-- just short of 10 years.
Mathis came to SF State on an athletic scholarship. His record-setting
high jump earned him an invitation to try out for the 1956 Olympics,
but when his singing career started to take off, he decided to forego
In 1982, SF State honored the singer by creating the Johnny Mathis Invitational
Track and Field Meet, which annually draws hundreds of athletes from
throughout Northern California -- and sometimes Mathis himself.
Mathis has some truly wild fans just around the corner from SFSU at
the San Francisco Zoo. The recent addition of new penguins to the zoo's
resident flock caused chaos inside their tank. That is, until zookeeper
Jane Tollini played the birds some Mathis tunes. The penguins stopped
swimming and "starting getting cozy with one another," Tollini
told NPR, adding that the birds are especially fond of Mathis' "Come