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The cover of the spring/summer 2004 Issue of SFSU Magazine

 

SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer  2004, Volume 4, Number 1.

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  Alumni & FriendsAlumna Adah Bakalinsky wearing sunglasses, seated on a stairway.

 

Following in Her Footsteps

Adah Bakalinsky (M.A., '72) has a soft spot for San Francisco's stairways. "I like not knowing what I'll see from the top -- it's an exhilarating feeling," she says.

The fifth edition of Bakalinsky's "Stairway Walks in San Francisco" (Wilderness Press, 2004), which hit bookstores in May, directs readers up, down, around, and between her favorite stairways. To celebrate the book's 20th anniversary printing, Bakalinsky's publisher, City Guides, and San Francisco Beautiful declared May 22 "Stairway Day" in San Francisco and invited residents to participate in stairway walks throughout the city.

At 81, the stairway queen is trim and energetic. Bakalinksy walks at least three times a week, and if she invites you to tag along, don't expect to hear any huffing or puffing from this SFSU alumna. "Never happens," she says -- not even on the Filbert Steps.

Bakalinsky was a family social worker in St. Paul, Minn., before she moved to San Francisco with her husband Max in the early '70s. At SF State, she pursued a lifelong interest in film. Bakalinsky made films with her 16mm camera, and, for a time, used film clips to teach elementary school students to be critical viewers. Designing walks and updating her book continue to fulfill her need to teach and to reach out to the community. "Old social workers never die," she says.

Bakalinsky has found that many San Franciscans are interested in preserving and improving upon their stairways and surrounding hillsides. She is always ready to lend a helping hand.

When Jessie Audette wanted to spruce up a stairway at 16th and Moraga, Bakalinsky helped spread the word. "She has a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm," Audette says. After two years of planning and fund-raising, she and her neighbors are preparing to cover the concrete steps with mosaic tiles. Bakalinsky couldn't be happier at the prospect.

"It's going to be a real gem," she says.

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