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Alumnus Bob Hansen, right, teamed with landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, left, to transform the approach to yosemite falls from eyesore to awe inspiring. Photo courtesy The Yosemite FundExtreme Makeover: Outdoor Edition

As president of The Yosemite Fund, Yosemite National Park's primary fundraising organization, Bob Hansen (B.A., '70), has mastered the art of the quick change -- from the hiking gear he dons on park trails to the coat and tie his business meetings require. During a typical week he tries to get away from his downtown San Francisco office and spend at least one day in the park, meeting with potential donors along the way.

During his 17-year career at The Yosemite Fund, he has raised more than $35 million that has brought disabled access to park trails, created new bikeways and educational exhibits, restored sensitive areas and paid for studies of the park's wildlife and plant populations.

"It's very sensitive work. You're engaging in a contract with people. They make an investment in you, and you have a responsibility to fulfill their expectations," he says.

Hansen secured $14 million to transform the heavily trafficked Yosemite Falls approach last year with the help of landscape architect and environmental planner Lawrence Halprin. Today new paths lead to the approach. There is also a stone amphitheater, historical markers and a shrine to environmentalist John Muir. "Without Bob, it wouldn't have happened," Halprin says. "Bob is an inspiring guy. He pulls people together."

Born and raised in Oakland, Hansen has been visiting Yosemite since he was 12. In the late 1960s he brought his love of the great outdoors to SFSU, where he minored in biology and earned a degree in liberal arts. He worked with Bill Edison, then an elementary education professor, to help run his outdoor education program for Bay Area children. Edison remembers Hansen as an enthusiastic young teacher and master camper. "He's also very good at fundraising," Edison says, "but I didn't teach him that."

A career counselor at SFSU helped Hansen land his first job after graduation, as an administrator of another outdoor education program, The Yosemite Institute.

"[Yosemite] is the quintessential national natural park," Hansen says. "To be associated with its continued protection, revitalization and enhancement … is about the best situation anyone can ask for."

-- Gary Moskowitz


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