to the Left
class schedules that were literally night and day, Kathy Ryan Collis
and her son, James Valoria, rarely crossed paths while completing their
degrees at SFSU -- but they weren't far from one another on commencement
day. James graduated with a bachelor's in speech communication; his
mother earned one in psychology.
Kathy began her college education while James and his sister were in
elementary school. Raising her children single-handedly and working
full time, she started with just one class a semester at Skyline College.
Her determination left a lasting impression on her son. "She's
the one who taught me to love school, to love learning," James
When Kathy enrolled at SFSU during her son's sophomore year, he was
able to return the favor, giving her tips for registering for classes.
"She probably could have gone online for a lot of stuff but I think
she liked coming to me," he says.
Attending school with other working adults as well as students closer
to her son's age, Kathy says, "I always felt welcome. I learned
from them and I hope they learned from me." In Professor Julia
Lewis's "Psychology of the Family" class, for example, she
enjoyed sharing her personal experiences with students who had yet to
have children of their own.
Both Kathy and James credit a single class assignment at SFSU with strengthening
A few years ago, James was asked to write his life mentor a thank you
letter. His mother was the obvious choice. "I thanked her
for raising [my sister and me] as a single mother, for everything she's
done for me," he says.
This summer James is starting a sales position at WILD 94.9. His mother
will continue working in the admissions office at the University of
California, San Francisco, medical school, helping other students pursue
Pretty soon they'll have one more Gator graduation to celebrate. Rachel
Valoria, James's sister, just finished her sophomore year at SFSU.
Other stand-outs at commencement
2005: Manny Mashouf (B.A., '66), chairman
of the board and founder of bebe stores, inc., was named Alumnus of
the Year. Former Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres
(B.A., '66) was this year's speaker. Ralf Hotchkiss,
the co-founder and chief engineer of SFSU's Whirlwind Wheelchair International,
received the President's Medal.
On the Friday before Commencement, SFSU welcomed four new members to
the Alumni Hall of Fame: Paul Ash (M.S., '84),
the executive director of the San Francisco Food Bank; television writer/producer
Glen Charles (M.A., '68); Malou Nubla
(B.A., '91), the co-host of CBS 5's "Evening Magazine";
and Republican Congressman Bill Thomas (B.A., '63;
M.A., '65), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Caps off to these special alumni!
-- Adrianne Bee