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Alumni & Friends

New graduates, Kathy Ryan and her son, James Valoria, smile after receiving their diploma covers on commencement day. Both are clad in cap and gown. 'There was never any 'Oh no, my mom is going to school with me' says James Valoria, at left, with his mother, Kathy Ryan Collis. 'I thought it was cool.' The two are now proud members of the Class of 2005. Photo by Lui Gino de Grandis.Tassles to the Left
With 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 says.

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 their relationship.

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 their education.

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


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Last modified Sept. 2, 2005, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications