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Professor to receive SFSU President's Medal

April 19, 2004

Photo of Gary SelnowUpdate: Professor Selnow and his work with WiRED was featured in the May 29, 2004, edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Business Professor Gary Selnow will be honored with the prestigious SFSU President's Medal for Service during Commencement exercises May 29 for his efforts to rebuild communities and health-care systems in countries disrupted by war, conflict or rampant illness.

Selnow, founder and executive director of WiRED International, has been an SFSU faculty member since 1992 and is a Montara resident. The award honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the University and the city of San Francisco that will have long-lasting and widespread benefits for SFSU students and faculty. President Robert A. Corrigan chooses the recipients.

"I am honored to present the San Francisco State University President's Medal for Service to Professor Gary Selnow, whose courageous humanitarian work has had a resoundingly positive impact on the lives of many people in war-torn countries," Corrigan said. "His dedication and vision exemplify the ideals of caring and community service that we value in our University community. Professor Selnow inspires us by his creativity and courage."

Selnow travels to countries ravaged by conflict and poverty to provide citizens with information and communication resources -- often paying for his own travel expenses.

Most recently, he has visited Iraq several times, through grants from the U.S. Department of State and organizations such as the Medtronic and Christopher Reeve foundations and Pfizer Pharmaceutical Co., to set up Medical Information Centers at 10 locations. The centers use computers and a CD-ROM library to provide education on a broad range of health-care topics. The centers serve more than 5,500 medical professionals, professors and students. The centers will add Internet access when the appropriate infrastructure is locally available.

During his latest trip to Iraq in March, Selnow and his staff also set up hardware and software and trained hospital staff on a two-way, real-time video connection. This allows children receiving extensive medical treatments for wounds and other care such as heart surgery and chemotherapy in other countries to talk to their families for the first time in months.

WiRED, which often collaborates with SFSU’s Marian Wright Edelman Institute, the U.S. Global Technology Corps and U.S. National Institutes of Health, also operates centers in the Balkans, Africa and Latin America. The centers provide health-care information to more than 1 million individuals annually. Thanks to Selnow's efforts, citizens of nearly 10 countries -- from Kenya to Nicaragua -- now have access to the global resources and communication capabilities of cyberspace.

"The recognition of any organization's work is a testimony to the shared values of those who give the award and those who receive it," Selnow said. "For San Francisco State University -- deeply committed to individual development and cultivation of the human potential -- to bestow this honor upon WiRED is both humbling and uplifting because both institutions know that people are strengthened by knowledge and empowered by information. With the help of the University administration and with so many able volunteers from the staff and students, SFSU has indeed been a close partner in this work."

Selnow developed the idea for WiRED in 1997 as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Croatia. He witnessed the devastation the war left behind and was particularly intrigued by the children, who were fascinated with computer technology. Selnow realized the Internet could be a valuable tool to help alleviate the community's isolation, enhance education and teach children about democracy and cooperation.

Past SFSU President's Medal recipients include former San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John H. Jacobs, arts patron Jane Hohfeld Galante, philanthropist Richard Goldman, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

-- Matt Itelson


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