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SFSU, CSU to award honorary degrees

April 25, 2006

Three individuals who have contributed greatly to their professions and society will receive honorary degrees at SF State's Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 27. Pegi Young, cofounder of The Bridge School for young people with disabilities, and her husband Neil Young, the musician-singer-songwriter who is a Bridge School board member and supporter, will each receive an honorary doctor of humane letters from SFSU and the California State University system. Trial lawyer James Brosnahan, a senior partner at San Francisco-based Morrison and Foerster, will receive an honorary doctor of law from the CSU.

They join a distinguished group to receive an honorary degree from SFSU, including South Africa President Nelson Mandela, Bay Area philanthropist Richard N. Goldman, actor Danny Glover, artist and teacher Ruth Asawa, Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Pegi Young
Photo of Pegi (left) and Neil YoungTwenty years ago, Pegi Young cofounded The Bridge School in Hillsborough for children with severe speech and physical impairments. The school uses state-of-the-art assistive communication technology to ensure that these young people have access to a quality education that encompasses broad knowledge and experiences.

Pegi and Neil have a son, Ben, who was born with cerebral palsy. Pegi's frustration with educational programs led her to envision a school that uses computer technology and a dedicated staff to give disabled children the opportunity to share knowledge, express feelings and be heard. Pegi served as an unpaid director of the school for six years and remains active as president of the board of directors. Through her dedication, the school has become an internationally recognized model that conducts cutting-edge research shared with professionals across the nation.

"Pegi Young has truly built a bridge between the disabled child and the world," SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan said. "Her work is a powerful reminder that with passion and dedication we can improve the lives of young people near and far by ensuring that all have access to education. The mission and principles on which The Bridge School was founded mirror the values and beliefs of San Francisco State: Everyone deserves the opportunity to reach his or her maximum potential."

Neil Young
Neil Young, the legendary musician-singer-songwriter, has applied his talent and celebrity for the good of The Bridge School. His devotion to his son Ben has inspired his strong support over the years.

Neil is the driving force behind the school's annual fundraising concert. Neil has performed at the concerts and helped bring to the same stage dozens of musicians including Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Dave Matthews. The concerts raise more than half of The Bridge School's yearly budget.

Neil enjoys one of rock music's most enduring and productive careers and is a member of both the American and Canadian rock 'n' roll halls of fame. The Grammy-nominated musician's latest recording is "Living With War."

"Countless fans have been moved and inspired by Neil Young's extraordinary musical talents but it is the voice he has given to those who once had none that stands among his greatest gifts," Corrigan said. "The passion and dedication he brings to the stage is mirrored by his positive contributions to the lives of children, parents and teachers so that they may continue to push back the limitations of physical disabilities. Neil Young serves as an inspiration and reminder for the class of 2006 to use their talents to reach out and help their fellow community members."

Neil and Pegi Young attended last year's SFSU Commencement exercises to applaud Thanh Diep, the first Bridge School alum to receive a college degree. Diep has shared what The Bridge School has taught her: "great self-confidence and self-esteem." Had she remained in public school, Diep added she "would not have had an opportunity to learn to read, write, and achieve academically at a communicative level with my peers."

James Brosnahan
Photo of James BrosnahanA senior partner at San Francisco-based Morrison and Foerster, Brosnahan is one of the nation's most respected and recognized trial lawyers, with expertise in civil and criminal trial work. Although he has represented some of the largest and most powerful organizations in the nation, he has also devoted himself to serving the poorest and least fortunate Americans. In 1977, as president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, Brosnahan established the Volunteer Legal Services Program, which provides free legal aid for traditionally underserved Bay Area residents. In 2004 the program provided more than $10 million worth of pro bono legal assistance.

"James Brosnahan embodies the values of community engagement that we hope to strengthen in our students," Corrigan said. "As exemplified by his long and distinguished legal career, he has been committed to social justice and equity. His mission in life resonates deeply with our own commitment to both civil and human rights."

Brosnahan has taken on some of the nation's most controversial cases. In 1992 he served as an associate member of the Office of Independent Counsel, which prosecuted Caspar Weinberger in the Iran-Contra case. Recently Brosnahan stepped forward to represent John Walker Lindh, the young American charged with fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Brosnahan's many awards and accolades include 2001 Trial Lawyer of the Year from the American Board of Trial Advocates.

As for his latest honor, from the CSU, Brosnahan said, "Coming from such a tremendous school that has contributed so much over the years, this is a great honor that I very much appreciate."

-- Adrianne Bee
Photos: Pegi and Neil Young by Craig Abaya; James Brosnahan courtesy of Morrison and Foerster


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Last modified April 25, 2006 by University Communications