San Francisco State University, Established 1899, 1600 Holloway Ave. SF, CA 94132

SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.

Contact: William Morris
phone: 415/405-3606


SAN FRANCISCO, May 9, 2000- David F. Selvin, noted Bay Area labor writer, editor, activist, and teacher, will receive the honorary degree doctor of laws (LL.D.) at San Francisco State University's commencement ceremony on May 27. A prolific author, Selvin detailed the story of the San Francisco general strikes of 1934 in his most recent book, A Terrible Anger, published three years ago.

Selvin will be one of two honorary degree recipients at San Francisco State's ceremony. The other will be the Rev. John P. Schlegel, president of the University of San Francisco. Each campus of the California State University nominates recipients of honorary degrees; the degrees are formally bestowed by both the CSU and the individual campus.

SFSU nominated Selvin in recognition not only of his labor work but also his commitment to human rights. "The common denominator of David F. Selvin's long (he is now 86), varied, and distinguished career is concern for human rights - to the labor movement and also to civil rights and greater opportunities for women and people of color," said San Francisco State President Robert A. Corrigan.

As a committed civil rights activist, Selvin played a major role in the creation of the Bay Area Council Against Discrimination, the first interracial civil rights coalition in Northern California. As an historian and supporter of higher education, he was instrumental in the founding of the Labor Studies B.A. program at San Francisco State, where he also taught a course on labor journalism and led the successful effort to obtain a legislative budget augmentation to create SFSU's Labor Archives and Research Center. He has also helped to develop educational programs that enable women and people of color to take more active roles in union leadership.

Selvin began his career as a researcher for the President's Longshore Board, a body appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt to mediate the longshoremen's strike that had shut down Pacific Coast shipping. He then joined the Pacific Coast Labor Board, a group of economists doing research for the labor movement. In 1951, he began the career with which he is most closely identified: labor journalism. He spent more than 30 years editing the newspaper of the San Francisco Labor Council, receiving 21 Awards of Merit from the International Labor Press Association.

In the 1960s, he began writing a series of books on labor history for young readers, focusing on the lives of union leaders such as Samuel Gompers, Eugene Debs, and John L. Lewis. He also wrote The Other San Francisco, a critical treatment of the city's race and class relations, also aimed at young readers. He followed by writing labor histories for adult general audiences.

"Thanks in major part to David Selvin, the story of Bay Area labor in the 20th century has been preserved and transmitted to new generations," read San Francisco State's nomination. "With his lifelong energy, civic engagement, and leadership in the creation of lasting intellectual and social programs, as well as his longstanding involvement with and many contributions to San Francisco State University, David F. Selvin embodies the life well and actively lived in pursuit of goals and values we hope our students will embrace."

Note to editors - A transcript of S.F. State's commencement will be posted on-line at the Office of Public Affairs home page shortly after the conclusion of commencement on May 27. SFSU's Public Affairs home page is located at


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SFSU, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132
Last modified May 10, 2000, by Office of Public Affairs