Category Archives: Alumni

What’s your story?


This artist's concept illustrates Kepler-16b, the first planet known to definitely orbit two stars.

The top part of the SDSU homepage features the terrific efforts of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.

When I catch up with family or longtime friends, I’m often asked, “What’s new at San Diego State?”

It’s a tough question to answer, if only because the people here do so many interesting things and I don’t want to unfairly pigeonhole the university with a clumsy response.

Thankfully, my job requires me to identify SDSU’s best stories and retell them on the homepage.

The top part of the page is dedicated to the terrific efforts of our faculty, staff, alumni and students – especially students.

And we’re always looking for  more good stories to tell.

Here’s a quick rundown of current stories being featured:

Tatooine in Real Life — SDSU professors Jerome Orosz and Bill Welsh discover the first planet to have two sun-like orbiting stars.

Better, Faster, Stronger
— SDSU engineers work to invent brain-controlled bionics.

The Gift of Sight — SOLO Eyewear, a company started by SDSU students, uses revenues to provide eye surgeries and prescription glasses to people in need.

Worldly View — Eric McDermott investigates Huntington’s disease in Bangalore, India, at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences.  He’s part of SDSU’s surge in Fulbright scholars.

American Indian Inspiration — Generations of local American Indian leaders celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of the first academic departments dedicated to the study of their history and culture as means to create a better future for their people.

Share your story

If you’ve got a great story, please drop me a line at ahoskins@mail.sdsu.edu.

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#WhySDSU


Right now hundreds of thousands of high school seniors and junior college transfer students are filling out applications to go to a university somewhere. Each year San Diego State University is among the nation’s leaders in the number of applications it receives. Not all that are admitted end up coming to SDSU. But of those that do become Aztecs, most become passionate Aztecs for Life.

We reached out on Twitter and asked our followers why they chose SDSU. While many included the obvious – sunshine – you can see the passion our students and alumni have for SDSU. Here are some of their responses:

@homebrewdoc: 140 characters aren’t enough! RT @SDSU_NewsTeam: Aztecs: Why did you go to college at San Diego State? #whySDSU

@amazingjen: @SDSU_NewsTeam The Compact For Success program would take me on yearly visits to campus so it always felt like home to me! #whySDSU

@czarcruise: Because of the tradition, location, and the fact my entire immediate family has gone there. 3 Generations of AZTEC PRIDE #WhySDSU #GoAztecs

@stef_funny: #WhySDSU because that means I get to be an AZTEC for life! 🙂 @SDSU_NewsTeam

@WRob73: @SDSU_NewsTeam #WhySDSU bc I love the city..loved the team and coaches.so happy I chose to go there…best 4.5 years of my life 🙂

@The__Show: #WhySDSU : More combined wins in football and hoops than any other school in the country. But even besides the wins, we have sooo much fun.

#WhySDSU

How about you? #WhySDSU?

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Another Aztec in the Making


Lucio

My future Aztec decked out in Red and Black.

It’s the end of another summer and time to head back to school. But, unlike all previous summers I’ve spent working at SDSU, this one was different.  This time around I wasn’t on campus at all since I had a beautiful baby boy to take care of.

Our first child, Lucio, was born on May 17, the week before commencement. When you look into the face of a newborn, you don’t really know who they are or who they are going to be.

But, I knew two things that morning – my son was going to be named after his great-great-grandfather from Sicily, and he was going to be an Aztec.

You see, in my family, there’s really no other option – I was the third generation to head to Montezuma Mesa as a student, following the footsteps of my grandfather and my parents. I also had an aunt who was once a faculty member, an uncle who graduated from here and one of my cousins is currently a student. So many of my relatives know that familiar tune that ends with “Aztecs fight!” that I’m surprised I don’t hear it at family parties, too.

And did I mention that between my husband and I, we have three degrees bearing the university’s seal?

As you can see, my family really bleeds Red and Black, whether it’s following basketball and football, or my mom excitedly telling me that the then-president of her professional association was also the dean of the College of Sciences. For Lucio, it’ll be easy – he’s already got plenty of Aztec gear thanks to some on-campus colleagues and he “heard” the Aztecs run to the Sweet 16 in utero.

Regardless, I’m sure Lucio will learn about his Aztec family soon enough. But, I wonder: how long will it take him to learn the fight song?

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Marshall Faulk in the NFL Hall of Fame


Jim Herrick is the Executive Director of SDSU’s Alumni Association. This post was originally published in his blog Directly Speaking.

This month Marshall is entering the NFL Hall of Fame as a first ballot unanimous pick which gives us all, his fellow Aztecs, a chance to feel some pride in his amazing life.

On September 14, 1991 I was at Jack Murphy Stadium, but my various responsibilities precluded me from paying too much attention to the game.  I was aware that we were playing Pacific and that we were annihilating them.  I was aware that our top runner, T. C. Wright, had gotten injured.  I was aware that we were scoring a lot of touchdowns.

It wasn’t until much later that night after the boosters had vanished, the corporate sideline placards were dismantled and stored, and the gear stowed that I caught the tail end of the post-game wrap-up on 760 AM.  Some rookie named Marshall Faulk had rushed for 386 yards and had scored all 7 touchdowns!

It was no fluke.

Subsequently, along with every other Aztec fan—or any true football fan, actually – I was transfixed by his sheer talent and completely mesmerized and awed by his larger-than-life presence and skill.

For 15 years I devoured every game or clip I could because, well, transcendent athletic art is compelling.  I never tire of his highlight reel—and it is a heckuva long movie.

Some of Marshall’s attributes are just part of an overall amazing package:  Speed (obviously), ability to change directions (superb), coordination (duh!), jumping ability (definitely), ability to catch the ball and his aversion to fumbling are the basic ingredients.  But the thing I marvel at the most when watching these clips is his ability to read the best paths to optimize his yardage every play.  The speed his eyeballs and his brain processed and reacted to the circumstances, I think, is what made him the best combination of receiver and running back the game has ever known.

And it nearly didn’t happen.

Many know the story of how Marshall, as a prep player growing up in the dangerous Desiree projects of New Orleans, actually dodged bullets figuratively and literally (Well, dodging bullets probably doesn’t qualify as a literal term, but with Marshall, maybe).  The SEC schools were highly aware of his speed and he was pegged by several schools as a cannot-miss defensive back.  But Marshall wanted to play halfback and then-coach Al Luginbill and receivers coach Curtis Johnson promised him he could run at San Diego State, so here we are.

So a few days after his remarkable freshman year, I remember our sports information department got in some hot water for failing to anticipate the fact that Marshall was named all-America.

Marshall’s second year was more of the same with a lot of fans jumping on the band-wagon. As the director of the Aztec Athletic Foundation, I had the honor of dealing with Marshall on a few things including a project where local sports artist Gene Locklear made 100 poster-sized prints that Marshall signed and we sold for scholarship monies.  The NCAA rules were intrusive, but following them essential, so I was allowed to provide him a Big Mac, fries and a coke during the 90 minutes he was signing.  Subsequently I tried to arrange special parking at the Murph for Marshall and recall that it was impossible to strike a rational balance between providing for Marshall’s safety and abiding by the NCAA laws.  But I did get to deal with him on these matters and what I discovered was that Marshall’s ability to communicate is powerful.

So now let’s fast forward through his pro career, which will be better covered by others this week, and arrive back a couple of years ago when Marshall retired and moved here full time.  What has this remarkable Aztec done since then?  Between his jobs as analyst for the NFL Network, he has demonstrated that he is a true fan and has attended many football and basketball games.  He started the Marshall Faulk Foundation which steers inner city youth down better roads. He has been a big donor to our athletic department.  He was elected to the board of directors of the Campanile Foundation. He has an annual event in the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center on the eve of homecoming which draws in hundreds of Aztec and Marshall fans and friends and raises money for us, the Jackie Robinson YMCA and the Marshall Faulk Foundation.  It is called the Aztec for Life event.

Oh yeah, one more thing (Wait, that was Peter Falk, not Marshall Faulk). Marshall coined the term “Aztec for Life” which just happens to be the San Diego State University Alumni Association mantra.

Marshall Faulk, we are proud of your NFL Hall of Fame election.  And we are even prouder of everything else you have done.

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SDSU’s New Alumni Association President


Jim Herrick is the Director of SDSU’s Alumni Association. This post originally appeared in his blog, Directly Speaking.

For the first time in 15 years we have a new university president in the same month that our new SDSU Alumni Association president assumes his responsibilities. The timing could not be more providential in terms of an alumni leader who can provide a wealth of assistance to San Diego State’s top administrator, should that assistance be called upon.

Jeff Marston brings a lifetime of valuable political and professional experience to the head of the table at Alumni Association board meetings. Not only has Jeff represented San Diego in the California State Assembly, he has also been a member of the California Postsecondary Education Commission, served on the San Diego Community College District Trustee Advisory Council and chaired the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee among other accomplishments too numerous to list in this space.

We’re lucky to have Jeff. He knows how things work in post-secondary education and, perhaps more importantly these days, in Sacramento. In fact, he has regularly accompanied SDSU officials to the state capital to lobby on behalf of the university. An advocate for SDSU virtually since he graduated in 1977, Jeff is politically savvy, engaging and a great orator – all qualities that serve him, the Alumni Association and the university well. He commands a great deal of respect at the university and in the alumni community.

Personally, Jeff has a dry wit and is extremely self-deprecating. He can take a joke and dish it out, which makes him a lot of fun to be around.

And Jeff’s devotion as an Aztec fan is unparalleled (with the possible exception of Tom Ables). He runs up his Orbitz bill following Aztec teams to big games where ever they may be. This fall he’ll be heading to West Point and Michigan.

Jeff likes all sports, but he is beyond your normal baseball fanatic in that he manages and plays on an adult baseball team (not softball, mind you, with the big fat ball and a keg of beer, but real honest-to-goodness baseball). Although he’s competitive, Jeff fully appreciates the joy of just being in the game. That’s why he’s effective at so much of what he undertakes.

All of these things combine to make Jeff a great president for the Alumni Association. Staff and board members all look forward to his leadership in the coming year.

Now, if we could just get him to stop rooting for the Yankees…

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Thank You, San Diego


This letter from SDSU’s retiring president, Stephen L. Weber, was originally published in the San Diego Union-Tribune’s June 26 Dialog section.

I will soon be marking my last day as President of San Diego State University.  I wanted to end these 15 years as I began them: with a statement of thanks for the opportunity to be a part of this extraordinary university and a citizen of this full-of-promise community.

As an educator, I appreciated what a fine university San Diego State was when I arrived.  As I leave, I depart with gratitude to the thousands of men and women who have worked to make it an even better university during the intervening years.  Like San Diego, SDSU is a place where you can “push the envelope.”  That is where the professional satisfaction comes from; not from presiding, but from producing.  I believe that the reason San Diego State has had only seven presidents in the last 114 years is because it is a university where you can do things that have never been done before.

Needless to say, I am not the one that pushed the envelope; rather, my colleagues were the ones who moved SDSU forward.  They made San Diego State the nation’s leader in improved graduation rates, the number one small research university in the country, and first in California and third nationally in its Carnegie category for sending students abroad.  They brought in more than $ 1.1 billion in sponsored research since 2000 and secured more than $700 million in philanthropic support.  Fueled by these accomplishments, SDSU is now attracting more than 60,000 annual applications.

I am grateful to our University Senate for its wise advice and counsel through these years; and I am grateful to all SDSU faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who collaborated to develop a “Shared Vision” for the university that became my “to-do” list.

I am grateful to our students who have supported increasing their own fees to invest in new facilities and to create new traditions.  They have challenged us all to be better leaders and to expand SDSU’s commitment to sustainability.  Students have also been our conscience with regard to social justice.

I am particularly grateful to the citizens of San Diego for the support they have given to San Diego State.    You collaborated with us to create dynamic new academic programs.  The bioscience industry helped us develop our Master’s Degree in Regulatory Affairs; the construction industry helped us develop a Construction Engineering Management program; the healthcare industry developed Nurses Now, whereby we were able to double the production of nurses.  The hospitality and tourism industry guided us in developing what has already become a world-class Hospitality and Tourism program.

These collaborations took place because San Diego State strives to be open and responsive to the needs of the community, but they could not have happened had members of the community not recognized the capacity of San Diego State and its willingness to be a partner in accomplishing good things.  You have helped us attract better and more diverse students.  You have supported our university with record-breaking philanthropy.

All over the country, I have said that I cannot imagine a better place to be a university president than San Diego.  We are urban, diverse, high-tech, Pacific Rim, and Latin America.  Those are the ingredients of the 21st-century, and it is all of you who make those ingredients available to us, to our faculty and staff, and to our students.  If the greatness of San Diego State lies in its capacity to push the envelope, then we must acknowledge our gratitude to San Diego for giving us the levers with which to expand our world.

I hope you will afford Elliot and Jeri Hirshman the same warm welcome you did to Susan and me.  If you continue to support Elliot as you have me, then both San Diego and San Diego State will prosper.

Thank you, all, for the privilege of being part of San Diego State University and for the pleasure of being a member of the San Diego community.

Stephen L. Weber is SDSU’s seventh president.  He retires on July 5 – 15 years from the day he started his presidency.

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Spending Time With Rocky Long


Jim Herrick is Director of SDSU’s Alumni Association. This post first appeared in his blog, Directly Speaking.

I had the honor of spending some quality time recently with our new head football coach, Rocky Long. Just as a

SDSU Head Football Coach Rocky Long

SDSU Head Football Coach Rocky Long

review for those of you who may not have noticed: Coach Long was New Mexico’s coach for 11 years where he went to 7 bowl games, racked up the second most wins of any Mountain West coach ever, and regularly beat us, including the infamous 2008 70-7 stomping.

Rocky was a huge hit with our friends and fans (at the Aztec Caravans in) Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. People seem to really appreciate his disarming candor and his easy-going style. But, like our fans, I was eager to understand the coach beneath the demeanor. What I learned during some of the down and travel times was that Coach Long is a believer in toughness. More than any other singular attribute, he has recruited toughness for two years and will continue that trend. The theory is that in the end of close games in the sport of football, the quality enables one side to draw a bit deeper into their reserves of physical endurance and mental resolve, thereby yielding the difference we covet.

Rocky also talked a lot about how he and his staff are keenly aware of players’ ability to change direction on the field. As a fan and more than casual observer of the sport, this makes a lot of sense to me. This ability leads me to believe our team will be comprised of big, strong, fast and tough guys who can stop on a dime and explode on a new vector.

Finally, Rocky is a genuinely good guy. Despite an authentic resume of proven success as a Division One head coach, he is even keeled, without monstrous ego, and fun to be around. I see this working out well for everyone except our opponents.

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