These Professors Go to the Head of the Class
In the fall issue of SFSU Magazine we asked readers to tell us about the SFSU professors who made a positive difference in their education and in their lives. We hope these stories spark a few memories of special professors who encouraged you to pursue your dreams.
Raza Role Model
Velia quickly became a role model. I learned that she started out as one of SFSU's first Educational Opportunity Program counselors and with perseverance climbed the ranks to chair of the Raza Studies Department. She showed me that the desire for academic success has to come from within. Her story inspired me to set high standards for myself and eventually pursue my master's degree.
When I returned to SFSU after completing my graduate studies at the University of New Mexico, Velia encouraged me to join the Raza Faculty and Staff Association. Today I'm the staff co-chair.
Velia has mentored and touched the lives of so many first-generation college students. We are truly blessed for her presence.
--RenÃ©e Stephens (B.A., Psychology, '92) is an
To the Rescue
Midway through the semester, I thought I'd give school one last half-hearted attempt before I quit altogether and accepted a full-time job as a teller at a local bank.
I made one of my rare appearances in Dr. Feinstein's class the very day of our mid-term exam. I walked in and promptly walked right back out the door. I wasn't prepared. I couldn't have been since I'd missed the last couple of weeks of class.
"You know, Mr. Brennan," he said, "the job of a college professor is to teach. And when students do something stupid, the job of a college professor is to correct them. Your leaving school would be a very stupid thing to do." Dr. Feinstein then proposed a plan that put me on a path to the dean's list, graduation, and a terrific professional life.
Every day I look at the thesaurus he gave me as a graduation present and feel thankful for his guidance. Inside Dr. Feinstein wrote, "The pay for teachers is both tangible and high!" I'm surely glad he felt that way.
--Greg Brennan (B.A., Broadcast Communication Arts, '77) is a freelance writer and has directed public television programs.
Wisdom for the Aging
Both Professors Pelham and DeVries provided me with role models who went the distance with compassion for students and integrated learning experiences with real-life contributions. As our world grows older, more leaders are needed in the field of gerontology. Professors Pelham and DeVries are cultivating these
-- Jill Schneider (M.A., Gerontology, '98) teaches in the Gerontology Department at California State University, Fresno, and is the executive director of Fresno's Older Adult Social Services organization.
Speaking Out in the '60s
He encouraged us to read every book we could get our hands on--politics, sociology, history, science, and fiction. His lectures were filled with exciting stories, including those of his Princeton days when he edited "The Unsilent Generation," a controversial book that made the cover of Life magazine.
Otto stressed the importance of standing up for one's beliefs. He encouraged us to get involved in the civil rights movement, to organize and to speak out on campus.
At his initiative, I set out to write my thesis about the leaders of the civil rights movement. I spent the summer of 1962 traveling the country with a tape recorder, interviewing student leaders including Julian Bond, Stokley Carmichael, John Lewis, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Diane Nash.
Otto believed in me and helped me get into fantastic graduate programs. He was the reason I became a professor.
In 2000 I arranged to meet him for coffee in San Francisco. Although it had been 20 years since I last saw him, he walked in carrying a copy of my senior thesis.
--Tom Rose (B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies, '63) has taught a variety of social science classes at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md. After 32 years as a college professor, he retires this June.
In Tune With Students
--Paul Gemignani (B.A., Music, '68) has been the conductor and musical director for dozens of Broadway shows. In 2001 he was honored with a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.