Seven years ago, SF State Magazine introduced me to alumni with a Q&A interview that covered my background, my mindset and my vision for the future as I became the University’s 13th president. One of the last questions was about the challenges facing San Francisco State University. What did I think was the biggest?
“Most people would say it’s our budget. I don’t think it is,” I replied. “We have a lot of bright people ready to stand up and meet the financial challenges. I think that the greater challenge is losing sight of our mission. We have to make sure we stay true to our values of social justice, equity, community engagement and student success.”
Now, as I prepare to retire this July, I can look back at that answer with a deep sense of satisfaction. I was right back in 2012: We did overcome the financial hardships facing the University and the state at the time. San Francisco State is thriving and growing thanks to all those “bright people” here on campus, strong leadership in Sacramento and record-breaking levels of support from alumni. (You can read more about those generous Gators here.)
I think it’s also clear that the primary challenge I identified in 2012 — ensuring that the University stayed true to its values — was met. The proof? You’ll find it in every story in this magazine. Students taking a stand against violence, alumni finding creative ways to help others and confront racism, faculty creating new approaches to unconventional subjects — all exemplify the bold thinking and audacious action SF State is famous for. Like the climber pictured on this issue’s cover (in a photo by alumnus Samuel Crossley), they’re taking risks and reaching new heights.
That’s what SF State is all about. One of this issue's feature stories is another Q&A interview with me. Instead of an introduction, now it’s a farewell. Once again I was asked about challenges, and this time my answer was a bit different. But when looking at the University’s strengths, my outlook remained the same. “There’s a level of confidence and a ‘can-do’ attitude,” I say. I might be leaving SF State, but I know that bold, inspiring, world-changing spirit will never leave me.