In Memoriam

Mark Wachter

Photo courtesy Thomas Dickson Design

In the 1970s, around the time he was studying Accounting at SF State, Mark Wachter (B.A., ’76) got swept up in one of the fads of the era: jogging. But his new hobby got off on the wrong foot when he went to buy running shoes at a local store. “The sales associate knew nothing about shoes or feet, and consequently my shoes didn’t fit and I was in pain,” he later recalled in an essay on the website of On the Run Shoes — the still-thriving business he was inspired to found to do running shoes right. Wachter (pictured above) went on to become such an expert on orthotics (inserts and supports for people with foot issues) he became a footwear and foot health trainer for the San Francisco Police Department. He passed away in April in his home in San Francisco’s West Portal neighborhood.


Thelma Schiller (B.A., ’42) passed away in April at the age of 103. Schiller was one of the original founders of the SF State Alumni Association and helped bring the service-oriented Alpha Omega sorority to the University. She also had a notable sideline before graduating: Between 1939 and 1941, she occasionally modeled in Yosemite for famed photographer Ansel Adams. She went on to a long career as a physical education teacher. Her husband — David R. Schiller (B.S., ’41), a captain of the Gator football team — died in 2008.


Myrtle Escort White spent her first 13 years in Beaumont, Texas, moving to California with her family in 1951. Her family settled in the Western Addition and Potrero Hill areas of San Francisco, and she graduated from the city’s Commerce High School in 1951. She spent the next two years as a pre-nursing major at SF State, eventually receiving her R.N. degree from St. Francis Memorial Hospital. While at SF State, she met Joseph White, who was studying Psychology at the College. The two were married in 1957, and Joseph went on to become an influential SF State faculty member and psychology pioneer. (The two were later divorced.) Two of their daughters, Lynn White Kell (B.A., ’81) and Lisa D. White (B.S., ’84), also graduated from SF State, and Lisa returned to serve as a Geology faculty member for 20 years. Lisa writes about her experiences at the University — and the scholarships she recently endowed in honor of her parents — in this issue’s “My SF State Story.”


Jean Berensmeier (B.S., ’54) dedicated her life to protecting Marin County’s San Geronimo Valley. As a child in Nevada she discovered a deep connection with nature while exploring the desert, and she brought that with her when she came to SF State to study Physical Education. After a class assignment took her to a summer camp in the San Geronimo Valley, she fell in love with the place. (She also fell in love with one of her fellow students, Fred “Lee” Berensmeier, and the two were married for 67 years.) Though busy with a career as an educator — she taught Physical Education at the College of San Mateo for decades — she carved out the time to found the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group, which successfully opposed the building of a 5,000-home development in the valley. She also founded a community center in the area as well as Wilderness Way, a nonprofit environmental education center. Her work on behalf of the environment earned her the Marin American Indian Alliance Turtle Island Award and a spot in the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame. She passed away in March at the age of 90.

"She was formidable. When Jean Berensmeier decided something needed to happen, it was going to get done."
— A Marin resident on Jean Berensmeier and her environmental work in the county, Marin Independent Journal, March 29, 2023


Oscar Berland (M.A., ’66) spent the first two decades of his life in New York City, but in 1948 he made a big change: He went to the American South to work for civil rights and labor reform. Though he turned to scholarship in the 1960s — coming to SF State to earn his master’s in History — he remained committed to social justice. He is survived by his partner, Paulette Comeau. “He often talked happily about his time at SF State, where he made many friends,” she says.


Pearl Theresa Marie Edgerly Batiste (B.A., ’75) passed away Feb. 21, 2023, at the age of 92. A native of Louisiana, she moved to Oakland in the 1950s and later graduated from SF State with a B.A. in Fashion. Her husband Berwick Batiste, a toll collector for the state, passed away in 2020. Her family says she was grateful for what she described as a “beautiful life.”


Carol Locatell (LCA, ’81) was studying Theatre at SF State when she landed a role in the touring company of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” She hit the road, kept getting acting work (including roles on TV shows like “M*A*S*H” and “Mad Men” and in films like “Sharky’s Machine” and “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning”) and never looked back. She passed away in April in the Sherman Oaks home she shared with her husband of 50 years, songwriter and record producer Gregory Prestopino.