Class Notes

Portrait of Mohammad Koswar

Mohammad Koswar (B.A. '66)

Portrait of Wesla Whitfield

Wesla Whitfield (B.M., '72)

Portrait of Ken White

Herb Lee (attended '56-'57)

Portrait of Ellen Moore

Joseph L. White (A.B., '54)

Art work by Nina Lacour

A photo by Judy Dater (B.A., ’62; M.A., '65)


Dorothy Bryant (A.B., ’50; M.A., ’64), author, playwright and teacher, passed away in December at age 87.

Joseph L. White(A.B., ’54), a psychologist and former faculty member who helped establish the University’s black studies program in the late 1960s, died on Nov. 21, 2017. White revolutionized the way people of color are understood in psychology and worked to improve diversity on college campuses. He was the University’s Alumnus of the Year in 2008.

Herb Lee (attended ’55-’57), the San Francisco Police Department’s first Chinese American officer, died Nov. 1, 2017, of colon cancer. Lee joined the force in 1957 and served as an undercover cop in Chinatown. Eventually promoted to the rank of sergeant, he was also the first president of the California Asian Police Officers Association.

Ray Bandar (A.B., ’55; C.R., ’58), biologist and noted collector of bones, passed away Dec. 23. He donated his famous skull collection to the California Academy of Sciences last year.

Jerry Madden (M.A., ’58), is the author of several books, plays and short stories. His latest work, Marble Goddesses and Mortal Flesh (University of Tennessee Press, ’17), collects four linked novellas.


Judy Dater’s (B.A., ’62; M.A., ’65), work is featured in a retrospective titled “Judy Dater: Only Human” at San Francisco’s de Young Museum through Sept. 16.

Michael Herz (M.A., ’62), a lifelong advocate for the environment and clean water, was the 2017 winner of the Frank Hatch Environmental Health Leadership Award.

Moammad Kowsar (B.A., ’66), a longtime professor in SF State’s School of Theatre & Dance, died in a tragic accident in January.
“His drive and exuberance inspired generations of students,” says Todd F. Roehrman, director of the School of Theatre & Dance. “His encyclopedic knowledge of dramatic literature, academic rigor and artistic vitality was in abundance in everything he touched, from his inspiring lectures to his thoughtful, heartfelt and stirring productions.”

Don Peter “Pete” Liebengood (B.A., ’66), a San Francisco State Athletics Hall of Famer and Gridiron Hall of Famer, passed away at the age of 73. A 1967 graduate of SF State, Liebengood played football for the Gators from 1962 to 1965 and worked as a sports reporter for KCRA in Sacramento and KRON in San Francisco as well as ESPN and NBC Sports.


Dennis Yen (M.A., ’70), was appointed to the board of the Solano County Fair Association.

Dorothy Place (B.A., ’71; M.A., ’74), is the author of the novel The Heart to Kill (Stephen F. Austin University Press, ’16) and the story “Weezy’s Grandma,” which won second prize in the Scribes Valley Short Story Writing Contest last year.

Wesla Whitfield (B.M., ’72), a singer renowned for her interpretations of jazz standards, passed away in February. In its obituary, The New York Times described her as “a classically trained vocalist whose fresh interpretations of the Great American Songbook were anything but standard.”

Linda Bisson (B.A., ’73; M.A., ’76), a recently retired professor in the University of California, Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, was honored by the department at a special Wine Flavor 101A seminar in February.

Dana Corvin (M.A., ’73), received the Jewish Community Federation’s Robert Sinton Award for Distinguished Leadership.

Dennis Ho (B.A., ’74), is the director of Qi, a film about the traditional Chinese concept of life energy that won the L.A. Film Awards’ Best Documentary prize and Best Short Documentary Film at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

Jim Friedman (M.A., ’75), contributed color photographs from his project “12 Nazi Concentration Camps” to the exhibition “i am: Narratives of the Holocaust,” which ran Dec. 8 through Jan. 17 at the ReflectSpace gallery in Glendale, California.

Issam B. Makdissy(B.A., ’75; M.A., ’79), wrote and directed the Lebanese film Yesterday Went with Yesterday, which made its U.S. premiere at New York’s Cinema Village theater in March.

Guy Diehl (M.A., ’76), a painter of still lifes, was featured in a recent exhibition at San Francisco’s Dolby Chadwick Gallery.

Ken White (M.A. ’76), published 12 Days of Central Valley Christmas (White & Wilkinson, ’17), the second of a trilogy of children’s Christmas books. ’Twas the Night Before Christmas…in Modesto will be released in November. White also served as editor of Touchstones: Life and Times of Modesto (HPNbooks, ’17), a non-fiction book about his hometown. He is currently writing a sequel to his first novel, Getaway Day.

Nancy Adams Kwiecien (B.A., ’77), was recently named Veteran of the Week in Montgomery, Texas.

Betty McLaughlin DeFea (M.A., ’77), an advocate for education and the disabled community, passed away Dec. 12 at age 86. She served as chair of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities, as a legislative advocate for the state PTA and in a number of other roles.

Katherine Briccetti (attended ’79-’80), retired after 32 years as a school psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of Blood Strangers: A Memoir (Heyday, ’10) and has launched a photography business.

Twelve Days of Central Valley Christmas book cover by Ken White

Ken White (M.A, ’76)

Grateful Nation book cover by Ellen Moore

Ellen Moore (B.A., ’89; MSW, '91)

We Are OK book cover by Nina Lacour

Nina Lacour (B.A., ’04)


John Lander (M.A., ’81) ,is the author of two books released in 2017: Offbeat Japan and Hidden Gardens of Japan (both from IBC Publishing).

Jeffrey Heyman(B.A., ’82),the first punk rock DJ at SF State radio station KSFS in 1977, is now the executive director, public information, communications & media for the Peralta Community College District.

Edmund S. Wong (B.A., ’83; B.A., ’86), is the author of Growing Up in San Francisco’s Chinatown: Boomer Memories from Noodle Rolls to Apple Pie (Arcadia Publishing, ’18).

Beth Custer (M.M., ’85), composed the score for the film The Manhattan Front, which premiered at SF IndieFest in February.

Shannon Faulk (B.S., ’88) , is the first black board president of the National History Museum of Los Angeles.

Kris Perry (M.S.W., ’88), has been named the president of the Save the Children Action Network, an advocacy group working to boost early childhood education and reduce preventable child deaths.

Ellen Moore (B.A., ’89; MSW, ’91), is the author of Grateful Nation: Student Veterans and the Rise of the Military-Friendly Campus (Duke University Press Books, ’17), which explores the experiences of veterans and the challenges they face in higher education.


Tonya Hawes(B.A., ’91), was recently included on’s list “100 Women Who Inspire Us.”

Margaret Cruikshank (M.A., ’92), is the author of two books that were recently honored at an international conference on cultural gerontology at the University of Graz in Austria: Learning to Be Old: Gender, Culture and Aging (Rowan & Littlefield, ’13) and Fierce with Reality: Literature on Aging (Hamilton Books, ’16).

Lisa Owens Viani (B.A., ’96; M.A., ’00), a writer in SF State’s Strategic Marketing and Communications department, was inducted into the International Owl Center’s World Owl Hall of Fame in March in recognition of her environmental activism.

Matthew A. De Bellis(B.A., ’97), founded Gusto di Roma (, a monthly Italian appetizer subscription service, last year.

Rick Van Meter(B.A., ’98), a New York-based film and television producer, is developing a feature film based on the true story of former SF State student Timothy Carmody, a mercenary who spent years in one of the world’s most dangerous prisons after a botched mission in South America.

Kiki Powers(M.S., ’99), has launched Boho Babe Foods, a line of health-minded snacks.

Jean Robertson(M.A., ’99), is the new chief of special education for the San Francisco Unified School District.


Daedalus Howell(attended, ’00), is finishing his first feature film as a writer/director, Pill Head.

Bethany Herron(B.A., ’01), has been named managing director of San Francisco’s Crowded Fire Theater.

Matthew Abaya(B.A., ’02), is the director of the horror film Vampariah, which was produced through his company I Don’t Care Productions.

Randall Rabidoux(B.A., ’02), is an attorney in the firm Hanson Crawford Crum’s new San Francisco office.

Katuri Kaye(M.A., ’03), became director of Trucker Huss, the largest employee benefits specialty law firm on the West Coast, on Jan. 1.

Nina LaCour(B.A., ’04), received the Michael L. Printz Medal for young adult literature for her 2017 novel We Are Okay.

Juslyn Manalo(B.A., ’03; M.P.A., ’14), has been named mayor of Daly City. She is the first Filipino American to occupy the position.

Steven Ford(B.A., ’04), is the Bayview District’s new police captain.

Alicia Ostarello(M.A., ’06), started Vow Muse, a ghostwriting company for wedding-related writing.

Nedelle Torrisi(B.A., ’06), released a new single, “Rich Kid’s World,” on the New York indie label Frenchkiss Records. Frenchkiss also released a full-length album of Torrisi’s songs, Only for You.

Nicholas Curry(B.A., ’07), an admissions counselor at SF State, is co-owner and winemaker at Primerose Wines, LLC. His 2015 Primitivo vintage received a rating of 94 points and earned the prestigious Double Gold Medal and Best in Class awards at the 37th Annual San Francisco International Wine Competition this year. The vintage also appeared in the October 2017 issue of The SOMM Journal, a magazine for sommeliers and other wine and dining professionals.

Brian Rivera(B.A., ’07), played the king in a run of the classic musical The King and I at San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts earlier this year.

Suzanna Adamova(B.A., ’09), is the new operations supervisor for the Golden Gate Ferry.

Samhita Mukhopadhyay(M.A., ’09), has been named Teen Vogue magazine’s first executive editor.

Ana Maria Pulido(B.S., ’09), is the new spokesperson for the Sequoia Union High School District.


Nicole Moreno-Deinzer(B.A., ’10), is the founder and editor-in-chief of Epifania Magazine (, a lifestyle magazine for women.

Paige Bardolph(M.A., ’11), has returned to SF State to serve as director of the Global Museum, a new public space maintaining and exhibiting the University’s collections of artifacts from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania. Bardolph also serves a Museum Studies lecturer.

Aya Miyaguchi(MBA, ’11), is the new executive director of the Ethereum Foundation, a blockchain technology and cryptocurrency platform.

Kelsey Kehoe(B.S., ’12), recently joined the Wyoming State Geological Survey as a coal geologist.

Matt Saincome(B.A., ’13), is the creator of the popular punk rock humor website The Hard Times and is developing a television series based on the site.

Virginia Delgado(B.A., ’14), was named 2017 Outstanding New Interpreter by the National Association for Interpretation, which is dedicated to advancing the profession of heritage interpretation.

Robin Lopez(B.S., ’15), who works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as a research associate in the Earth and Environmental Science Group, was recently featured on the homepage of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).

In Memoriam

Don Brawner(A.B., '56)
Dec. 10,2017
Menlo Park, Califormnia

Courtney Alexis Herda(B.A., '17)
Dec. 11,2017
Windsor, Califormnia

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The Power of Hope

Samantha Ashford photo of disaster relief efforts in Florida.

As a counselor, Samantha Ashford (B.A., ’13; M.S., ’16) always had a strong desire to give back to the community. But Ashford went above and beyond last year when disaster struck her home state, Florida. Ashford originally volunteered to go to Houston to serve as a Red Cross mental health counselor after Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas. But while she was going through the volunteer application process, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida. So instead the Red Cross sent her to Miami, where she spent nine days at a shelter serving about 1,000 people. Her work involved “listening to their stories, understanding their struggles, and validating their feelings of fear, stress, anxiety and grief,” she says. Though the work was challenging — some days she started at 7 a.m. and didn’t stop until midnight — Ashford is grateful for the experience, coming home with a renewed appreciation for the power of compassion. “Even the smallest amount of hope — the smallest gesture that can provide someone with hope — can have a long-lasting, positive effect,” she says.