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Directly Speaking
James Herrick

Directly Speaking

A blog from SDSU Alumni Association Executive Director Jim Herrick


Aztec Basketball and The Monty Awards Login to comment

Tuesday, April 08 2014 12:00:00 AM

Pure unadulterated pride.

This is the residue in the aftermath of a magnificent basketball season.

Way transcendent of any rabid fan’s attempted articulation of disappointment is the emerging reputation of our team, our coach, our athletics department and our university:

Fundamentally sound. Hard working. Talented. Team-oriented. Humble. Dignified. Relentless. Classy.

In addition, I would offer this to Coach Fisher, Xavier Thames and our entire team of players and coaches and support personnel and our athletics department led by Jim Sterk:  Thank you for bringing our university and our community together in a way which was simultaneously successful and undeniably characterized by integrity. 

And if we had a Monty Award for “outstanding athletic achievement while epitomizing superb character,” Xavier would be a shoo-in. Coach Fisher won his Monty for distinguished university service in 2012.

The Montys are essentially our alumni Hall of Fame.

A partial list includes Greg Bear, Ed Blessing, Andreas Brown, Hal Brown, Norm Brinker, Willy Buchannon, Bob Breitbard, Nikki Clay, Jinx Ecke, Jordan Evans, Ron Fowler, Lee Grissom, Tony Gwynn, Julie Kavner, Katherine Kennedy, Armin Keteyian, Art Linkletter, Timothy Murris, Ellen Ochoa, Armando Rodriguez, Marion Ross, Chris Sickels, George Sunga, Carl Weathers, Bob White and Leon Williams.

You can check out full list at www.sdsualumni.org/s/997/index2.aspx?sid=997&gid=1&pgid=534.

This year we have yet another fabulous slate of inductees, so please join on us on Saturday, April 26 at the incredible new Montezuma Hall in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.  For more information and to get your tickets visit www.sdsualumni.org/s/997/index.aspx?sid=997&gid=1&pgid=466.

I promise that you will experience pure unadulterated Aztec pride.


Visionary Thinking

Tuesday, March 04 2014 07:11:56 PM

This week we celebrate the visionary thinking of our future alumni with the grand dedication of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. Many superlatives will be appropriately uttered about how this magnificent edifice will so positively impact the quality of our students’ Aztec experience.  

As alumni director, I have often heard the reverent tones used by many alumni who described their interactions with the former Aztec Center as "memorable, life-changing and fun." That’s because a student gathering place is so much more than a place to buy a slice of pizza or study in a comfy chair.  It’s a place where life-long friendships are forged, where lasting memories are made and where student leaders begin their transformation into leaders of our culture, our economy, our cities, states and the nations of the world. 

Among the visitors to campus this week will be scores of our former Associated Students leaders, many of whom had an active role in fulfilling the will of our student body that this building, in addition to providing an abundance of amenities, would be certified as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum.  That’s the highest "green," or sustainable, building design rating in a system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and it’s the first LEED Platinum-certified student union in the California State University. 

As a member of our campus community who gets to experience the pragmatic grandeur of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union, I say thank you to our students. Thank you for your foresight and for your investment.  Thanks, too, to those of you who did without a student union for over two years so that others will benefit. 

Let the revelry begin!

Recognizing Excellence Login to comment

Thursday, February 06 2014 12:00:00 AM

You could say it’s the validation we’ve been looking for.  A philanthropist with no prior connection to San Diego State University takes a look at what’s going on at SDSU, likes what he sees, and makes the largest donation in the university’s history.

So what, exactly, does Conrad Prebys’ generous $20-million gift say about SDSU?  For one, it’s an indication that notable members of the San Diego community view SDSU as among the region’s outstanding institutions worthy of their support.

If others recognize and reward the university’s expanding excellence, why don’t many of our own alumni?  While it’s true that many Aztec alumni give generously to SDSU, a vast majority have never made a donation.

It was interesting to note a recent discussion by our Aztec sports bloggers of the latest CSU charitable giving report.  Some were proud that SDSU ranked way ahead of the rest of the CSU for both total giving last year ($77 million) and alumni giving ($19 million.)  Others were outraged that our percentage of alumni who give was only 4.03%.  Theories were advanced as to why Aztec alums may or may not give.

The point that seemed to be overlooked is this: At this stage of our history, percentages of alumni donors are equally as transformational for SDSU as the amounts of their gifts.  One of the important metrics used in ranking universities by publications such as US News and World Report is the percentage of alumni who donate. It’s considered a measure of how a school’s graduates view the quality of their education. Donation amounts, while very important to the school, don’t matter in this metric.   

As more and more alumni have donated in recent years, SDSU has moved up the rankings, making the biggest jump of any school in the country over the last three years.  We can continue moving up as the percentage increases each year of Aztec alums making donations of any amount.

So during a week in which we revel in the generosity of Mr. Prebys, let’s remember this:  While most mortals only marvel at a gift of $20 million or one million or $10,000 or even one thousand, nearly any graduate is capable of giving something to help advance SDSU.  It really does matter.

So please help us, Aztecs!  Give something annually.  Tell your friends. Click here.


Moving Up on the Mesa

Tuesday, January 07 2014 07:44:56 PM

Like me, I suppose, many of you remember some times in the annals of Aztec football and basketball when we would "find a way to lose." For some of the past decades, it truly felt that mediocrity was our destiny. 

But our university, our San Diego State, has emerged in the past decade as an authentic powerhouse. I am not talking just about athletics here, I’m talking about a university which has powerful academic programs, legitimate world-changing research, undeniably elevated entrance requirements, inarguable claims on diversity, off-the-charts affordability, unparalleled popularity and stunning campus beauty. 

I could go on and on talking about San Diego State University. 

Yes, our soaring rankings in such renowned publications as US News and World Report lend credence to the above.  You know when the Washington Post takes note of SDSU’s academic ascendance that we’re making waves beyond the Pacific Coast.

So, I will admit to cringing a bit on Sunday when the sportscaster during the nationally-televised Aztecs versus Kansas basketball game dragged out the statistic which has us winning over 100 straight games when we lead with five minutes to go. 

Partially imprisoned by the past, I was.  Were we being set up for humiliation yet again?

But then I started thinking about our university's transformation. I pictured our new Aztec Student Union, our Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center, our new-student convocations, our Fulbright Scholars, our campus and student leadership, our Campanile Foundation Board, and our vastly potent alumni. And then I looked at our players on the screen and felt the determination of Coach Fisher channeled through Xavier Thames, who garnered national player of the week recognition from ESPN for his performance against supposedly superior opponents. 

San Diego State 61 - Kansas 57.  

Success is becoming a regular thing here now and not just on the court or the athletics fields, but all across campus.  We’re moving up and our progress is being measured and noticed.  And more and more just like at Kansas, SDSU wins as a nation-wide audience watches.  

Reversal of Fortune Login to comment

Monday, December 09 2013 01:57:39 PM

Traversing the upward steps in Viejas at approximately 1:00 p.m. Sunday, I stumbled and barely recovered in time to avoid an embarrassing and painful face plant. Given the state of Aztec athletics in that moment, it seemed apropos. 

Things looked pretty bleak at halftime. In addition to the men's basketball team being down nine points and seemingly out of gas following an incredibly productive week which vaulted us into the Top 25, Jim Sterk had been extremely un-bullish as to the football team’s likelihood of being selected to play in a bowl game. Having followed the Aztecs intently for most of three decades, I knew not to get too down. But, unfortunately, I've learned that the extra 15 days of practice time really help a college football team. Also, losing at home to a lowly-ranked opponent wreaks havoc on our basketball tournament seeding in four months. 

As much as the earlier decades prepared me to not be overly optimistic, the past few years have suckered me back to caring. So when we lose it hurts.  Furthermore, I am a huge fan of our current "streak." It just so happens that ever since Jim Sterk became athletic director four years ago, we have been in the men's basketball NCAA Tournament four straight times and played in three consecutive bowl games. 

At the core, I was bummed out that the streak would end. 

Suddenly, the arena PA guy declares that we've been “invited to play in THE FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL!!” 

Within minutes our round-ball Aztecs find their usual Viejas-inspired selves and start the second half on an 18-2 run! 

The streak continues! 

Game On! 



The Campanile Foundation Board Login to comment

Wednesday, November 06 2013 04:42:40 PM

Recently, Vice President for University Relations and Development and Campanile Foundation President and CEO Mary Ruth Carleton announced that our campaign for San Diego State had crossed the 430-million-dollar mark. Four hundred, thirty million! In six years! This is truly astonishing considering San Diego State was pretty late to the world of development. The Campanile Foundation did not even exist until 1999. In fact, well into the 80's there was, with the exception of Athletics and KPBS, an aversion to fundraising on this campus.

So how did it happen?

First of all, presidents Steve Weber and Elliot Hirshman declared development to be an essential priority for the university. Many good people were hired and an infrastructure was built. But still, San Diego State was and today continues to be behind in the queue of charities of choice for many philanthropists. The Campanile Foundation Board members have made a huge impact in mitigating this circumstance. To a person, the board members have given five, six, seven, and even eight-figure gifts to State. Furthermore, they have elevated our positioning in the community by articulating State's essentiality, promise and worthiness of investment.

These board members have been the catalyst for San Diego State to attract more and more external funding. At a recent two-day retreat, many of the TCF board members joined President Hirshman and other campus administrators in an effort to keep SDSU pointed on a trajectory of excellence. Their participation, their effort, their insights and their overall commitment to the betterment of San Diego State was powerfully inspiring and serves as an example we can all follow.

For a full list of TCF board members visit http://tcf.sdsu.edu/tcf/board.aspx

Tom Pine Login to comment

Tuesday, October 08 2013 06:31:13 PM

Last week we lost a truly great Aztec: Tom Pine

Tom (’51), an engineering alum, was a 1993 Monty winner, an incredibly generous philanthropist and donor to SDSU, an Aztec Football player who wore number 28, a regular attendee at countless State functions and sports events, and a purely delightful bastion of Aztec spirit and goodness. Along with his fabulously high-spirited wife Audrey, the Pines were woven into the fabric of San Diego State for 65 years.

While it is impossible to capture the sum of Tom’s eclectic persona, this video from 2007 reveals that beyond his brilliance, generosity, advocacy and extraordinary overall commitment to State, Tom was a remarkably fun guy.

Tom Pine
Thomas G. Pine
1928 - 2013

Explaining SDSU Login to comment

Monday, August 05 2013 04:18:07 PM

Two weeks ago I was asked to prepare a presentation on alumni affairs to a delegation of 55 Chinese university administrators.  Without hesitating I said yes and as a result I got to spend a couple of hours conversing with these educators via an interpreter.   

It was fascinating to see their zeal for learning about our American universities and specifically San Diego State’s management methods.  I was impressed by their earnest intent to understand fundraising and alumni affairs.

Two days prior to my talk, five of the visitors appeared in my office and peppered me with questions:  “How many clicks do you get each week on your web site?”  (7,000) “What do the 12 people in your office actually do?“  (Stumper! Just kidding, I told them) “How do you get people to give you money?“ (Target those who can and marry their passions with SDSU programs) “How much money has SDSU raised in its history?” (Hard to know exactly, but probably over a billion)

At one point I asked the interpreter how much of what I said was actually understood and they all nodded to let me know they could discern at least something.  Which is more than I can say in reverse.  

I thought it was absolutely magical how each of our guests would stand and look right at me and gesture and implore and beseech and convey via Mandarin absolutely nothing that I could understand except that they really wanted to know my answer.

Many of these administrators were from Xiamen University where President Hirshman had visited just last May.  They characterized it as a small university—only 40,000 students. Here is what the president said about them then:

Looking forward, this engagement with China will provide extraordinary resources and academic opportunities for our students, faculty and staff, as well as a forum for pursuing the multinational collaborations that are crucial to ensure economic development, environmental sustainability and international security in our shared future.

So, it felt pretty good when I began my talk by greeting them in Mandarin:  “Ni hao!” and later when I was trying to explain stewardship, to be able to say that we look for a lot of ways to say, “shee shee!”

One of my favorite moments was when a rather shy delegate waited until all her peers had exhausted their questions and asked me about an article about SDSU alumni president Tim Young on our web site (they all knew an awful lot about our web site) in which he emphasized the importance of typical, hardworking, normal Aztec alumni making annual gifts to SDSU.  “Excuse me,” she asked, “could you please tell me, what is ‘Average Joe?’”

Zai jian!
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