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Blooming Jacaranda Trees
Directly Speaking
James Herrick

Directly Speaking

A blog from SDSU Assistant Vice President of Alumni Engagement Jim Herrick


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!

The Future Taking Shape Login to comment

Tuesday, July 02 2013 06:55:19 PM

The summer months are typically a time on campus when the university’s usual frenetic rhythm gives way to a mellower measure.  All but a few students are away and what faculty and staff remain encounter a quieter campus with a decidedly more relaxed atmosphere.

With one huge exception.

Although there are several construction locations on the Mesa this summer, by far the biggest hive of activity is the site of the new Aztec Student Union.  Scores of workers swarm throughout this massive structure that seems to grow more immense by the day.

The construction activity recalls the pace of a typical day this past semester with thousands of students on campus.  Perhaps it also foretells the future of a place formerly considered a commuter school that now attracts growing numbers of students to its improving amenities.    

It is difficult to even imagine the enormity of the impact this building will have on the next generation of Aztec students.  This facility will truly be the anchor of a heretofore unprecedented student life and on-campus living experience.

To stand before this building marveling at its scope and size and the activity throughout is to catch a glimpse of where the university is heading.  If you haven’t had an opportunity to see it for yourself, here is a link to the webcam (the view is from Adams Humanities looking east toward the location of the former Aztec Center).  You won’t get the full effect of viewing it in person, but at least it will give you some sense of what’s in store at SDSU for future students and alumni.

Arches overlooking Goldberg Courtyard.

A window reflects the archways and the courtyard of the Union.
You know the campus generally looks pretty good this time of year, so I wanted to go out and take a few pictures to share. Many of you attended in different eras when perhaps the words “campus” and “beautiful” were seldom juxtaposed.  Well, all has changed now.  

SDSU turtle pond

This place is stellar - the buildings, the landscape, the cleanliness, the old, the new, the topography, the greenery and the balsa and blue spruce. What, you might ask, are the significance of balsa and blue spruce?  Well, those are our official campus colors.  Not the better known red and black of Aztec athletics, but the actual colors of the buildings and the accents and benches and railings.

Aztec Green

I digress.

So I went out to collect some evidence and guess what?  The campus, at this moment, looks like heck.  It is all torn up and mutilated as Facilities Planning madly scrambles to presumably repair or replace the entire underground infrastructure along the Campanile Walkway.

Campanile Walkway construction

Furthermore, the new Aztec Student Union Building is such an enormous construction zone that tranquility is unthinkable.

Aztec Student Union

Aztec Student Union

Even the typically sedate West Commons zone is a mess due to the renovation of Storm-Nasatir.

Storm and Nasatir Hall

Well, I suppose it is a good time to take care of this business.  At the end, our campus will be beautiful once again.  Meanwhile, the Jacarandas are in their full glory and San Diego State, despite its current state, is certainly an awesome place!

SDSU campus
What a month! San Diego State, over the past three weeks, has provided an incredibly mind-enhancing array of programs.  For the most part they were available to the public.  Here is the rundown:

April 10th — Blessing Combat Leadership Panel

400 Cadets from four services heard from four incredible veterans who, with exquisite humility, rendered lessons of leadership gleaned from their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.  These heroes--all under thirty-- left me and everyone else in the room in awe of the bravery and maturity of our veterans. This panel was made possible by former AS president and former alumni president Mr. Ed Blessing (’60) of Dallas, Texas.  

Ed Blessing

April 11th — Lecture by Campanile Board Member Greg Lucier

Greg is the CEO of Life Technologies and gave a stellar presentation to a packed house in the Fowler Family Ballroom in the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center. Life Technologies is a monster San Diego company which, among other things, has done some incredible pioneering in gene mapping and sequencing.  Greg raised all sorts of issues which will soon be huge ethical concerns. Who, for instance, Greg asked, should own a baby’s gene-sequenced data which would indicate its likelihood of contracting deadly diseases and conditions? The next day Life Technologies sold for $13.2 billion.

Greg Lucier

April 12th  Cesar Chavez Celebration Luncheon

Another Fowler Ballroom event, we all got a good history lesson while being marvelously entertained by an army of mariachis. Alex Montoya’s speech about overcoming obstacles (he was born missing 3 limbs) was beyond inspiring.

Alex Montoya
(Photo courtesy of Daily Aztec)

April 17th — The Business of Craft Beer

This was another terrific event put on by our largest alumni chapter.  BAN (Business Alumni Network) brought together a stellar panel of local craft beer industry visionaries who regaled a large crowd at the McMilllin Conference Center with their insights into the local craft brew business.  San Diego is number one in this field, and the market share for craft beer keeps growing. Afterwards the group flowed across the street to Aztec-owned Slater’s 50/50 where the evenings’ discussed elixirs were vigorously sampled. This is Scot and Karen Blair--owners of Hamilton’s Tavern and the Monkey Paw Brewing Company.

The Business of Craft Beer

April 19th  Aztecs Take Mars

This was an incredible lecture by seven of our fantastic alumni who played significant roles and made serious contributions to the mind-boggling mission of landing the Curiosity rover on Mars. Jordan Evans (’93), Joey Brown (’05), Doug Clark (’85), Brandon Florow (’05), Mark Ryne (’80), Bonnie Theberge (’86) and Amanda Jeremiah Thomas (’97) described their various roles in the operation and detailed some of the science and engineering behind the mission.

Aztecs Take Mars
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Serrano, Daily Aztec)

April 20th  The Montys

This year's Montys were held in the Hyatt Aventine and featured the aforementioned Mars Rover group along with: Ron Roberts (’65), Catherine Stiefel (’92), Sherrill Amador (’64), Larry Banegas (’87), Terry Atkinson (’69), Kristan Brown (’00), Margaret Calvin (’86), Edward Blessing (’60), and Bryan Ransom (’93). For 41 years the Alumni Association has been awarding Montys to each college, Imperial Valley and for University Service and Alumni Service. The stories (produced through campus-based KPBS) are told via video vignettes after which each individual Monty winner is presented by President Hirshman with the hefty replica of Donal Hord's iconic "Aztec" sculpture. Truly inspirational all, the ending featured University Service awardee Bryan Ransom joining a suddenly-emerging Aztec Pep Band for a rousing finale.

The Montys

April 23rd  John F. Kennedy 50th Anniversary Celebration and Reenactment  

The brainchild of Anthropology Department Chair Seth Mallios, this event in Aztec Bowl offered an inspirational retrospective on a defining moment for San Diego State. Associated Students officers Rob O’Keefe, Channelle McNutt and Tom Rivera each delivered stunning oratory of JFK’s speech on the occasion of his getting an honorary doctorate on June 6th, 1963. Of the 200 gathered, a dozen attendees were actually present 50 years ago.  We all were inspired by the students, President Hirshman and Seth, who reminded us of the still-relevant themes of civil rights and the importance of education espoused by John F. Kennedy on our campus 50 years ago.

Chanelle McNutt
(AS Vice President Channelle McNutt)

April 24th  Chancellor Timothy White Visits SDSU  

On a day when our new Chancellor was featured above the fold of the front page of the LA Times for break dancing with students from CSU Dominguez Hills, Dr. White got serious at San Diego State.  During this open forum in the Fowler Athletics Building, Chancellor White demonstrated compassion for students and staff and drilled down into significant academic discourse while continually demonstrating sincere straightforwardness and humor.

Chancellor Timothy White
(Photo courtesy of Paige Nelson, Daily Aztec)

April 25th  Mayor Bob Filner Speaks to Alumni Association Board of Directors

Alumni Association President Bill Earley and President Hirshman welcomed San Diego’s mayor, Bob Filner, who fondly reminisced about his 20 years on campus as a history professor. Our politically eclectic yet civil-minded alumni board was rewarded with the mayor sharing a scoop regarding San Diego and Tijuana jointly bidding for the 2024 Olympic Games.

SDSU Alumni Board of Advisors meeting

April 25th  Aztec Achievement Awards  

For two years while the Aztec Union is being built, we have enjoyed the privilege of sharing the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center with the Associated Students executive officers. Done in impeccable style, the evening featured all the goodness you could possibly hope for from a student body.  Inspiring stories of overcoming hardship, extreme academic focus, abundant leadership, and even valor were interspersed with comedic emcees, music, hilarious videos and all around fun.

Five AS Presidents
(Five AS Presidents: Cody Barbo (’12), Ed Blessing (’60), Josh Morse (’14), Rob O’Keefe (’13), Grant Mack (’11))

These are just a few high-profile examples of how our alumni, students, faculty and staff engage with each other, the San Diego community, the state and the nation to enhance the SDSU experience and propel the university to the forefront of America’s institutions of higher learning.  It is nothing short of astonishing what takes place here on a regular basis and I feel proud and very fortunate to be a witness to it all.


“He Was One of Us” Login to comment

Thursday, April 04 2013 05:20:09 PM

“He Was One of Us!”

This was the actual headline in the Daily Aztec on the day following the assassination of JFK. 

Wait! What? Huh?

Well, it is true.  John F. Kennedy was awarded the very first doctorate and very first honorary degree bestowed by San Diego State.  Since it is the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s visit to our campus on June 6th, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to read up on the history.  What I learned, in addition to the fact that 250,000 San Diegans lined El Cajon Boulevard from Hillcrest to campus for his motorcade, is that awarding this doctorate actually paved the way and certainly accelerated SDSU’s ability to grant doctorates at all.  When you add it all up, that visit 50 years ago by the only sitting United States president to our campus undoubtedly serves as the key defining moment in our history.

So, in this issue of e-News, enjoy all the coverage.  And please join us on April 23rd at 12:30 p.m. in Aztec Bowl (L Lot) as we reenact and celebrate this awesome historic remembrance.


New Tools

Wednesday, March 06 2013 11:19:17 AM

I suppose that there were doubters when cave dwellers drew pictures on the walls so it is no surprise that we hear some backlash regarding the avalanche of what is known as social media. But really, word processors are better than typewriters, fax machines more efficient than mail and on and on.  At SDSU we have embraced the modern world and are fortunate to have experts in Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and everything else that pops up as a viable method for extending our ability to communicate and connect with our alumni and constituents.

So I have a healthy respect for the new tools.  When it comes to using them personally I'll admit, however, to being Facebook-averse and Twitter-challenged, but I am a big fan of Linked-In.

Recently I was informed of Instagram and believed it to be a good way to display the fine photos my I-phone collects as I go about my fortunate profession of interacting with Aztecs.  So, here you go:


Admissions: Does Your Child Have What it Takes? Login to comment

Wednesday, February 06 2013 04:47:00 PM

This is to all of our alumni who are parents or grandparents of high school-age children who are contemplating becoming Aztecs.

As you may have heard, it is getting harder and harder to get admitted to San Diego State. It is no longer a secret that this is a tremendous university with an outstanding faculty who deliver a top tier education.  And, despite SDSU’s undergraduate tuition of approximately 6,600/year, it is still an incredible value to go to SDSU.

So it is really worth knowing the rules for admission.

Many parents are disconsolate when they learn that being children of alumni provides no leg up.  Sorry, as a public university that is just the way it is.  Secondly, while such extracurricular activities as yearbook, orchestra, debate, athletics, volunteerism and ASB are important facets of your child’s high school experience and may be considerations in scholarship decisions, they are not used as part of the admission determination.

So what, you might ask, does figure?

It is quite simple really. We take the grade point average and multiply it times 800. Then we add the first two prongs of your SAT.  So, say for instance your daughter had a 3.8 and scored 1200 on the first two prongs of the SAT.  Her index would be (800 x 3.8 = 3040 plus 1200) = 4240. That’s good, but please keep in mind that the index goes up each year. I also need to mention that the minimum index varies from major to major, there are requirements regarding the a-g courses and that preference points are awarded for applicants in our local admission area, which constitutes high schools south of Route 56. (For more information go to arweb.sdsu.edu/es/admissions/freshmen/index.html)

So, the best thing you can do to prepare your sons and daughters to attend your alma mater is to keep on them about their grades and to invest time in SAT prep and practice.

Thanks for doing all you can to keep the Aztecs in your family!

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