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Directly Speaking
James Herrick

Directly Speaking

A blog from SDSU Alumni Association Executive Director Jim Herrick


The Montys and Mars Login to comment

Wednesday, January 09 2013 05:12:33 PM

The list of San Diego State Monty winners going back to 1971 is a joyous read. It is such a potent alumni hall of fame. I promise that if you peruse the list you will feel a surge of pride for San Diego State.

So, every year the pressure is on to select those who have best represented SDSU.

This year the College of Engineering went off-roading a bit and decided to award Montys to the entire group of State grads who were part of the team that landed the Curiosity rover on Mars. I was fortunate enough to visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) last month and talk with our alums. Since it is difficult to even consider the scope of sending a robot 43 million miles so that it can return awesome quantities of phenomenal data back to us here on earth in Pasadena, I will simply share my primary impression: It required a heckuva lot of teamwork.

Our grads worked on the flight path, the landing, the overall engineering, the antenna out in the Mojave Desert and the design for the vast amount of experimentation. They utilized their Aztec educations in engineering and physics, their enthusiasm for the Rocket Club and even their experience in the Marching Aztecs. They took what they gleaned from the labs on our campus and fit into an effort and accomplishment literally out of this world.

This year's Monty winners – all of them - define amazing.

Going Out With a Bang Login to comment

Wednesday, December 05 2012 12:29:30 PM

Our football program is wrapping up its final season in the Mountain West Conference with its first championship in the league and a third consecutive bowl game.  Our Aztec gridders seem to be packing neatly for their move next season to the Big East.  

The conference title, shared as it is, was won the hard way with a rare victory on the blue turf of Boise and in a one-point heart-in-your-throat overtime squeaker in Reno led by a backup quarterback.   It marks the program’s first championship since 1986.  

That year we were kings of the WAC and thought SDSU’s winning ways would extend for years to come.  No one foresaw the championship drought that has lasted for more than a quarter century.

This season, our team was picked to finish no better than fifth in the conference, but MWC Coach of the Year Rocky Long and his players had other ideas.  They proved the “experts” wrong by establishing the 2012 squad as an Aztec team for the ages.

Heading into the Poinsettia Bowl against BYU, our guys have a chance to finish the season with a 10 – 3 record.  It would be the first time the program has achieved 10 wins in a single season since 1977.

So as we head out the conference door bound for an uncertain, but, hopefully, brighter future, let’s help our team go out with a bang.  Let’s break the Poinsettia Bowl attendance record we already hold after our last appearance there.

Our team is already sending a message to the college football universe that the Aztecs are back.  So buy a bowl ticket, fill some seats at Qualcomm and help them spread the word.

Good Times for Aztecs Athletics Login to comment

Wednesday, November 07 2012 12:37:10 PM

I am among the truly fortunate:  I got to stand on the blue turf last weekend, to walk over to Viejas Monday night and I can see our soccer field from my office. On top of that, the local paper quotes many of our coaches truly reveling in each other’s successes. It seems as if Aztecs everywhere have a bit of extra spring on our steps this week!

Alumni and fans who made the trip to Idaho for the Aztecs’ football victory over #19 Boise State were ebullient with the big win and the very real possibility of a first-ever Mountain West Conference championship for the team.  The very next day, the women’s soccer team captured the conference tournament championship and earned a #2 seed – their highest ever – in the NCAA tournament.

A day later, our #20 (AP) men’s basketball team attracted what may have been a record crowd for an exhibition in thumping cross-town foe UC San Diego.  Then on Tuesday, the women’s basketball team won by 50 points.  FIFTY POINTS!  

And what a weekend we have!  Qualcomm offers the Aztecs versus Air Force and another step toward a potential conference championship, the Battle on the Midway pits our Aztecs against mighty Syracuse, and the streaking women’s soccer team hosts Northridge in the NCAA tournament at Aztrack!

I suspect that even the venerable super Aztec Mr. Tom Ables could not recall a headier week for Aztec Athletics.


Homecoming 2012: The Show Login to comment

Wednesday, October 03 2012 12:00:00 AM

Congratulations to this year’s homecoming honorary chair and grand marshal, The Show!

What an incredible example of collective human will!  A grass roots, home-grown and uniquely Aztec movement, The Show, SDSU’s outlandish and irrepressible basketball student cheering section,  has come to symbolize the creative, determined and victory-inspiring resolve of Aztec fans.

Granted The Show’s occasional line-crossing antics have yielded a few sit downs with university administrators and even Coach Fisher.  Reminiscent of the infamous “Ragger’s Rail” crowd of the 70’s and 80’s at Aztec Baseball, The Show’s exhortations can sometimes offend. Ill timed booing, religious denunciations and overt profanity lack harmony.  However, the orchestration and well choreographed renditions of “We will be victorious,” and “I Believe” are truly an awesome Aztec symphony.

The crazy costumes, the big heads, the stand-for-the-entire-game attitude and the phenomenal commitment demonstrated every night by The Show helps us win.

’Nuff said.

Huddle up! Login to comment

Wednesday, September 05 2012 10:32:11 AM

Fall 2012

Okay, huddle up!  

Pardon the football analogy but it is difficult not to go there at this time of year.  And the team approach to problem solving remains in vogue.

The problem, or challenge, as it were, is that only two percent of our undergraduate degree-holding alumni are annual donors.  We have dissected this at length for six months and concluded that Aztec alumni who love their alma mater will help improve this abysmal percentage if they fully understand why it is important to do so.  First some facts that support the notion that it is readily apparent that Aztec alumni love SDSU:
Our basketball tickets are sold out and the season does not start for two months.  

Our Aztec for Life Alumni membership is soaring.  

Our Comprehensive Campaign for San Diego State University is tracking nicely at $340 million on the way to $500 million.
What our research indicates is that alumni do not understand that annual gifts of any amount factor into the rankings provided by US News and World Report and that donating to SDSU helps the university rise in those rankings and therefore in national stature. What alumni may also not understand is that any amount literally means ANY amount and that gifts to any San Diego State University department, college, entity, athletic team or program, scholarship, or particular academic major or program all count as gifts to SDSU.

We also learned that many alumni fall into two categories.  Category one is, “The only time you communicate is to ask for money.”  Category two is, “I’ve never been asked.”  

Well, we are going to start asking.

Because here is the punch line: We need all of our alumni who love SDSU to donate some amount to any SDSU entity every year.  We need you to declare by action that you believe in your alma mater. We need you to be counted as among those who are helping State carve a better reputation.

Did I mention any amount?

Thanks for clicking here: Give Now

Remembering Harry Hodgetts

Thursday, August 16 2012 12:18:02 PM

We are saddened this week with the loss of an exemplary Aztec; Harry Hodgetts.  Read more at www.sdsualumni.org/rememberingharry.

1941 yearbook photo of Harry Hodgetts

An Aztec Tradition of Giving Login to comment

Wednesday, August 08 2012 11:39:03 AM

This month, as a new book on San Diego State history is released and thousands of new students are introduced to campus traditions via Templo del Sol, I’m using these occasions along with a campus icon to focus on another tradition making a comeback: giving to SDSU.

More than 75 years ago, sculptor Donal Hord’s “Aztec,” the iconic symbol of this university, came to be thanks to, in part, the generosity of San Diego State students. While accounts differ slightly, it is presumed that $6,000 was paid to Mr. Hord, most of which was government money allocated through the WPA during the Great Depression.  But, $240 of that $6,000 was paid by San Diego State and an additional $130 was paid via a ten-cents-per-student fundraising campaign.

While even during the Great Depression ten cents was a modest contribution, the point is that most of our students participated and contributed to the statue.  This was during the toughest economic time our nation has ever known.

These days, during the deepest economic downturn since the Depression, San Diego State faces ever more drastic financial cutbacks.  The university has turned to its alumni for support and while many have responded, as is evidenced by the $71.5 million donated to the university in the past fiscal year, others have not.

Donating annually is a habit we all need to embrace no matter the amount.  We must return to our tradition as represented by the “Aztec” statue and rise to the occasion like the students in 1936.  Small amounts in great numbers make a big difference.

Like the sculpture and the Hello Walk during Templo del Sol, generous giving is a tradition we are reestablishing on Montezuma Mesa.  Every alum, any amount, every year.   
This month we officially take up the collective challenge to procure a higher percentage of alumni donors. By doing so, we hope not only to help the university achieve the fundraising goals set forth in The Campaign for SDSU, but also to move SDSU up the list of first tier national universities in the nation’s tally of record - the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

It’s a tough challenge and in taking it on, it occurs to me that we have not done a very good job of educating our alumni about the modern rules of engagement. There’s no question our alumni know how to compete and I firmly believe that if we lay out the ground rules of any critical contest in clear fashion, Aztecs will rise to the challenge.

That’s because in addition to being fiercely competitive, Aztecs are resourceful, team oriented and generous. The evidence is everywhere on our campus, in our community and beyond.

What we need to do now is simply make sure our Aztec alumni understand that they need to be annual donors of any amount to SDSU to help bump the numbers up. We’re competing with more than the CSUs and the UCs now; we’re up against dozens of other great national research institutions and sitting at number 164 on the list of the very best.

Our president, Elliot Hirshman, is targeting San Diego State to crack the top 100. I say that when it comes to the portion of the rankings devoted to alumni participation as measured by percentage who give annually, we can make dramatic improvement with everybody giving what they can each and every year.

After all, there’s a reason San Diego State University is growing in prominence and national stature. It’s because, to Aztecs, the words “fight on” are more than just lyrics in a song.

So, come on! Click here now!
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