Public Service

  • Photo of Tom Ammiano

    Tom Ammiano


    This California State Assemblyman and LGBT rights activist was an SF State student in the '70s. He returned to campus in the '90s to teach a course called "Sex, Power and Politics."

  • Paul Ash

    Paul Ash

    Director of hunger-relief organization

    The executive director of the San Francisco Food Bank, he uses the skills he picked up in the business administration program to bring donated food to the tables of hungry people across the city.

  • Photo of John Avalos

    John Avalos

    Supervisor, City/County of San Francisco

    After earning his master's degree, he worked as community organizer and brought San Francisco neighbors together to safeguard and expand services focused on health care and youth employment.

  • John Bell

    John Bell

    Founder, foundation/summer camp for families affected by childhood cancer

    His Novato-based Camp Okizu brings smiles to the faces of children coping with life-threatening illness and emotional support to their families -- contributions that have earned him a Jefferson Award for Public Service. 

  • Photo of Judy Bretschneider

    Judy Bretschneider

    Founder, nonprofit dance academy for children

    This psychology graduate, founder and president of the Presidio Performing Arts Foundation and the Presidio Dance Theatre, received a Jefferson Award for Public Service for her commitment to bringing dance to children who otherwise could not afford it.

  • Photo of Willie Brown

    Willie Brown


    San Francisco's 41st mayor, who grew up poor in Mineola, Texas, did not meet SF State entrance requirements but talked an administrator into admitting him on a trial basis.

  • Photo of John Burton

    John Burton


    This all-league guard for SF State's basketball team went on to the political big leagues as a congressman and the president pro-tempore of the California state senate.

  • Photo of Brian Cahill

    Brian Cahill

    Former director of charity organization

    In his role as executive director of Catholic Charities CYO, this master's of social work grad helped families, aging and disabled adults, and youth.

  • Photo of Ron Dellums

    Ron Dellums


    This ex-Marine attended SF State on the GI Bill and went on to serve as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. In 2006 he became Oakland's 48th mayor.

  • Photo of Val Dolcini

    Val Dolcini

    State Executive Director, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

    First appointed to his position by President Clinton and later by President Obama, he oversees 30 county offices tasked with supporting California's farmers and ranchers.

  • Photo of Dr. Saeb Erekat

    Dr. Saeb Erekat

    Chief Palestinian negotiator

    This international relations major supported himself working nights behind the counter of a San Francisco delicatessen. He went on to play a major role in world affairs as the Palestinians' chief peace negotiator.

  • Photo of Heather Fong

    Heather Fong

    Former police chief

    Heather Fong had already been voted "Officer of the Year" when she entered the SF State master's program in social work to help her better understand the child abuse investigations she was leading.

  • Photo of Reuben Greenberg

    Reuben Greenberg

    Former police chief

    As Charleston, South Carolina's police chief, he made his officers accessible to citizens. The city's crime rates dropped, his department became a national model -- and he became a media celebrity.

  • Photo of Richard Hongisto

    Richard Hongisto

    Sheriff/police chief

    He studied sociology at SF State by day and walked the streets of San Francisco as a cop at night. He went on to become county sheriff, a San Francisco supervisor and police chief.

  • Photo of David Inocencio

    David Inocencio

    Director/co-founder, publisher of writing by Bay Area youth in the juvenile justice system

    A graduate of the master's program in social work and a Jefferson Award winner, he launched a weekly publication, The Beat Within, to give troubled youths a way to work through their personal issues.

  • Photo of Darlene Iskra

    Darlene Iskra

    Ship commander

    This recreation major joined the Navy after graduation but had little time to play. She became the first woman commander of a U.S. sea vessel, the diving and salvage ship USS Opportune.

  • Photo of Willie Kennedy

    Willie Kennedy


    She was a journalism major at SF State but got her name in the papers for her work as a San Francisco supervisor and BART director.

  • Photo of Fred Lau

    Fred Lau

    Former police chief

    As a student, he tried to join the San Francisco Police Department but was too short. After the 5'8" height minimum was lifted, Lau stood tall as the department's first Asian-American chief.

  • Photo of Nicole LeFavour

    Nicole LeFavour

    State senator

    After earning a teaching credential at SF State, she taught writing to at-risk youth. Today she continues to advocate for these students in her daily work as an Idaho senator.

  • Photo of Chris Marr

    Chris Marr

    Former state senator

    Known as a leading advocate for the environment in Spokane, Washington, he was named Legislator of the Year by Washington Conservation Voters in 2008.

  • Kathleen Martinez

    Assistant secretary for disability employment policy, U.S. Dept. of Labor

    Appointed by President Obama, she advises the Secretary of Labor and leads a comprehensive and coordinated national policy regarding the employment of people with disabilities.

  • Photo of Jake McGoldrick

    Jake McGoldrick


    This former San Francisco Supervisor paid for his education by doing construction work, earned an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language and taught at Presentation High School, City College and the University of San Francisco.

  • George Miller

    George Miller


    Elected to represent the East Bay's 7th District in 1975, he co-authored the Leave No Child Behind Act, the education reform bill passed by Congress in 2001. 

  • Photo of Ronald Quidachay

    Ronald Quidachay


    As an Urban Studies undergrad, he cofounded the Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavors organization, and worked to establish the University's School of Ethnic Studies and Educational Opportunity Program. Today he is the presiding judge of San Francisco Superior Court.

  • Photo of Jim Richards

    Jim Richards

    Nonprofit executive

    This Recreation Administration major started a youth summer camp after graduation and has been helping young people ever since. For more than three decades he has worked for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America including a 15-year stint as head of the organization's San Francisco chapter.

  • Photo of Pierre Salinger

    Pierre Salinger

    Presidential aide/journalist

    The press secretary to President John F. Kennedy and longtime chief of ABC's Paris bureau started his journalism career as managing editor of the Golden Gater in 1943.

  • Bill Thomas

    Bill Thomas

    Former congressman

    As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, this Bakersfield Republican who earned both a B.A. and M.A. from SF State, was one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill until his retirement in 2007.

  • Photo of Javad Zarif

    Javad Zarif


    Iran's former ambassador to the United Nations was an SF State student when he unintentionally launched his diplomatic career by volunteering at the Iranian Consulate-General in San Francisco.