Backstory to The Biography of San Francisco State University


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Some years after I began teaching the “Biography of a City: San Francisco" course in the Humanities Department of San Francisco State, a colleague of mine (Helene Whitson) and I formed a group to explore the history of the university. Once a month, we Holloway Historians had lunch at the university club with some member of the faculty, staff or alumni who had played a part in the development of our institution. We interviewed Boyce Burk (son of founding president Frederic Burk), Florence Vance (San Francisco State Normal School register in the early years of the twentieth century), S.I. Hayakawa (president of San Francisco State, then United States Senator), the members of the buildings and ground crew, directors of the student union, and many more. Helene recorded all the interviews, and I hope that they still exist in the Special Collections room of the library.


Mike Witter of Don’t Call It Frisco Press agreed to publish my history of the school, whose roots go back to the Gold Rush era in the 1850s. Our Holloway Historians interviews played a major part in the writing of that history. 


My one wish is that some current member of the university would pick up the story where I left off (in 1986) and bring the story up to date.


Holloway Historians, 1984

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Front to Back, Left to Right:

Paul Scholten, Izzy Pivnick, Helene Whitson, Bois Burk, Janet Kraut, Harlan Swanson

John Keel (on sofa)

Robert Bowman, Harriet Talan, J. Dean Parnell, Jerold Werthimer, Bud Liebes, Arthur Chandler, Jack Adams, Gladys Dennis, Carrie McLish