Two weeks ago, I wrote that I would, on a regular basis, be presenting ideas, news, and stories connected to Cal State East Bay. My goal is to share stories illuminating the way our University transforms lives.

One such story of overcoming challenges – one that highlights our motto, “Through Adversity to the Stars” (per aspera ad astra) – is that of Robert A., who received his bachelor’s degree from CSUEB in 2012. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a recent CSU Alumni gathering in New York City.  This philosophy major’s story is a familiar one at Cal State East Bay because it is less about the destination and more about the journey.

Robert’s odyssey, however, was uncommon to that of traditional Pioneer alumni. Most CSUEB students measure their time here as a four-to-six-year period. Robert’s can be measured over nearly four decades!

He received his diploma just two years ago, having began his college studies in 1973. After attending classes on the Hayward campus, he moved to New York to pursue a career that took him all over the world. Although he was successful, he knew it was the type of business where careers would only last so long. So, he began thinking about his time on the Hayward campus and exploring completion of a degree. After speaking with numerous faculty and staff, he was able to resume classes by taking courses at Columbia University that would be transferrable to Cal State East Bay – the only school he wanted to graduate from. Today, thanks to that degree, he is a manager for one of New York City’s major law firms.

Robert will tell you that he was able to work through the challenges to reach his goal because of the help, advice and support of Cal State East Bay faculty and staff.

“Keith Kravitz (academic and career counselor) was a wonderfully responsive listener and facilitator,” Robert said. “Dr. Sally Murphy (senior director for undergraduate studies and general education) provided great guidance and clearly outlined the nuts and bolts of the process. I thought of her as my shepherd on the hill. Philosophy Department Chairperson Dr. Jennifer Eagan was just great. She kindly opened the door for me and provided encouragement all along the way.” Robert salutes them by saying: “Many people helped me reach a goal that had been a long time in coming.”

Thanks to his own perseverance, as well as having supportive faculty and staff, Robert became another proud alumnus who has achieved a major milestone – his bachelor’s degree.

We have many more students who could benefit from the concerted efforts of our wonderful faculty and staff to help them rise above the challenges and accomplish their educational goals. That is why, pursuant to my Fall 2013 convocation speech, I asked Provost James Houpis to form the Council for Retention and Graduation. In working with colleagues from across the University, this body is charged with examining the issues paramount to student success. I am confident that through shared understanding and collaboration, every one of us will make a unique and vital contribution toward improving our retention and graduation rates. Our progress as a University is in the hands of all of us to ensure we fulfill the promise of an education for every student.

Just as we did for Robert.

Go Pioneers!

Leroy M. Morishita

P.S. In closing, I invite you to send your stories to me, here. I have received several emails containing unique stories and views from colleagues. I look forward to hearing of many more from you.