Connell Persico (B.A., ’66, M.S., ’68) has been working for social equity all his life, including during his years as a student at San Francisco State. His co-creation of the Center for Educational Innovation at the University in the 1960s was a true learning experience, teaching him how to equitably and collaboratively control and allocate resources.
In 1968, Connell joined with other students and colleagues in the San Francisco State Strike. Together, they worked towards creating a new kind of education and educational institution, and the experience was paradigm shifting. “We were asking ourselves, ‘What does it mean to adopt a truly multicultural perspective?’” says Connell. “How do we do that when we carry societal assumptions with us? How do we meld that into education?”
For Connell, those questions were successfully approached with the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies. He believes that the college is phenomenally successful in inspiring students to address issues of community, equity, and cultural diversity. He was particularly impressed when he attended the college’s Student Showcase in 2019, where he saw evidence of critical thinking not seen elsewhere in higher education.
“I was blown away by the quality of work done by students in addressing issues of community,” says Connell. “The work demonstrated an incredible level of compassion and commitment to the communities from which the students came.”
Like many others, Connell and his husband Clay Heironimus (B.S., ’04) were shocked by the COVID 19 pandemic and angered by the inequities which the crisis brought to the national arena. C&C, as the couple is known, felt that it was time to define what they wanted their legacy to be, and to finalize their trust so that their funds could be passed on in keeping with that legacy. Fortunate enough to be able to donate, they created the C&C Fellowship in Queer Ethnic Studies Endowment, with a planned gift of $400,000. Once funded, the Endowment will initially disburse two to four annual fellowship awards of $4,000 to $8,000 to undergraduate students in the College of Ethnic Studies with a minor or major in Queer Ethnic Studies. The fellows must be actively engaged in community work, with a focus on empowering and advancing queer people of color and an equitable LGBTQ community.
C&C feel confident that their financial contribution to the College of Ethnic Studies will spark social change through supporting the education of antiracist community leaders of tomorrow. They believe that SF State is the best higher ed institution in the country because of its emphasis on critical thinking, and because its faculty are true mentors to their students. “I believe the college is redefining education in this country,” said Connell. “It’s a really important little place!”