“After 45 years, Mohammad will go to the mountain.”
With that, President Qayoumi strode off the stage and through the crowd to hand deliver a very special honor at the 15th Annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon on March 11 at the Student Union’s Barrett Ballroom.
Seated near the front of the room, surrounded by friends and colleagues, was Wiggsy Sivertsen. Her official record includes stints as a counselor and faculty member.
But just as important has been her unofficial role as the heart and soul of San Jose State for more than four decades.
As the sun sets on my career, I can truly say that this has been the ride of my life,” Sivertsen said. “So many students have taught me and touched my life. My colleagues have enriched me.”
Also recognized at this annual event were more than 120 faculty members with 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service, as well as the recipients of the university’s top annual awards for faculty members.
The luncheon is always filled with faculty and staff members and administrators. But this year, sitting quietly in chairs off to the side of the room were a half-dozen students.
Carrying flowers for their professor, they talked their way in to see Distinguished Service Award Recipient Julia Curry Rodriguez.
And it was there on the floor, while the proceedings continued on stage, that teacher and students quietly celebrated the connection at the core of the luncheon.
Fighting for rights
Similarly, Sivertsen dedicated her entire career to service in the classroom and beyond, focusing on educating the public about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and fighting for the rights of all.
Soon after arriving at SJSU in 1968, she established the first gay student organization. She went on to co-found the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, a four-county LGBT political action group.
In the 1980s, she taught in the sociology department and later spent 11 years as director of counseling services.
Sivertsen has received numerous honors, including the American Civil Liberties Union “Don Edwards Defender of Constitutional Liberty Award.”
Thank you for your visionary leadership and dedication to San Jose State University,” said the commendation hand-delivered by the president.
“Your exemplary career of counseling and your tireless service and advocacy to the cause of civil rights attest to your lifetime spirited fight for equality.”