Finding ‘the greatest gift’

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Finding ‘the greatest gift’

The daughter of Japanese immigrants, Karla Hutchens developed a love for learning from her parents. Though neither attended college, her father, a mechanic, and her homemaker mother instilled in Hutchens a love for books and classical music.

It was a gift that would guide her on a path to Fresno State, where she earned a degree in anthropology. Today, Hutchens is a staff member in procurement and support services at the university. It was always assumed she would pursue a career in medicine or one of the natural sciences. A high school English teacher changed all that.

The teacher showed her class a film about famed archaeologists Louis and Mary Leakey and their work at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. Hutchens was hooked. “From that moment, archaeology and the study of the past and old things in general became my passion,” she wrote in her autobiographical account, published in Fresno State’s “First Generation Stories.”

“My mind was made up,” Hutchens continued. “I would attend Fresno State, major in anthropology, and study with William Beatty, one of the best known anthropology professors in California.”

Hutchens received a full scholarship and set out to pursue her dreams. She found no shortage of support from faculty mentors. She wrote, “All gave me the greatest gift – that of believing in myself. They told me repeatedly that I would succeed, over and over until I believed it myself.”

The legacy of learning continues. Hutchens’ son is a freshman at Fresno State. “We’ve come full circle,” Hutchens says. “I provide my son with encouragement and reminders to study and do well and I know it won’t be long before he finds his own university mentors.”

For Hutchens’ full story and those of other first-generation Fresno State graduates, please visit “First Generation Stories” at