Sharing Fresno State’s stories is a way to connect with alumni, friends, students and prospective students and other community members. On a campus of more than 24,000 students and thousands more faculty and staff, narrowing it down to the top 19 stories of 2019 is challenging. Here’s a glimpse, in no particular order, at some of the best news, most touching stories and most well-done storytelling from the University over the past year.

Beyond the Badge

Anamarie Serrano remembers her first time in a patrol car. She was 6 years old and crying. She sat in the front seat next to her brother as an officer distracted the children while other officers were inside their home arresting their father. Seventeen years later, Serrano has been in a patrol car hundreds of times. Now, she sits behind the wheel, firearm on her hip and badge adorning the shirt of her uniform. She doesn’t wear her emotions on her sleeve — she wears the emblem of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office. Read more. See video.


Library’s Lady in Red

When the sun sets west of the Henry Madden Library and the glare from the hot Fresno sun disappears, the lady in red glows. Have you seen her? Master basket weaver Lois Conner looms over the Peace Garden at Fresno State, projected onto a 43-foot-high media screen on the north side of the Madden Library. With nimble hands, Conner demonstrates the dedication, patience and time it takes to weave a traditional gambling basket, a process that typically takes about a year to complete. Read more.


Ballgames with Inman

“It’s a great day to be a Bulldog!” The phrase is heard often nowadays around the Fresno State campus, but what many may not realize is the phrase gained its popularity from one of the biggest standouts in Fresno State baseball history — Inman Perkins. Inman never played an inning of baseball for the Bulldogs, but he’s rarely missed one from the stands. And his cheers certainly make a lasting impression with anyone who’s ever been to a Fresno State baseball game. Read more. See video.


No. 3 Nationally in Social Mobility Index

Fresno State is among the best nationwide at educating and preparing low-income and first-generation students to earn their degrees and find financial success, according to the 2019 Social Mobility Index. This latest ranking continues a streak of national recognition for Fresno State this year. The University scored third-highest among public national universities for graduation-rate performance in U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Best College rankings, was No. 24 in Washington Monthly’s top 25 and ranked No. 35 in Money Magazine’s 50 Best Public Colleges. Read more.


A Life Recovered

In 2012, William Schmahl woke up in a hospital bed with no recollection of who he was. At 23 years old, he looked his parents in the eye and asked, “Who are you?” Schmahl said, “I had a brain injury, a pretty severe one. The loss of identity was terrifying.” He was hit by a car while driving a motorcycle. The car sent him swerving into a telephone pole. All of the bones in his upper right torso were broken. All of his organs were damaged. Read more. See video.


Shaping Student Life

After a historic vote last year by Fresno State students to build a new student union, philanthropists and entrepreneurs Lynda and Stewart Resnick, owners of The Wonderful Company, made a $10 million investment to make this new facility a reality. The generous commitment, the largest ever made to a student-life initiative at Fresno State, will transform the University by supporting a central hub for students on campus, one that will accommodate the growing student body for years to come. Read more.


Pride of the Valley

Fresno State athletics is often called the “front porch” of the University, providing family entertainment at the highest level of college athletics and introducing hundreds of thousands of people, from generation to generation, to the University over the years. The Pride of the Valley campaign is intended to capture and enhance what makes the Valley special and the role Fresno State plays in representing the region, alumni and fans. Read more. See video.


Construction Management Students Build Shelter for Poverello House

About a year after a team of Fresno State construction management students was tasked with designing and building a temporary home to help raise awareness of homelessness in the Valley, their 100-square-foot prototype was presented to the Poverello House for use in the community. “We are so grateful that so many different members of our community came together to design and build a structure to shelter our homeless population,” said Cruz Avila, CEO of Poverello House. Read more.


An Honorable Discharge

A proud smile forms on the face of Helen Grace James as she reads a letter from a Florida teen. The letter begins, “Dear Ms. James, You are an inspiration…” At 92, James has lived a full and colorful life, combined with a successful career as a physical therapist, a profession she still practices to this day. However, it is her life before physical therapy that recently garnered her the admiration of individuals of all ages and backgrounds from all over the world. Read more.


Groundwork for Growth

One year ago, Juan “J.J.” Lino’s life changed forever. The youngest of seven children and the son of a farmworker mother, Lino became the first in his family to pursue a college degree. The path became possible thanks to Derek and Heather Carr. Lino is the first-ever recipient of the Derek and Heather Carr Scholarship. For a student who needed loans to pursue higher education, the award is especially meaningful. “When I found out, I just kind of broke down,” Lino said. “I’m just like, ‘There’s no way this is actually real.’” Read more. See video.


From Patient to Doctor: Breast Cancer Survivor Earns Doctorate

In March of 2018, just a few months into the spring semester, Danielle Roche received shocking news. Her biopsy results came back positive for breast cancer. At just 36 and halfway into the Fresno State Doctor of Physical Therapy program, Roche had to make a defining decision. Should she take some time off to focus on her health or continue with her studies? With unwavering optimism, Roche chose the latter — and now she has her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and, more importantly, her health. Read more.



Behind Bars, Resilience Blossomed

After 25 years in prison, graduating with his master’s degree is the culmination of an unlikely dream. But no matter how educated he is, Arnold Trevino finds himself drawn back to Avenal State Prison, where he spent seven years of his incarceration. “A lot of these guys tease me and say, ‘Man, you fought 25 years to get out just so you can come back in?’” Trevino said. “I say, ‘Yeah, but I come back with a purpose.’” Read more. See video.


Fresno State Senior Wins Rodeo National Championship

To the cheers of a near-sellout crowd of 6,500 fans at the Casper Events Center in Wyoming, Fresno State’s Colton Campbell won the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association men’s all-around championship, the highest honor possible at the College National Finals Rodeo. “Ever since I started roping when I was young, winning nationals has been a dream,” said Campbell, who came to Fresno State from Klamath Falls, Oregon. Read more.


Wayfinders Graduate on Path to Independence

As Deborah Hopson pulls into the driveway of her Fresno home, her daughter Porcha stands by the front door, eagerly awaiting to help bring in the groceries. Deborah describes her adopted daughter as having a “servants heart,” always concerned with the people in the world around her. Porcha, 30, has a mild intellectual disability and her mother wanted to be sure that as she entered adulthood, she would be able to be on her own and have independence. But they needed help. Read more.


Young Mother Double Majors, Graduates in Four Years

A young mother, Ana Dominguez comes from the small town of Huron, on the West side of the San Joaquin Valley, which doesn’t have its own high school. Every day, she hopped on a bus at 6:15 a.m. to travel about 20 miles to Coalinga High School. Because of hardships like this, only about 25% of Huron residents graduate from high school — and only 1% go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. Dominguez was determined to be part of that 1%. Read more.


Community Volunteers Plant New Trees, Honor Submariners

Students passing through Fresno State’s Maple Mall on a recent cool October morning heard an unusual sound — a bell chiming as names of lost U.S. Navy submarines were read out loud, along with the date their service ended and the number of lives lost or survivors from that vessel. The Maple Mall is the site of Fresno State’s Submarine Veterans Memorial, honoring 52 U.S. submarines and 3,505 men who were lost in World War II and two other submarines and 228 men lost since 1945. Read more.


Undergraduate Research Courses Thrive

Exposing college students to research early on is a growing trend nationally that has become commonplace at Fresno State, where research opportunities for undergraduate students are plentiful thanks to initiatives like Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) in the College of Science and Mathematics. A study in 2018 found that undergraduate exposure to a rigorous research program leads to success in research-based STEM careers. The same study found that undergraduates who get a research experience are more likely to pursue a Ph.D. program. Read more. See video.


A Pryor Commitment

As a few dozen anthropology students and members of several local Native American tribes circled around a camp site at a remote location in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, John Pryor broke into song. But don’t be fooled by the professor’s courage — he’s not a singer, he’s just an archaeologist with a meaningful way of doing things. Read more. See video.


Day of Giving Funds Help Brain Cancer Survivor Follow His Dreams

Fresno State theater alumnus Kai DiMino was used to people telling him, “You won’t be able to do it.” Battling a rare childhood brain cancer at a young age, DiMino went through several years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments and was told that he would lose various cognitive, motor and physical abilities. The long-lasting effects would prevent him from many activities. However, at age 7, when he had beaten cancer, he learned to adapt. Read more.