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Press Release

Press Release: Willie L. Brown, Jr. to be Honored with First In Family Award by San Francisco Non-Profit First Graduate

Willie L. Brown, Jr. to be Honored with First In Family Award by San Francisco Non-Profit First Graduate

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Jan. 15, 2015

First Graduate, a San Francisco-based college access and success program, will celebrate its fifth cohort of first-generation college graduates and recognize the honorable Willie L. Brown, Jr. with its First in Family Award at Cap & Gown 2015 on April 21st at the Fairmont San Francisco.

The First in Family Award honors a leader in the community who has achieved great success as the first generation college graduate from their family and whose path towards greatness serves as a role model to the 371 students First Graduate helps. The 2014 award recipient was Joe Lacob, co-owner of the Golden State Warriors.

Willie L. Brown, Jr. served for more than 30 years in the California State Assembly, spending 15 years as its speaker, the longest in the history of that body. He later served two-terms as the mayor of San Francisco (1996-2004), the first African American to do so. Brown currently serves on the board of directors for Global Blood Therapeutics, a biotech company that is developing a treatment for sickle cell disease.

Born and raised in Texas, Willie L. Brown, Jr. attended Mineola Colored High, a segregated school where grades 1-12 were taught in one small red brick building. Encouraged by his grandmother, who despite a lack of formal education “was convinced that education was the salvation,” Brown graduated from high school in 1951. When he could not enroll in the University of Texas with a “colored” high school diploma, Brown headed west where he earned a degree in liberal studies from San Francisco State University in 1955 and a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, in 1958.

Education, according to Brown “made me believe that there was absolutely nothing I could not do…it gave me lifelong building blocks for everything that I’ve done: self-esteem, personal confidence in what I can do, a sense of optimism about problem solving.”

“We are thrilled to honor Willie Brown with our First in Family Award,” said First Graduate Executive Director Thomas Ahn. “He is an icon in California politics and his success as a first-generation college graduate is an inspiration to each and every one of our students. His story challenges them to use education as a means to lift themselves, their families, and their entire community.”

“Mayor Brown has built his legacy with grit, intelligence, integrity, leadership, and a love of learning–all of the qualities that we try to impart to our students. Our goal at First Graduate is to help students connect to the opportunities, resources and networks necessary to succeed. Our vision is to make an impact in San Francisco by making college graduation attainable for every student in the city.”

Celebrating Students’ Success

Also honored at Cap & Gown 2015 will be First Graduate students who are scheduled to receive their college degrees this year. These students enrolled as part of the program’s fifth class in 2005 and have spent the past 10 years being coached by First Graduate counselors, tutors, and mentors to help them reach their goal of becoming the first in their families to attain a college degree.

Tickets and event sponsorship opportunities are available. Learn more at www.firstgraduate.org/capandgown or contact Terri Forman at [email protected], and via phone at  (415) 343-5086.

About First Graduate

Founded in 2001, First Graduate currently helps 371 San Francisco-based students in middle school, high school and college with the academic coaching, high school guidance, tutoring, mentoring, career exploration, college counseling and support they need to become first generation college graduates. 100 percent of First Graduate’s high school seniors have enrolled in colleges and universities nationwide and four cohorts of students have successfully earned their college degrees and are either pursuing careers in their chosen fields or are enrolled in graduate school. Learn more at www.firstgraduate.org.

Media Contacts

Terri Forman
Director of Development
[email protected]

Loren Crippin
Development & Marketing Associate
[email protected]


Terri is the Senior Director, Philanthropy and Marketing here at First Graduate. See Terri's full profile.