Left to right: CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed, Board of Trustees Chair (and CSUN alumna) Debra Farar, CSUN student Sally Smith, and Ali Razi, former trustee and chair of the Hearst/Trustees selection committee.
Smith, 55, and her fellow recipients were recognized by the CSU's Board of Trustees at its July 17 meeting in Long Beach. The award provides $3,000 scholarships to students with financial need who demonstrate superior academic performance, community service and personal accomplishments.
Smith, with a cumulative 3.77 grade point average, is a returning student who overcame a longtime drug addiction and who now deals with daily medical challenges while devoting many hours to 12-step program service subcommittees.
She also speaks to jailed women offenders about sobriety and works with the CSUN Helpline, a paraprofessional crisis service that offers encouragement and referrals to callers.
Smith said she was honored to receive the scholarship. "This scholarship will allow me to pay my tuition, buy books and leave me a little money toward a car," she said.
In 1963 at age 16, Smith enrolled at UCLA but soon dropped out as she entered a troubled period that led her to a 30-year drug addiction. She also had enrolled at El Camino College in 1968, but then dropped out to work full time as a radiological technologist.
"During [the drug period], I didn't think there was any way to stop. Then there came a time in my life when I had a moment of clarity and I began to realize it's possible to stop," Smith said.
In 1997, she went back to school at Los Angeles Valley College and earned her associate of arts degree in biology, enabling her to transfer to CSUN in fall 1999.
While at CSUN, Smith was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and gastrointestinal bleeding, which meant she had to juggle her school obligations while having to stay in the hospital each semester.
"Going back to CSUN has been a gift," Smith said. "The physical plant is beautiful, the instructors are excellent and I really enjoy the other students. By getting my bachelor's and later my master's degrees here, it means I will be able to get a job to help people."
Smith has been drug free for the past seven and-a-half years. She hopes to enter CSUN's exclusive genetic counseling program after earning her bachelor's degree in biology next year.
The Hearst/Trustees' Awards for Outstanding Achievement are funded by an endowment from the Hearst Foundation and individual contributions from CSU Board of Trustees members.
@csun | September 9, 2002 issue
Public Relations | University Advancement
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