Dr. Francine Oputa, former Fresno State staff member known for work in diversity, passes away

Those we spoke with say she's someone who was able to help you have difficult conversations with people who don't look like you.

Monday, September 18, 2023
Former FS staff member Dr. Francine Oputa passes away at 70
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Dr. Francine Oputa, a former staff member at Fresno State who was known for raising awareness on diversity and equality, has passed away.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dr. Francine Oputa's work touched countless people in Fresno and beyond.

Those we spoke with say she's someone who was able to help you have difficult conversations with people who don't look like you.

While so many are heartbroken by her passing, they know we are now standing on the shoulders of another giant.

"She introduced us to being okay with embracing our culture, she introduced us and taught us to give ourselves permission to be okay being Black and proud," said Dr. Angelia Barfield, Program Specialist at the Fresno Co. Superintendent of Schools Office.

Oputa was the former director of the Cross Cultural and Gender Center at Fresno State, a social justice advocate and an educational coordinator.

But her impact goes far beyond the titles she held.

"My family was engaged with her family because they used to do a Saturday school, and it was about our culture and our heritage," said Barfield.

Dr. Barfield says Oputa welcomed African American and black children, along with any others who wanted to attend -- and taught them to love who they are unapologetically.

"She was a huge part of our African American High School recognition program. She facilitated our Rites of Passage ceremony, where we would honor our students and recognize and would do an amazing job," said Lisa Mitchell, member of the San Joaquin Valley Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

Teaching is what many believe she did best.

"She had a way of educating without it coming across as offensive," said Mitchell.

Barfield says everyone respected her - and her leadership.

"Allowing young people to get to know who they are, embrace the community that they're in -- and be okay, not everybody can do that -- but she did it with young people, she did it with high school children, she did it with college adults, and she did it with community leaders," said Barfield.

Resembling a queen...

"Regal, - that woman was - Dr. Oputa - she just was," said Barfield.

While Oputa will be missed by many in the community, the profound effect she had on those around her will live on.

"We're just going to deeply miss her, but she's left such a legacy. That's what we're going to hold on to, is the legacy and the impact that she has left behind," said Mitchell.

"She was such a good example for all of us, and it's like for those of us that are left, it's our responsibility to hold that legacy for her, to continue that work," said Barfield.

Standing on the shoulders of giants...

"I can now say we stand on the shoulders of Dr. Francine Oputa," said Barfield.

And being the changemaker she was, for so many.

"But to also ensure that people understand that difficult conversations are not to be run from. They're to be embraced and engaged so we can grow, and that was Dr. Francine Oputa," said Barfield.

Dr. Oputa was 70 years old.

Her cause of death has not been released yet.

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