Fresno State president surprises graduating class at alma mater

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Thursday was an evening Fowler High School graduates didn't see coming and will never forget.

Fresno State President, Dr. Saul Jimenez-Sandoval, returned to his hometown and alma mater to deliver words of inspiration. It's a moment he describes as full circle.

"When I was walking up the ramp to give the speech, I remember being in that same field looking up to the speakers," he said.

Dr. Sandoval says a key factor in his success was the community that surrounded him while growing up.

"I still remember these very special teachers who used the power of language in order to inspire me," he said.

Now, he is using the same power and his life journey to encourage these Fowler students.

Senior Lucas Gutierrez was also a class speaker and co-salutatorian, graduating with a 4.2 GPA. He says Dr. Sandoval's speech was the perfect way to wrap up his high school career.

"Something that I took from it is that you must trust your family, trust your friends and they will get through you anything," he said. "He made it, he is still going and is an inspiration to all of us, and that we can go as far as he has."

Dr. Hank Gutierrez, Lucas's father and also a Fowler alum, says he's proud of his son's hard work and grateful for leaders like Dr. Sandoval, who have not forgotten their roots.

"I can't dream of a better role model for our kids than our new Fresno State President. His humble beginnings as an immigrant from Mexico and sharing his story made the graduation so beautiful," said Dr. Gutierrez.

Dr. Sandoval says he was touched by moments he shared with the students, including one who said they rejected UCLA to attend Fresno State because of his leadership.

Now he's leaving these graduates and others across the Valley with a final message: never give up.

"We always encounter challenges but it's how you face them, how you go back to your support system and believing yourself that really makes a difference in your life," said Dr. Sandoval.
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