SDSU celebrates Mary Shojai’s life

by Sara A. Diaz de Sandi

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Paige Nelson, Photo Editor

The memorial for former San Diego State Director of Student Disability Services Mary Shojai was held yesterday at the SDSU Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.

On Sept. 30th, Shojai was found murdered in her Santee home. More than 100 of Shojai’s family, friends and co-workers attended the ceremony to celebrate her life and service to SDSU, where she worked for 37 years.

Many of those present wore purple, Shojai’s favorite color. SDSU President Elliot Hirshman was the first to speak of Shojai’s legacy.

“We come together to show our appreciation for Mary,” Hirshman said. “A person of compelling kindness … Mary’s legacy is deep and profound.”

Shojai is nationally recognized for her work in enabling students with disabilities to live independently and confidently.

Kelvin Crosby, a member of SDS Student Advisory Board, walked up to the podium with the help of his service dog and thanked Shojai for her dedication to him and other students with disabilities.

Crosby, whose disability affects his vision and hearing, said Shojai helped him to overcome many obstacles.

“Mary gave me a voice,” Crosby said. “I will in (her) name continue to advocate for those with invisible and visible disabilities so they can live an independent life.”

Shojai made it her mission to make SDSU accessible to everyone.

“There isn’t a building on campus that she doesn’t have her thumbprint on,” Vice President for Student Affairs James Kitchen said. “She broke down architectural barriers and technological barriers.”

Many students said if they needed help, they knew they could count on Shojai to find a way to solve their problems.

Speakers remembered how Shojai would help out with any kind of situation, including broken elevators, left-handed desks and malfunctioning wheelchairs.

Shojai, who announced her retirement shortly before her death, was going to be given an award for her commitment, dedication and support.

Two members of the State of California Department of Rehabilitation presented the award near the end of the ceremony to Shojai’s daughter and son.

Shojai’s daughter, who asked her name be omitted from this article, thanked the audience for attending the celebration of her mother’s life and said her mother loved every moment of her work.

She remembered a piece of advice her mother shared when she was young.

“If you enjoy your work, you will be at Disneyland every day,” Shojai’s daughter said. “Her work here was her play and her joy.”

The celebration ended with a slideshow presentation of pictures of Shojai’s life. They included work photos capturing Shojai in silly costumes, pictures of her children’s weddings and her grandson.

By the end of the slideshow, the room was filled with the sound of sniffles. Even though Shojai will be missed, her legacy and dedication to SDSU will never be forgotten.

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