First Fresno State graduating class honored

Nearly a century after his great-aunt graduated from California State University, Fresno, John Stahl still draws inspiration from her.

Bertha Biehle was "one of a kind," Stahl said Thursday night at a centennial celebration for Fresno State organized by the Kremen School of Education and Human Development.

Biehle was among 33 students who made up the first class to graduate from Fresno State, then called Fresno Normal, in 1912. They were a focus of the outdoor celebration outside the Kremen Education Building. More than 200 people showed up for the first centennial celebration by a Fresno State school, one of many planned this year.

The celebration included an exhibit of tattered textbooks, writing tablets, wood-topped desks and other artifacts. Displays also described the school's educational programs. But much of the attention was on the people who were part of the school's history.

The first 33 graduates all became teachers. Stahl said his great-aunt symbolized the essence of what teaching is about because of "the dedication to the children, the respect the kids and parents had for the teaching profession."

Biehle was a teacher and principal for about 45 years at Orange Center Elementary near Easton. Stahl also was a teacher and principal there. He retired in June.

Bricks honoring each of the 1912 graduates will be added to the Kremen Teacher and Friends of Education Honor Wall in front of the Kremen Education Building.

Larry Powell, superintendent of the Fresno County Office of Education and a Kremen alumnus, also made arrangements for wall bricks for four retiring San Joaquin Valley superintendents and administrators: Lee Andersen, Merced County superintendent; Sally Frazier, Madera County superintendent; John Stankovich, Kings County superintendent; and Tom Crow, former State Center Community College District chancellor.