Celebrating Black alumni

Among the hundreds of thousands of Sacramento State graduates are countless Black alumni who are making a positive impact in their community, region and the world.

During Black History Month, we highlight some of these alums – Hornets who are excelling in a variety of fields, often making history while doing so, and defining what it means to be Made at Sac State.

Lester Holt
Anchor, NBC Nightly News

Lester Holt in a studio, wearing a suit with a Made at Sac State pin

Lester Holt came to Sacramento State to study Government and got his first taste of journalism while on campus. The University, he says, “set me off into the world.” Today, he is one of the world’s most respected broadcast journalists. In 2015, NBC named Holt anchor of NBC Nightly News, making him the first Black full-time anchor of a weekday nightly newscast. That same year, he received his honorary doctorate from his alma mater. Read more.


Nicholas Haystings
Founder, Square Root Academy

Nicholas Haystings, smiling, with hand to chin, in front of a mural

Nicholas Haystings was the only person of color at all but one of the jobs he held after graduating from Sac State with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. If things were going to change, he knew a fundamental shift in education was needed. In 2016, he launched Square Root Academy, a nonprofit that provides STEM-based education and experiences to underrepresented fifth- through 12th-graders, all at no cost to the participants. In 2019, he was named among the Sacramento Business Journal’s“40 Under 40” young professionals. Read more.


Elaine Welteroth
Best-selling author, journalist and television host

Elaine Welteroth in a studio

As a biracial woman, Elaine Welteroth rarely saw herself reflected in popular culture or the media. During her career as a journalist, author and TV host – often as the only woman of color in the room – she has worked to change that. As the groundbreaking editor of Teen Vogue, she amplified voices of color and built a more inclusive publication. Her best-selling book, More than Enough, offers lessons from her journey for future generations of girls and women. And as a judge on Project Runway and now co-host of The Talk, she’s helping change the face of television. Read more.


Daniel Hahn
Sacramento chief of police

Daniel Hahn in his office, in uniform

When Sacramento swears in a new police chief, it’s typically done at city hall. Daniel Hahn, however, chose to have his ceremony at a place near and dear to his heart: Sacramento State. It is where he earned a Marketing degree in 1995 while also serving as a Sacramento police officer. More than 20 years later, a crowd of more than 1,000 gathered in the University Union Ballroom to watch the Oak Park neighborhood native sworn in as the city’s first Black police chief. Read more.

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Five Questions with emergency physician Jon Patane

The past few months for Jon Patane ’11 (Biochemistry) have, in his words, “definitely been interesting.”

Patane is an emergency medicine physician at Kaiser’s South Sacramento Medical Center, historically dealing with everyone from patients experiencing stroke and heart attack to mothers delivering babies in the parking lot.

Lately, though, one thing dominates his job.

“I’d say probably 50% to 75% of my patients are COVID-positive,” Patane said. “I spend a lot of my day walking back and forth to the protective equipment cart.”

Despite the difficulties, Patane remains upbeat, happy that he and his wife, a pharmacist, both have jobs, and that he can spend time with his kids and the family’s new border collie. He also says he still enjoys a job where he walks in the door never knowing what to expect that day.

Patane is a South San Francisco native who moved to Sacramento to attend Sac State. He earned his medical degree at UC Irvine, before returning to the capital region to begin his practice.

Below, he talks about his time at Sacramento State and his current work.

Made at Sac State: I know this has been an incredibly difficult year for you so far. How are you doing?

Jon Patane: It’s definitely been interesting. That’s an easy way to sum it up. Obviously, we’ve had our peaks of difficulty and our times that were a little bit less difficult. But there’s been just a few different struggles throughout the course of the year. As far as the protective equipment goes, for a while there were some issues with figuring out exactly what type of equipment was sufficient to properly protect us, and then obviously dealing with COVID patients in general. There was the mental portion of that where there’s a little bit of anxiety, taking care of some of those patients when this first started. We didn’t know too much about it. That’s dissipated away, but it’s also just been hard as far as impaction in our hospitals, our hospitals being full. Not just our hospital, but hospitals everywhere. It’s been difficult to kind of do the things that you want to do with your patients with the limitations that we have been having to deal with.

MASS: Why did you decide to attend Sac State?

Jon Patane, now an emergency medicine physician at Kaiser South Sacramento, graduated from Sacramento State with a degree in Biochemistry in 2011. (Photo courtesy Jon Patane)

JP: I looked at a few different schools leaving high school. My older sister was at Sac State, and so there was some familiarity. I had toured a couple different places. When I toured Sac State – it was actually the last one I toured – everybody just seemed so much more friendly. My sister walked us through the science building just to show us around, and I ended up running into the Chemistry department chair. I didn’t know that’s who it was, and just told her I was interested in going to school there. She gave me a personal tour and was just super friendly and took all this time out of her day just to show some random kid around. At the end, she told me she was a department chair, after giving us all this tour. I was like, oh, well, I’ll be a Chemistry major. It was just the sense of friendliness. Everybody seemed so happy on the campus compared to the other places, so for me it just seemed like it was going to be a better fit for my personality.

MASS: When did you know that you wanted to be a doctor?

JP: I went into college thinking that I’d be interested in it. I went in as a Chemistry major with a focus in Biochemistry, but that way I would have stuff to fall back on in case I didn’t want to go into medicine at the end of it. I’d say probably about my junior year is when I started getting a lot more serious about it. I did some volunteering while I was an undergrad. I did a surgical internship at UC Davis for an entire summer, and then I volunteered in the cardiology department at Davis for about a year and a half or so as an undergrad, just to make sure that that’s really what I wanted to go into.

MASS: What’s an average day look like right now?

JP: We do 10- or 11-hour shifts, so an average day would be me getting to work, getting ready to get on the computer, get everything signed in, and then essentially getting new patients for about eight or nine hours. Every day it kind of depends on what kind of patients come in. We’re on a patient assignment system, so some of it, in a way, is luck of the draw. There are usually five or six of us on at a time; it rotates between each doctor. I’m seeing patients for about eight hours. Especially in these last couple of weeks, I’d say probably 50% to 75% of my patients are COVID-positive, so that’s obviously a big thing. I spend a lot of my day walking back and forth to the protective equipment cart to get my visors and all that. Towards the end, it’s basically finishing up notes, getting everybody admitted, talking to my consultants, things like that. After work, just going home and trying to, you know, decompress. Hanging out with the kids, getting ready for bed, trying to get some sleep.

MASS: How do you feel Sac State prepared you to be a doctor?

JP: It was great. My class sizes were so much smaller than (classes attended by) all my colleagues. I went to UC Irvine for my med school. When I started there were, I think, 104 of us in my class. Out of the 104 people, only four of us came from a CSU. The other hundred were either from private schools or the UC system. I had so much smaller class sizes than these people who took basic Chemistry with, like, 700 people in the auditorium. I got much more individualized attention. I had a lot more research opportunity than if I would have been in a bigger, huge university. I think the individualized attention I got gave me the ability to learn the material a lot better. I felt like I was prepared great.

Five Sac State alumni honored as ‘Women Who Mean Business’

This year, five of the accomplished women recognized by the Sacramento Business Journal as “Women Who Mean Business” also are “Made at Sac State.” From healthcare to education, finance to photography and youth empowerment, these women make an impact in our region.

  • Tia Gemmell ’76, owner, Riverview Media Photography.
  • Bindu Jaduram ’00, regional manager, Vice President, Tri Counties Bank.
  • Jenni Murphy, Ed.D. ’12, dean, College of Continuing Education, Sacramento State.
  • Sandy Sharon ’87, MBA ’96, senior vice president and area manager, Kaiser Permanente – Sacramento.
  • Lisa Wrightsman ’05, managing director, Street Soccer USA.

More on these individuals and the complete “Women Who Mean Business” list can be found on the Sacramento Business Journal website (subscription required).