Yvonne Daley is no stranger to investigative journalism. Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, the SF State journalism professor she said she was always asking the deeper questions from a very early age.
“I was always trying to find out the secrets, to get the story behind the story,” Daley said. “Being the youngest of dozens of cousins, my family history happened before me so I had all that (investigative) training at home.”
With her five children, six grandchildren and sports writer husband Chuck Clarino, who lives in their Vermont home, Daley prepares for retirement from SF State after establishing a bit of her own history.
Daley has developed an extensive resume, including five nonfiction novels and more than 5,000 articles appearing in major publications like Time, People, Life, the Boston Globe and Washington Post. She has earned more than 40 awards in feature writing and investigative journalism. She splits her time between Vermont, where she directs the Green Mountain Writers Conference, and San Francisco, where she has embedded herself into local communities like Hayes Valley, Noe Valley and SF State.
“The second I came here, I knew it was the right place for me,” Daley said. “When I came from Vermont and walked on this campus and was hearing 12 languages and seeing people in all colors and clothing, genders and piercings and tattooing. I was like ‘I love you.’”
During her 30 semesters of teaching, Daley has inspired students as well as instructors, who recently contributed personal stories for a special edition in Xpress magazine that highlights Daley’s SF State career.
“Over the years, I’ve taken many cues from Yvonne, particularly tips on how to effectively teach skills that don’t always come naturally to people,” said journalism instructor Venise Wagner in one of the written pieces. “It’s one thing to know how to do it and quite another to show students the steps to committing good journalism.”
Former journalism professor Jim Toland, whose office was directly across the hall from Daley’s, wrote that he had a front seat to witness her devotion to many in the journalism department.
“It was obvious that she cared about students and wanted to see them succeed,” Toland said. “She openly shared her experiences with students and her critiques, while pointed, were always constructive.”
Journalism graduate Poh Si Teng, who now works for the New York Times, said she was nervous about integrating herself into American culture at the age of 19 when she moved to the U.S. to attend SF State. She said Daley’s bold guidance to be unafraid was her most valuable lesson in becoming a journalist.
“Apart from all the fearlessness that (Yvonne) projected, speaking to her you could feel she was very kind and compassionate,” Teng said. “That’s so important for a young journalist to learn – be fearless but be kind as well. Yvonne brought that to class all the time.”
Daley has two books in the works, including her highly-anticipated journalist memoir “My First Murder.” She said she is looking forward to upcoming travel that includes Italy and Mexico, where she will participate in the San Miguel Writers’ Conference.
As she departs from SF State, Daley said she has high hopes for journalism students today who have been given an educational opportunity to make the world a better place and make journalism essential.
“We’ve kind of lost our way in this country and in this city,” Daley said. “We need journalists to remind us that material demands are destroying San Francisco values of openness, equality, diversity, opportunity for all.”
While staff, students and faculty have said they will miss Daley, she will depart SF State leaving behind a legacy of excellence.
“I came at journalism in a way I hope I teach as well,” Daley said. “It’s not just the who, what, where, when and why. It’s ‘how do we get here and where do we go from here?’”