Written by Mars Harren, COSS Communications Student Assistant
What are the chances of meeting someone from your hometown in an incredibly specialized school 6,769 miles away? What are the odds that the person you meet is also a Fresno State student from the same department of study as you? And what are the odds that that person is unknowingly connected to you and you don’t find out just how until months later?
Well, that’s exactly what happened to Dr. Bill Morison and Steven Carrisalez.
Last summer, College of Social Sciences alumnus Dr. Bill Morison, who now teaches in Michigan, met current Fresno State student Steven Carrisalez in Athens, Greece. The two happened to be having lunch at The American School of Classical Studies at Athens when Morison sat down at the table where Carrisalez was having a conversation with another fellow student about California.
Morison chimed in and they quickly discovered they were both from Fresno. As they continued to talk they realized that they were both College of Social Sciences students with a background in History. Morison and Carrisalez met and spoke on several other occasions throughout their time in Athens but neither man was yet aware of just how connected they were.
Morison is the son of famed Fresno historian and author, Catherine Morison Rehart. Rehart, who came from one of Fresno’s earliest families, wrote the “The Valley’s Legends and Legacies” series, which highlighted stories of past life in the Central Valley. She originally wrote the essays in the books as scripts for KMJ Radio, which to this day are still broadcast during the station’s morning and evening news shows. Rehart was also very involved with the Fresno County Historical Society and as part of her work there, she started the History Education Program. For her, education was so important — especially history education.
Because of Rehart’s deep-seated roots to Fresno and love of history education, Morison and his sisters decided to endow the Catherine Morison Rehart California History Scholarship at Fresno State. The scholarship, which was announced last March, is awarded to undergraduate History majors who show excellence in research and writing related to California’s history and is funded by the proceeds from the KMJ broadcasts.
“Fresno State has always been important,” Morison said.
Despite no longer having family in the area, he returns to Fresno every spring to visit the city and the University. And this spring, his visit included meeting the first recipient of the Catherine Morison Rehart California History Scholarship. That student was Steven Carrisalez.
Carrisalez received an email saying that Bill Morison wanted to meet him, the first recipient of the Rehart scholarship, but he didn’t think much of it until he was told that Morison would be flying in from the midwest. He remembered that Morison was a professor in Michigan so he decided to ask if it was the same Bill Morison. He figured that chances it was him were slim, but much to his surprise it was the same man he’d met in Athens!
“It was very surreal because just a bunch of accidents happened. We likely wouldn’t have met if we weren’t having lunch at the same time in the same spot. That was already weird as it was – meeting someone that was from my hometown in Greece in a very specialized area. I wasn’t expecting it and when I found it was him it was, it’s hard to explain, it was strange but it was fun,” Carrisalez said.
Morrison was “absolutely thrilled” when he found out that Carrisalez was the recipient of the scholarship.
“He’s just a tremendous student, he’s an interesting person, smart guy, very engaged, very energetic. Just the kind of person that one would hope would receive the scholarship,” Morison said.
And he couldn’t be more correct.
Carrisalez is the first in his family to attend college. He is majoring in History and also minoring in German and Classics (Greek & Latin). Prior to becoming a Fresno State student, he was working at a recycling center. During one of his breaks, he picked up and started reading Plato’s Republic, which he credits for his inspiration to return to school.
Originally he wanted to pursue philosophy since Plato had been a philosopher but after a tutor taught him Ancient Greek, he decided he wanted to become an Ancient Historian.
Carrisalez truly immersed himself in his studies and it has more than paid off. He’s earned several scholarships that have allowed him to travel to Greece and Germany to further his education in Greek and Ancient History. He is very grateful for every opportunity that Fresno State and the College of Social Sciences have given him. He recognizes the impact that studying here has had on his life.
“It’s a place where I’ve grown intellectually – so my thoughts have been challenged. I’ve grown, I can’t say perhaps more intelligent, but better educated. And being an older student, I was still accepted. This university doesn’t treat you any less for not paying attention when you were younger or not being interested. It’s been a place where I’ve been able to grow and it’s meant a lot to me,” Carrisalez said about the College of Social Sciences.
Carrisalez said he wasn’t expecting to receive the Rehart award at all because he knew there were other worthwhile student researchers. However, he was really pleased to get it. He felt glad to be recognized which is exactly what Morison hoped this scholarship would do.
“As I learned through my career in academia, the money is nice but it’s also important to get these kinds of awards because it’s something that marks you as you move forward to maybe another degree program or if you decide to move into another career because it’s a way of distinguishing a person,” Morison said.