Ben Fong-Torres

Honorary Degrees

San Francisco State University

Ben Fong-Torres was born in Alameda, California, in 1945, and raised in Oakland's Chinatown, where his parents owned a restaurant. Due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, his father Ricardo changed his surname to Torres and posed as a Filipino in order to immigrate to the United States. The family later adopted the hyphenated surname, Fong-Torres.

Mr. Fong-Torres attended San Francisco State College from 1962 through 1966, majoring in Radio-TV-Film and served as a reporter and editor of The Gator, the campus daily. He was inducted into the San Francisco State Alumni Hall of Fame in 2004 and delivered the commencement address in 2005.

Best known as the rock journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, he began writing for them in 1968 beginning with its eighth issue. He also had a full-time job at another publication, Pacific Telephone's employee magazine. By night, he was a volunteer editor at East West, a bilingual Chinatown newspaper.

In May 1969, Mr. Fong-Torres joined Rolling Stone as its news and music editor and became the nation's first national magazine deskman of Chinese American descent. He credits his Chinese heritage and unique surname with helping break the ice with high-caliber artists, believing they felt a kinship when he appeared at the door, recorder in hand. Mr. Fong-Torres was the interviewer that most bands requested, helping to propel the publication to must-read status during the late 1960s and 70s. He treated each musician with a deep admiration for their craft and saw them as people rather than icons. His cover stories on Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye and Jefferson Airplane helped shape the way the country understood its counterculture. His interview subjects included the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, the Jackson 5, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, the Grateful Dead, Ike and Tina Turner, Sly and the Family Stone, Diane Keaton and Steve Martin.

His Ray Charles interview won the Deems Taylor Award for Magazine Writing in 1974. Many years later, he was a real-life character in the movie “Almost Famous". He left Rolling Stone in 1981 and has since written for dozens of magazines, including Esquire, GQ, Parade, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Travel & Leisure, American Film, TV Guide, Harper's Bazaar and California Business. He wrote the main biographies for People magazine's tributes for Jerry Garcia and Frank Sinatra.

In 1983, Mr. Fong-Torres joined the San Francisco Chronicle where he served as a feature writer and radio columnist until 1992. He has published a dozen books, including a best-selling memoir, “The Rice Room", and continues to work as a writer, editor, broadcaster, onstage interviewer, MC-about-town and Emmy Award-winning TV host. He wrote and narrated a syndicated radio special, San Francisco: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been, which won a Billboard Award for Broadcast Excellence. He has won five Emmys as co-anchor of the Chinese New Year Parade broadcasts on His image is even depicted on a mural on the side of a building at Haight and Clayton Streets in San Francisco, and he is the subject of a 2021 documentary, “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres".

In recognition of his stature, accomplishments and contributions to journalism, broadcasting, film, television and the entertainment industry, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and the San Francisco State University are proud to confer upon Ben Fong-Torres the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.