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Sandra R. Williams, "Kid Leo" in Their Own Words



“I enrolled at Cleveland State University in 1968, just a few years after it officially came to exist with the charter that accredited it as a state university 1964. Therefore, I was part of CSU’s growing pains, so to speak—in more ways than one!"

"My decision to attend was an easy one: I came from a working-class family, a proud one but with limited financial resources. Leaving home to attend college was never a thought, let alone an option and the allure of an urban university was OK by me, since I was a city kid at heart. As they say, I grew up on the streets and a downtown campus sounded like pastoral surroundings that would feel like home. And CSU soon became my home away from home. That feeling was imperative in accelerating the process of learning and growing. At least it was for me."

“When I first joined the staff at WCSU radio, which predates your current FM station WCSB 89.3FM, the station had a strong ‘Top 40’ lean to its programming structure. The old guard was still entrenched, but I was part of the new breed of rag-tag of hippies, freaks and furiously independent individuals. It was the ‘70s, after all! Back then, I was also writing record reviews for The Cauldron newspaper on campus. Anyway, as a group, the WCSU group quickly became the ruling body of the radio station. At that time, ‘FM Progressive Rock Radio’ (WMMS, WNCR) was what most students at CSU were listening to—so we changed the sound and culture of the station to reflect. Truth be told, we weren’t a ‘real’ radio station back then: we were officially a carrier current operation; it was more like a PA system wired into the Stillwell Hall cafeteria [now Fenn Hall] and parts of Fenn Tower. That didn’t matter to us.  We were just happy to be spinning records, developing our ‘platter chatter’ [between song banter] and emulating the pros that many of us hoped to become. We also were very involved in trying to make the station a fully licensed FM property. That finally became reality in 1976 with WCSB, after I had already left for WMMS. And I applaud all those who saw that quest come to fruition.”

“To echo many who have said this before, Rock ‘n’ Roll has entered the arena that also includes Jazz. It’s an original American art form that is no longer a popular genre but is of true historical importance and impact. Sure, there are still bands that exist today releasing some excellent Rock ‘n’ Roll in many of its various styles, but they have no bearing on what is driving the music industry today. This era reminds me of the late 1950s and pre-Beatles 1960s, only on steroids! Pop and hip-hop rule the day and honestly, if you can’t go viral on TikTok… go home! This is a time period super-dominated by stars rather than artists. It’s not about making music, but rather about making it!

“The concept of ‘going home again’ is likely part of the contrived Hollywood version of the ideal American life. However, I’m buying into it! Coming back to Cleveland so soon after I left as Columbia Records’ official representative on the Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels tour in September of 1989 was the perfect homecoming experience.”

“But there were two other comebacks that meant so much more to me: In 1990, I returned for one of the many official pre-opening ceremonies for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  Unbeknownst to me, I was invited because then Ohio Governor-elect and former Cleveland Mayor (later U.S. Senator) George Voinovich wanted to present me with the Key to the City for my efforts involved with bringing the Rock Hall to my hometown. That absolutely meant the world to me! The other moment was also associated with the Rock Hall. It was during the historic concert held at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1995 as part of the festivities surrounding the Rock Hall’s Grand Opening.  I returned once again—gladly!—and I got to go onstage in front of 85,000 roaring fans and welcome them to kick off quite a night! I’m not given to goosebumps, but I came really close that evening.”

Read more about Kid Leo here.

sandra williamsSANDRA R. WILLIAMS


“I am overjoyed to be given the opportunity to deliver the commencement speech. When I was growing up, we didn’t have much and were forced to move numerous times. The one thing I remember most was my mother constantly telling me to get a good education so I could get a good job. My mom was raised in Aliceville, Alabama, working long days picking cotton and cleaning other people’s homes for little to no money. She knew education was a great equalizer. Now, almost 89 years old, my mom has now witnessed 95% of her children and grandchildren—who all took her words to heart—receive their college degree. And now, her rebellious daughter is giving a commencement speech!”

“Cleveland State University was the place that gave me a chance: an opportunity to get an affordable, first-class education. It gave me the chance to be part of a diverse community. I did my undergrad in Political Science at CSU and came back in 2014 for my MBA. My experience was great: a hometown university where I could get increasingly familiar with the city, but perhaps more importantly, where I could meet people from other parts of the state, the country and the world because of the affordable world-class education you can gain here. I was always engaging with people from different walks of life, which gave me a more well-rounded college experience. The importance of diversity and inclusion can never be overstated.”

“Education is not just seeing the same people you grow up with; it’s finding people on other career paths and life paths who look at things differently and can help you see things you might not otherwise see. This helped me in my career as legislator. And that’s not just opinion. All of us bring value to the conversation, and it matters to broaden your horizons and understand your constituents, so you can help make better decisions on their behalf. Perhaps the lack of that approach might explain why sometimes we don’t get much done in politics.”

“To be a part of this community is a lifetime gift; one which has been a portal for so many who have been the first in their family to earn a degree. It has been a place where so many of us have been given the opportunity to aim high and work doggedly to achieve our academic, professional and personal goals… Nothing worthwhile in life is easy. Between CSU and my military experience, I was always inspired to push forward, never giving up.”

“Remember that failures and obstacles are inevitable when we are chasing our dreams, but no one else gets to define you but you. Failures are coming and they’re hard sometimes. The most important part about failures is how you react, how you bounce back and how you move forward.”

“Going through college, challenging classes, and so many other things in life that will require your tenacity and undivided attention. It will always be important for you to learn how to deal with those challenges, because if you don’t face them now, they’re gonna come back and you’ll have to deal with them later. The one thing I would say to graduates: don’t be afraid to take chances, or to chart a new path. Don’t be afraid of the unknown, because that might be where you find your calling, where you find that you belong.”

“I was always told to get a good job, but I would challenge that notion and ask, ‘Is a good job good enough?’ For me, it’s not about getting a good job—never did I imagine that I could change the trajectory of someone’s life by picking up the phone and saying these words, ‘This is Senator Sandra Williams…’ It’s about having a great and rewarding career, a great family life and a great personal life. Over the years, I have learned many important life lessons that have served me well along my journey and so many of them came from my experience here at CSU.”

“Congratulations to all the Fall 2022 graduates. Welcome to the community of those who have come before us. Welcome to CSU Alumni. Embrace it and your path ahead. I hope you find passion, joy and success in all you do. The future awaits!”

Read more about Sandra R. Williams here.