Baby Abandoned at University Graduates 31 Years Later From the Same School

Just last month Jillian Sobol walked at graduation in the same place her life began.

Denalee Chapman June 19, 2016
article image

Jillian Sobol’s life began in November, 1984 on a college campus. Placed in a cardboard box in a San Francisco State University laundry room at birth, Jillian’s mother hoped someone would find her soon. She hid the placenta in a garbage chute, hoping to conceal her identity.

When Patrick Coughlan noticed some movement amongst the laundry items, it drew his attention. He found a little newborn girl with a crudely cut umbilical cord and poor coloring.  Another student in the room rushed over and took control. Esther Wannemacher had just completed a newborn care class as a nursing student. It was serendipity.

The newborn was rushed to SF General hospital, where she was given a clean bill of health. Eventually the birth mother was found. Because she placed the baby in a conspicuous place where she would be found, she was not charged with child endangerment or negligence. The birth mother told the police that she had concealed the pregnancy and hadn’t even told the birth father, who was later notified.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sobol and his gallery-owner wife received a phone call from the social service department. But the phone call came a couple of days after they had read about the abandoned baby in the newspaper and felt an instant connection. “I did know that we were on the list with the social services department. [When] our social worker called me and said, ‘We have a baby for you,’ I said, ‘I’m not surprised. You’re confirming my intuition.’  It was the most amazing phone call,” Helene Sobol told ABC News.

This story is especially newsworthy because just last month Jillian Sobol walked at graduation in the same place her life began. Now an SFSU graduate, Jillian has made contact with both of her birth parents and hopes to make a living as an event planner.

author image

Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at

Want to contact an adoption professional?

Love this? Want more?

Claim Your FREE Adoption Summit Ticket!

The #1 adoption website is hosting the largest, FREE virtual adoption summit. Come listen to 50+ adoption experts share their knowledge and insights.

Members of the adoption community are invited to watch the virtual summit for FREE on September 23-27, 2019, or for a small fee, you can purchase an All-Access Pass to get access to the summit videos for 12 months along with a variety of other benefits.

Get Your Free Ticket