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Cal State LA honors distinguished alumni at 2022 awards gala

April 13, 2022

Cal State LA News Service

President Covino and alumnus Willie Zuniga in front of a decorative hedge adorned with gold writing that says 75 years, Alumni Awards Gala.
Photo: Cal State LA President William A. Covino (left) with 2022 Alumnus of the Year Willie Zuniga, president of Grifols Biologicals LLC. (Credit: Robert Huskey/Cal State LA).

Cal State LA honored 13 distinguished alumni at its 2022 Alumni Awards Gala, including Grifols Biologicals LLC President Willie Zuniga, who was named Alumnus of the Year.

Generations of Diablos and Golden Eagles returned to campus for the April 8 gala, which also celebrated the university’s 75th anniversary.

In his welcome, President William A. Covino thanked alumni and supporters for their contributions to the university’s success through the years.

“You continue to write the story of Cal State LA, and it is a wonderful story,” Covino said to the audience. “You are our greatest ambassadors. You are the irrefutable evidence of the transformative power of a Cal State LA education. Since the university opened its doors in 1947, you have been the heart of our story, our rich history, our vision, our legacy.”

Covino noted Cal State LA’s continued rise in national prominence. The university was again recently ranked number one in the United States for economic mobility.

The festive event was held outdoors on Greenlee Plaza. The evening of mingling, reminiscing and celebrating featured the inspiring stories of outstanding alumni.

Cal State LA Alumni Association Board President Bertha Haro, ’01, ’10, served as the emcee and host of the event.

“This evening we recognize alumni who represent the best and finest,” Haro said. “Our honorees are outstanding examples of what is possible, and tonight we get to celebrate their achievements as influential leaders and inspire the generations of alumni to come.”

Haro outlined the accomplishments of each honoree and their contributions to Cal State LA.

The audience then watched a video of the honoree recounting their formative experiences at Cal State LA, reflecting on how the university and its faculty, staff and fellow students provided life-changing opportunities that were instrumental to their success.

Zuniga, the Alumnus of the Year, started his career as an entry-level manufacturing technician with Alpha Therapeutic Corporation across the street from Cal State LA. He attended night classes at the university and received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the College of Business and Economics in 1986. Today, he serves as president of the company, which is now Grifols Biologicals LLC.

“I like to see myself as one of the many examples of individuals who have attended this school, have taken advantage of everything offered and have had that opportunity to move up,” said Zuniga, who resides in Glendora. “It’s been nothing short of amazing.”

Zuniga grew up in El Sereno and attended nearby Wilson High School. In his video remarks, he emphasized the importance of institutions like Grifols and Cal State LA supporting the local community.

Under his leadership, Grifols has collaborated with Cal State LA to offer the Grifols Summer Science Academy at Cal State LA, which has trained more than 80 high school students in microbiology, chemistry and molecular work. The academy, which started in 2015, allows students to work in university laboratories under the guidance of Grifols professionals and Cal State LA faculty members.

Zuniga, a member of the Cal State LA President’s Council, received the LA BioStar Award in 2018 from Cal State LA BioSpace for his contributions to the regional bioscience industry.

President Covino and the college deans greeted and presented the awards to the alumni honorees, which also included College of Arts and Letters alumna Fanshen Cox, president of TruJuLo Productions. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Television, Film and Theatre from Cal State LA in 2013.

“There’s nothing like being on this campus and actually seeing the kinds of faces that we are pushing for to have more representation in Hollywood,” Cox said. “If I can inspire one student on the campus each time I visit to know that they can do this—I want them to look at me and hear my story and know that this is a path that they can take as well.”

Cox received the Golden Eagle Award, which recognizes distinguished alumni who graduated within the last 10 years.

“This is our night to shine. This is our night to feel proud. This is our university,” Haro said to rousing applause during the gala. “This is L.A.’s university—Cal State LA.”

The full list of honorees is included below. You can read more about the distinguished alumni on the Alumni Awards Gala webpage.


Alumnus of the Year
Willie Zuniga, ’86
President
Grifols Biologicals LLC


Alumni Family Award
Ronald H. Silverman, ’55 (honored posthumously)
Professor Emeritus and Former Chair, Department of Art
Cal State LA

Amelia Perez-Silverman, ’76
Elementary School Teacher

Jeffrey S. Silverman, ’77
Biopharmaceutical Executive


Golden Eagle Award
Fanshen Cox, ’13
President
TruJuLo Productions


Distinguished Alumnus
College of Arts and Letters
James R. Galbraith, ’60
Board Member
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation


Distinguished Alumnus
College of Business and Economics
Jorge Orozco, ’03
Chief Executive Officer
Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center


Distinguished Alumna
Charter College of Education
Gay Yuen, ’84
Professor Emerita, Division of Curriculum and Instruction
Cal State LA


Distinguished Alumna
College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology
Gina Orozco, ’91
Vice President, Gas Engineering and System Integrity
Southern California Gas Company


Distinguished Alumna
College of Ethnic Studies
Charon D’Aiello Sandoval, ’80, ’86
Former Director, Affirmative Action Program
Cal State LA


Distinguished Alumnus
College of Ethnic Studies
David Sandoval, ’75, ’87
Former Director, Educational Opportunity Program
Cal State LA


Distinguished Alumnus
College of Natural and Social Sciences
Ronald Bates, ’68
Former President
League of California Cities


Distinguished Alumnus
Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services
Richard M. Tefank, ’75
Executive Director
Los Angeles Police Commission

Group photo of the alumni honorees with President Covino in front of a decorative hedge celebrating the 75th anniversary and the gala.
Photo: The Alumni Awards Gala honorees with President William A. Covino. From left: David Sandoval, Charon D’Aiello Sandoval, Gay Yuen, Fanshen Cox, Richard M. Tefank, President Covino, Ronald Bates, Amelia Perez-Silverman, Jeffrey S. Silverman, Willie Zuniga, Gina Orozco, and Jorge Orozco. (Honoree James R. Galbraith is not pictured). (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.