Each year, UC Davis honors alumni and friends of the university at the Aggie Alumni Awards ceremony. The event recognizes those who are exceptional in their fields of work and who have meaningfully impacted their communities. Recipients of these awards are selected by the Cal Aggie Alumni Association.
“[Award candidates] are nominated each year by both alumni, friends of the university, as well as many staff,” said Jennifer Thayer, the assistant director of programs for the alumni association. “All of the nominees have made significant contributions or progress to the UC Davis campus, to the university, or in their profession. A committee of Alumni Association leaders and board members, university faculty and past award winners then selects a recipient of the award from the pool of nominees.”
Thayer also discussed how the awards recognize the individuals’ connection to the university.
“Not only are we honoring the contributions that they’ve made to society, to their community [and] to their profession,” Thayer said. “We’re also showing that […] Davis was a key factor in making all of these individuals really great in what they’re doing.”
On Feb. 2, the university will commend the following seven alumni and one friend of the university: Patrick Sherwood (‘86), Cynthia Murphy-Ortega (‘91), Liliana Ferrer (‘87), Margaret Lapiz (‘89), John Madigan (‘70, MS ‘72, DVM ‘75), Jesse Rodriguez (‘13) and Ernest Tschannen, a friend of the university.
Patrick Sherwood is the recipient of the Jerry W. Fiedler award, which is presented to an alumnus who has made exceptional contributions to the CAAA, the UC Davis foundation and the university itself. Sherwood was previously an officer and a committee chair of the CAAA. He has supported recipients of various scholarships for alumni and has created multiple scholarships to support undergraduate students.
Currently, Sherwood is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council as well as a trustee for the UC Davis Foundation. Sherwood graduated from the university with a B.A. in economics.
Cynthia Murphy-Ortega, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the university, will receive the Aggie Service Award, which commends an alumnus who offered significant support to the CAAA and the university in the previous year. Murphy-Ortega has dedicated time and effort to support her fellow alumni in their post-college endeavours.
According to a UC Davis article, Murphy-Ortega is a manager of Chevron’s University Partnerships and Association Relations, where she works to connect students from many different universities with opportunities for employment and career exploration. Murphy-Ortega spearheaded Chevron’s scholarship program to financially support engineering students. Additionally, she is involved with the university’s Leadership in Engineering Advancement Diversity and Retention program, which supports minority students in engineering.
This year’s recipient of the CAAA Distinguished Achievement Award is John Madigan, who will be commended for his contributions to the field of animal welfare and health. This award primarily honors an alumnus who is exceptional in their career and recognizes their service to the university.
Madigan founded the International Animal Welfare Training Institute, which provides animal welfare training to university students and members of the Davis community. He also created the Veterinary Emergency Response Team, which is a volunteer subgroup of IAWTI that offers faculty, students and members of the community the opportunity to earn hands-on experience about animal emergency response.
“We’re kind of like a volunteer fire department,” Madigan said. “Right now, we have 146 students that are enrolled in our program that [are] all learning how to get involved with community response.”
IAWTI partners with researchers in countries as far away as New Zealand to share research with first responders in Davis and beyond.
“You see the need, and then you know you can do it,” Madigan said, referring to his motivation to continue promoting animal welfare and emergency safety. “That’s the combination.”
This year, the Emil M. Mrak award will be presented to UC Davis alumna Liliana Ferrer. The award, created and named in honor of Emil M. Mrak, who was a chancellor of the university from 1959 to 1969, recognizes an alumnus for their exceptional work outside of the country.
Ferrer is currently the head of the Mexican Consulate in Sacramento. Her efforts in that position involve supporting Hispanic students in college. Ferrer has held several significant positions in Mexican politics and government — she was the head of Political and Border Affairs of the Mexican embassy in Washington D.C., and she held the title of deputy chief of mission at the Mexican embassy in Paris. Ferrer is currently making efforts to connect the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico with UC Davis for the benefit of both institutions.
Margaret Lapiz is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus/a Award, which is given to an alumnus contributing significantly to their communities and most specifically to the university.
Lapiz will be recognized by the Cal Aggie Alumni Association for her contributions in medicine to the Hispanic community. She founded Prep Medico, which focuses on supporting medical professionals who specialize in assisting Hispanic patients. Additionally, she created the Lapiz Family Scholarship Fund to support children of agricultural workers who are attending or will attend college.
Lapiz was recognized by the Filipina Women’s Network as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World, and she was named one of the Top 100 Under 50 Diverse Executive and Emerging Leaders by Diversity MBA Magazine.
The Young Alumnus Award honors a recent graduate who has made a significant impression in their field of work, their community or the university following their graduation.
Jesse Rodriguez, the recipient of this award, graduated from UC Davis in 2013. Since then, he has worked to support the Latino community through various humanitarian and professional endeavours. Rodriguez is the director of Latino Affairs in the California State Senate and also acts as a communications consultant. Rodriguez is a mentor for the Puente Project, an organization that helps underrepresented California students earn educations, as well as Improve Your Tomorrow, a nonprofit that offers educational support to young men of color.
Finally, the university will recognize Ernest E. Tschannen with the Distinguished Friend Award. The award is presented to a member of the community who is not a UC Davis graduate, but who has meaningfully and extraordinarily impacted the university and its community.
“A friend of the university is someone who has given back to campus, whether it be philanthropically or with their time,” Thayer said. “They’re someone who is not an alumnus who has really participated in making UC Davis great.”
Tschannen has made numerous philanthropic donations to the university, specifically focusing on optical health and research. In 2016, he made a record-breaking $38.5 million donation to the UC Davis Eye Center and the Center for Vision Science. His donation supports the centers’ vision research initiatives and treatment programs for patients in the community.
He is honored by the university’s Leadership Giving Society, which recognizes significant philanthropists of UC Davis and the UC Davis Shields Society, which commends all donors to the university.
“He has philanthropically given one of our largest gifts to campus as well as been a great promoter of all things UC Davis,” Thayer said.
Recipients will be awarded on February 2.