Distinguished Alumni

President Paul J. ZinggIt is important for California State University, Chico to recognize its outstanding alumni for a variety of reasons. Our outstanding alumni are among the leaders in their chosen vocations and professions and are those to whom we turn for assistance in ensuring the integrity of our academic programs.

Our distinguished alumni are fondly remembered by the faculty as inquisitive students and often as personal friends, both of which make teaching such a rewarding career. Recognizing our most talented and successful alumni reaffirms that they, like those many before them and thousands to follow, give life and reality to the legacy and contributions of California State University, Chico. Our most accomplished alumni, then, represent what it is we do well when we do our best, and for them we are grateful.

—Paul J. Zingg, President

2015 Distinguished Alumni

California State University, Chico honored these eight distinguished alumni at the 22nd annual Distinguished Alumni Recognition Dinner on April 10th, 2015.

Photograph of recipient

Jeanette E. Lowe

College of Agriculture
BS Agriculture Business, Class of 1985

Current Position:
Consultant, Agriculture Education and Home Economics Unit, California Department of Education

Jeanette Lowe serves as a consultant for the California Department of Education and has been the Superior Region FFA advisor for 15 years. From her office on the CSU, Chico University Farm, she coordinates leadership activities, conferences, and career development events for over 8,400 students annually. Lowe monitors state and federal career and technical education grants, provides in-service training and technical assistance for teachers and administrators, is a guest lecturer at the University, and works directly with 52 schools from Sacramento to the Oregon border. The former Hamilton Union High School teacher and counselor has received many awards including induction into the Glenn County Office of Education Hall of Fame, Honorary America FFA Degree, CATA Outstanding Young Teacher, and Teacher of Teachers Awards. She has three children (Matthew, 20, and twins Mitchell and Megan, 18) studying agriculture in Idaho.

More former College of Agriculture Honorees

Photograph of recipient

Matt S. Petersen

College of Behavioral and Social Sciences
BA Political Science, Class of 1990

Current Position:
Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Los Angeles

The former president and CEO of Global Green USA, Matt Petersen is now the first chief sustainability officer for the City of Los Angeles. He was a leader in the green rebuilding of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and helping communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. He has been instrumental in the greening of cities, schools, and affordable housing across the United States and worked with then Los Angeles Councilman Eric Garcetti to create the first large-city municipal green building policy. At Chico State, Petersen ran the New Commute featuring alternative transportation, and organized a race between Bob Linscheid in a SUV and Jane Dolan on a bike. Petersen has been named a "Green Hero" by Outside magazine and is a member of the council on foreign relations and a board member of Habitat for Humanity of greater Los Angeles. He is a proud father to son Aidan (12).

More former College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Honorees

Photograph of recipient

Len Jessup

College of Business
BA Information and Communication Studies,
Class of 1983
Master of Business Administration, Class of 1985

Current Position:
President, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

In January, Dr. Len Jessup became the 10th president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Jessup assumes leadership while UNLV aspires to Tier-One status and is launching a new medical school. Jessup has a demonstrated record for teaching, research, tech transfer, and fundraising success. Prior to starting at UNLV, Jessup served as dean of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. He is credited with helping the business school become a self-sustaining program and improving the rankings of Eller College. He also launched successful online MBA and Masters of Management Information Systems programs at Eller. Before moving to Arizona, he worked at Washington State University in many leadership roles and helped with the launch of a $1 billion capital campaign. Jessup lives with his partner, Kristi, in Las Vegas and has two children (daughter Jamie, 17, and son David, 12).

More former College of Business Honorees

Photograph of recipient

Natalie Kerris

College of Communication & Education
BA Information and Communication Studies,
Class of 1989

Current Position:
Senior Director, Worldwide Corporate Communications, Apple

With more than 25 years of experience as one of Silicon Valley's top PR professionals, Natalie Kerris has spent the past 14 years introducing Apple’s most iconic products to the world, including the iPod, iTunes, iPad, iPhone, App Store, and most recently, Apple Pay and Apple Watch. As the senior director for worldwide corporate communications, Kerris has shaped Apple’s narrative from tech underdog to music-industry disrupter, through the meteoric rise of the iPhone to becoming the world’s most valuable company. An innovative team leader and creative problem solver, Kerris has managed crisis communications, strategic partnerships, and PR campaigns with iTunes artists in music, television, and film. Kerris resides in Los Gatos with her husband, Richard, and two daughters (Scarlett, 9, and Madeline, 8). She also volunteers for Girl Scouts and the Los Gatos Ballet.

More former College of Communication and Education Honorees

Photograph of recipient

Grayson D. Beck

College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management
BS Electrical Engineering, Class of 1992

Current Position:
Owner, Aduro Laser

Grayson Beck, owner and co-founder of Aduro Laser, a company that makes precision laser cut and machined tubes, is no stranger to manufacturing. So it should come as no surprise that Beck’s latest project is the modification of a Jeep Rubicon to be an off-road, rock-climbing vehicle. He has enlisted the help of his four sons (Ronin, 14; Corbin, 13; and Orion and Maksim, 9) in the process of adding roll bars, winches, an onboard welder, and an air compressor to create a vehicle capable of withstanding a two-week mountain expedition. In addition to being a thrill-seeker—and raising his sons to be the same—Beck serves on the board of TechDAVIS, an organization dedicated to developing a robust tech ecosystem for Davis and the surrounding area. Beck and wife Olivia (Class of 1992, Communications) reside in Davis.

More former College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management Honorees

Photograph of recipient

Terris McMahan Grimes

College of Humanities & Fine Arts
BA English, Class of 1973
BA Social Welfare, Class of 1973

Current Position:
Owner, Patent Leather Press; Author

Winner of the Chester Himes Black Mystery Writers Award and unprecedented winner of double Anthony Awards for best first novel and best paperback original, Terris McMahan Grimes considers herself a literary evangelist. She says she has always known she would write, even though she did not start her professional writing career until she was in her forties. McMahan Grimes writes the Theresa Galloway mystery series (Somebody Else’s Child and Blood Will Tell) and admits she had a difficult time killing off her first character (the elderly and kind Mrs. Turner in Somebody Else’s Child). She does say, though, that after the first murder, it gets easier. Grimes’ latest novel, Smelling Herself, a coming-of-age story set in 1964 Oakland, with an 11 year-old black girl as protagonist, won the Northern California Publishers and Authors 2014 First Place Award for General Fiction.

More former College of Humanities and Fine Arts Honorees

Photograph of recipient

Debra Geary Hook

College of Natural Sciences
BS Food and Nutrition, Class of 1985

Current Position:
Pediatric Dietitian

Debra Geary Hook is a pediatric dietitian with Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, with Miller Children’s Hospital, and in private practice. She serves as a consultant dietitian for Ultragenyx, a clinical-stage biotechnology company. She teaches nutrition classes at Cal Poly Pomona; CSU, San Bernardino; and Loma Linda School of Allied Health and School Public Health. Geary Hook has been named an Outstanding Dietetics Educator by the American Dietetic Association and serves on many committees working on nutrition protocols. She volunteers her time with the California Coalition for Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Allied Disorders, the Pasadena animal rescue, and the March of Dimes. Geary Hook lives in Southern California with her husband, Frederic Hook (Class of 1985, Engineering), and would like to spend her spare time finishing up her doctorate.

More former College of Natural Sciences Honorees

Photograph of recipient

Farshad Azad

Distinguished Alumni Service Award
Master of Public Administration, Class of 1989

Current Positions:
Owner, Azad’s Martial Arts Center; Kinesiology Faculty, CSU, Chico; CEO, Azad’s International Inc.; Vice President, World Hapkido Association

Grandmaster Farshad Azad is well known for his service to the Chico community. He founded the Rock Solid Teens program, using martial arts to help teens be confident and successful. His annual Thanksgiving Basket Brigade has helped thousands of needy families. Azad is chair of the University Advisory Board, sponsors a scholarship for international students, is a member of the kinesiology department diversity committee, and has served on the campus safety committee and University Diversity Council. He was inducted into the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Master of the Year and named International Exchange Club Member of the Year and the Chico Noon Exchange Club Citizen of the Year. This year, Azad will be promoted to the highest rank in martial arts, 10th-degree black belt, and become the founder of his own system, the art of Jung Shin Do (The Way of Mind and Spirit).

More former Distinguished Alumni Service Award Recipients

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Distinguished Alumni

Current Year: 2015
22nd Distinguished Alumni

List of All Years

First Year: 1994
1st Distinguished Alumni

Distinguished Alumni by College

Behavioral & Social Sciences
Communication & Education
Engineering, Computer Science, & Construction Management
Humanities & Fine Arts
Natural Sciences
Service Award