College of Behavioral & Social Sciences

Behavioral and Social Sciences Distinguished Alumni

1996 Distinguished Alumni

Sandy Lerner

BA International Relations, Class of 1975

Honor Year: 1996

Sandy Lerner co-founded Cisco Systems, Inc., maker of the first commercially viable router, a device that allows computer networks to expand and create networks of networks, which we now know as The Internet. Lerner was one of the first female philanthropists to emerge from the Silicon Valley boom era. She created a charitable foundation and trust that would fund her projects; her main interest is animal welfare. After Lerner stepped away from her position at Cisco, she came up with an idea for a cosmetics line that steered clear of the standard girlish pinks and reds in nail polish and lipstick. Inspired in part by the dark-red, nearly black “Vamp” nail color introduced by Chanel that was selling out at makeup counters across North America, Lerner decided to create a line of alternative shades of lipstick and nail color. In mid-1995, she founded the company, called Urban Decay, which was later sold to the luxury conglomerate LVMH. Lerner earned her BA in international relations at California State University in Chico, finishing in two years with distinction, and began graduate school at Claremont College outside of Los Angeles. She was particularly fascinated by comparative political studies, but came to realize there was likely little financial gain in it (i.e., no job). She earned her MA in econometrics and her MS in statistics and computer science at Stanford University. Not surprisingly, Lerner ran the computer facility for the Graduate School of Business at Stanford, before leaving to establish Cisco.

Lerner received an honorary doctorate at the 2012 undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19, and gave the commencement address at both undergraduate ceremonies.