College of Business

Debra Cannon to be Honored with Honorary Doctorate


Debra Cannon came to Chico State College from Oakland, as a freshman in 1968. After a temporary departure that included marriage and motherhood, she graduated in 1977 at the top of her class and today is the cofounder of one of the biggest online boutiques in fashion.

In recognition of her extraordinary commitment to Chico State and her ongoing philanthropic and business efforts that have so greatly benefitted our community, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and Chico State will award her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD) during Commencement on Thursday, May 16.

“Ms. Cannon’s entrepreneurial drive, commitment to hard work, and innovative vision are emblematic of traits we encourage in tomorrow’s business leaders,” said President Gayle Hutchinson. “As her philanthropic spirit extends across Chico and beyond, her dedication to her community and her support of our students continue to serve as an inspiration to us all.”

Debra Cannon

What began as a downtown Chico fashion boutique has blossomed into one of the biggest online fashion retailers with revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

After Cannon (American Studies, ’77) graduated from Chico State, she went on to the University of Oregon School of Library Science. She then returned to Chico State to work in Special Collections at Meriam Library, where she organized and classified the incredible collection of memorabilia that comprises the Oscar Stansbury Papers. She later held positions with Butte County Library, San Rafael Public Library, and Chico Unified School District.

In 1996, Cannon and her daughter, Colleen Winter, founded Lulu’s Fashion Lounge, a boutique in downtown Chico that honored their passion for fashion, aesthetics, and culture. After starting a web sales component in 2005, Lulu’s became an online-only retailer in 2008 and has grown tremendously in the last decade, recently raising $120 million in venture capital to expand its web services. Today, Lulus has 1.3 million followers on Instagram, boasts annual revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and employs more than 800 people.

In addition to being profiled in local media, Cannon and the remarkable rise and success of her company have been profiled in Forbes magazine, Footwear News, Medium, Digital Commerce 360, Business Insider, and the women’s fashion news journal Women’s Wear Daily.

Debra Cannon

Cannon’s success has made her a popular businesswoman to profile by companies such as Forbes, Business Insider, and Women’s Wear Daily.

Cannon has provided support to Chico State in numerous ways to both give back and invest in the University’s future. In 2015, she began serving on the University Foundation Board, where she serves as a steward of donors’ gifts and endowments while also engaging parents and the community in charitable giving. To support the next generation of business leaders and ensure that financial obstacles are not a barrier to opportunities that can transform lives, she also endowed a scholarship through the Center for Entrepreneurship that continues to serve students today.

Debra Cannon assists a Lulus model during a photoshoot.

Cannon often returns to campus to judge student business competitions and provide advice to budding entrepreneurs.

The College of Business named Cannon a Distinguished Alumna in 2014, in recognition of her leadership within her profession and one to whom Chico State turns for assistance in ensuring the integrity of our academic programs. She was also asked to participate in the process of interviewing candidates for the position of vice president for University Advancement, in recognition of her business savvy and passion for community and place.

A regular attendee at the President’s Fall Reception, Cannon also serves as a friend of the Janet Turner Print Museum as a supporter of a rare printmaking collection and educational experience, and a regular speaker for the CSU, Chico Center for Entrepreneurship, where she helps judge student competitions and provides advice to budding student entrepreneurs, especially our female students.

Cannon joins an elite list of just over 500 honorary degree recipients across the CSU, as the system recognizes those who have demonstrated excellence in areas that benefit CSU campuses, the state, nation, world, or humanity. The CSU awarded its first honorary degree to then-President John F. Kennedy in June 1963 at San Diego State University.

Cannon is Chico State’s 20th honorary degree recipient in the University’s 130-year history. Chico’s other influential awardees are:

  • Sterling O. Mattoon, Doctor of Science, 2019
  • Dennis Murphy, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2018
  • Doug Guerrero, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2017
  • Wendell J. Lundberg, Doctor of Science, 2013   
  • Sandra Lerner, Doctor of Science, 2012
  • Edward Rollins, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2012
  • David C. Favor, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2010
  • Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Doctor of Science, 2009
  • Ken Grossman, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2008
  • Marilyn Wade Warrens, Doctor of Fine Arts, 2008
  • Jack L. Rawlins, Doctor of Science, 2007
  • Rafael Sanchez, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2007
  • Floyd English, Doctor of Science, 2005
  • Marshall Lloyd Ginter, Doctor of Science, 2004
  • Glen Toney, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2004
  • Steve G. Nettleton, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2003
  • Judy Lynn Sitton, Doctor of Humane Letters, 2003
  • Savio L.Y. Woo, Doctor of Science, 1998
  • Ernest L. Boyer, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1988
  • John F. O’Connell, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1985

California State University, Chico
University Communications

Photos by Jason Halley.

Read the story via Chico State Today here.(opens in new window)

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