By Laura Pizzo
This February, the Cal Aggie Alumni Association’s (CAAA) 45th Annual Alumni Awards Gala brought
laughter, tears and Aggie Pride to the audience and awardees. This year’s theme “Celebrating Victorious Aggies” honored seven recipients who embody Aggie innovation and service.
The evening kicked off with a reception at the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center, where attendees sang the UC Davis Fight Song and rang their victory bells in celebration.
With a surprise performance by the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh!, everyone walked to the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, where they were greeted by KVIE’s Rob Stewart from Rob on the Road, who served as emcee. The audience had dinner on the stage while enjoying the show.
Patrick Sherwood ’86 received the first award of the evening, the prestigious Jerry W. Fielder Award. As part of this presentation, Charles Melton ’08 — the youngest president-elect in CAAA board history — gave a bythe- numbers report about Sherwood’s impact on the university as well as on Melton’s own life and career.
Then, Director of the Internship and Career Center Marcie Kirk Holland and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations and Executive Director of CAAA Rich Engel ’90, CRED. ’91 made the crowd erupt into wild laughter as they performed like pirates while gifting Aggie Service Award recipient Cynthia Murphy-Ortega ’91 with a spyglass. The spyglass was a symbol of how Murphy-Ortega has helped seekout a pipeline for Aggies into fulfilling careers.
UC Davis’ largest individual donor Ernest Tschannen received the Friend of the University Award. In honor of his support of the UC Davis Eye Center, Stewart asked the audience to put blindfolds on while he explained the impact Tschannen’s support will have on eye health for generations to come.
The audience wiped tears from their eyes as Jesse Rodriguez ’13, CAAA’s Young Alumnus Award recipient, was reunited with his mentor Cathy Rodriguez ’99. Rodriguez’s parents spontaneously stood up during his award presentation to tell him in Spanish how proud they were of all he has accomplished. Then, Chancellor Gary S. May and leaders from Student Affairs, CAAA and the Chicanx Latinx Alumni Association gifted Rodriguez with a set of blue and gold ties, noting that
when Rodriguez was a child, he just wanted to wear a suit when he grew up.
Outstanding Alumni Award recipient Margaret Lapiz ’89, who led the creation of Prep Médico at UC Davis and has served on many volunteer boards, was honored with a white coat ceremony led by Prep Médico student Aubrey Alvarenga ’18.
Then UC Davis students played the score from Craig Armstrong’s “Love Actually” in honor of Liliana Ferrer ’87, the consul general of Mexico in Sacramento and this year’s Emil M. Mrak International Award recipient. As a child, Ferrer wanted to devote her life to music and dance.
Lastly, the event concluded with an interview with Distinguished Achievement Award recipient John Madigan ’70, M.S. ’72, DVM ’75, as well as a video that captured his awe-inspiring, unique victories leading the Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT).