Honorary Degrees

The California State University awards honorary degrees to individuals who have demonstrated excellence in areas that benefit humanity, CSU campuses, the state, nation and/or world. Recipients serve as examples to be recognized and honored for their exemplary contributions. The degrees are given by the CSU Board of Trustees in the name of the California State University and in the name of the campus. The CSU awarded its first honorary degree to then-President John F. Kennedy in June 1963 at San Diego State University. 

For more information, view the California State University Board of Trustees policy for awarding honorary degrees. 


2019 Recipients

Marlene Marie von Friederichs-Fitzwater
Emeritus Faculty and Founder of the Health Communication Research Institute Inc.
Doctor of Humane Letters 2019

Marlene Marie von Friederichs-Fitzwater has dedicated her life to helping people who too often are left behind by the health care system. A professor emerita at Sacramento State, she has worked to reduce disparities based on age, ethnicity and income in cancer diagnosis and treatment. She founded Joshua’s House, devoted to caring for terminally ill homeless men and women. Her work has affected countless people, and likely will continue to do so for generations.

Before retiring from Sac State, von Friederichs-Fitzwater was a faculty member and department chair in the department of Communication Studies. She later was a full-time professor in the UC Davis School of Medicine, where, among other things, she developed support programs for newly diagnosed cancer patients.

In 1989, she founded the nonprofit Health Communication Research Institute (HCRI) to help better understand social issues that contribute to disease and develop strategies to make the health care system more accessible to all. Among other accomplishments, HCRI partnered with the Sierra Health Foundation to redesign the state’s Medi-Cal application.

In recent years, HCRI has focused on issues affecting homeless people in the Sacramento area. That led to Joshua’s House, named after von Friederichs-Fitzwater’s grandson Joshua Lee, who died on the streets in 2014 at age 34. Joshua’s House, one of the first hospice facilities of its kind in the nation, is scheduled to open in late fall 2019.

Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen said von Friederichs-Fitzwater “puts her heart into everything she does, but that now is especially evident in her work to open Joshua’s House in honor of her late grandson.”

Marlene Marie von Friederichs-Fitzwater

Hazel Witten Mahone
Emeritus Faculty, Author, and Advocate
Doctor of Humane Letters 2019

Hazel Witten Mahone’s teaching career began in West Virginia, shortly after the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling outlawed racial segregation in public schools. As an African American educator, she has been blazing trails ever since.

Mahone is a Sacramento State emerita faculty member who continues to support education and educators through her Vision 2000 foundation, which is committed to addressing the needs and interests of public schools. The foundation provides state-of-the art educational and vocational programs, such as the College Prep Math & Reading Academy, that are designed to close achievement gaps and help students succeed.

“Hazel is my hero and the hero of countless children in Sacramento,” said University President Robert S. Nelsen. “Her decades of work to create opportunities for some of the most vulnerable students in the region is astounding.”

Her teaching career took her to every level of the K-12 system. She has served on the faculty at University of the Pacific and San Francisco State as well as Sac State. Mahone has served as deputy director of the California School Boards Association, and became Sacramento County’s first female school district superintendent when she took over leadership of Grant Joint Union in 1978.

She created Vision 2000 in 1991. Its summer college-prep math and reading academy at Sac State is one of the most important events of the year on campus. In 2015, the Hazel Malone College Prep school was named after her.

Hazel Mahone

Beverly Gerth
Former First Lady of Sacramento State
President’s Medal for Distinguished Service 2019

Beverly Gerth, former first lady of Sacramento State, actively served alongside her husband, Donald R. Gerth, who was Sac State’s president from 1984 to 2003, and is part of her husband’s 45-year California State University legacy. She worked with Donald on a book, “The People’s University,” which has been described as the definitive history of the CSU system.

Donald Gerth was hired at San Francisco State in 1958 and went on to serve several CSU positions. While at Sac State, the Gerths led the establishment of the School of Arts, guided nearly $100 million in building modernization, and added 1.2 million square feet of building to campus.

The couple has been honored with two archives and special collections libraries named for them, at Sac State and at CSU Dominguez Hills, where Donald Gerth also served as president.

“It has been my honor to get to know Bev over the past four years and to be able to count on her wise counsel,” said Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen. “The impact that she and Don have had on higher education and on the CSU as a whole is remarkable.”

Beverly Gerth

Previous Recipients

Alice A. Huffman
Political Activist
Doctor of Humane Letters 2018

A speech by John F. Kennedy inspired Alice Huffman to become a political activist. In every role, she works to bridge the gap between policymakers and community, and she is tireless in leading efforts to protect and lift individuals.

Ms. Huffman has served three governors, both Democratic and Republican, and assists Gov. Jerry Brown as a volunteer, helping him select African American appointees for state government and judiciary positions. She is president of the California/Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP and, as a testament to her outstanding leadership, won eight consecutive elections after taking the position in 1999.

Ms. Huffman has received many national and state awards and is annually included in the list of 100 most-influential Californians by the Sacramento Observer and Capitol Weekly. She clearly represents the aspirations of the CSU for its diverse student body and a more inclusive society.

Alice Huffman

Ruth M. Rippon
Distinguished Artist
Doctor of Fine Arts 2018

Ruth Rippon is an accomplished artist who played a major role in lifting the craft of ceramics into the realm of fine art. She was recognized as one of 100 Distinguished Woman Artists by the Fresno Art Museum in 2002 and earned Artist of the Year recognition from the California Arts Council in 2008.

Ms. Rippon also held a faculty position at Sacramento State from 1956 until her retirement in 1987. During her 31-year tenure, Ms. Rippon not only helped found the ceramics department, but she influenced and inspired thousands of students, many of whom advanced to become accomplished ceramists and instructors. She was given the Outstanding Faculty Award by the Phi Kappa Honor Society in 1973 and the Meritorious Performance and Professional Promise Award for teaching from the Women’s Studies Board at Sacramento State in 1985.

Ruth Rippon

Ernest E. Tschannen
Doctor of Humane Letters 2018

Ernest Tschannen was born in Switzerland, immigrated to Canada in the 1950s, and eventually moved to the American Midwest, working as a mechanical engineer. He then settled in Minnesota, where he purchased investment properties, a hobby that turned into a successful career. Since the mid-1980s, Mr. Tschannen has lived in the Sacramento area, participating in the region’s growing prosperity.

Mr. Tschannen’s association with Sacramento State began with his $750,000 commitment to support construction of an Event Center to provide the University community with a modern recreational facility and to serve as home court for the men’s and women’s intercollegiate basketball teams. As his relationship with Sac State grew, Mr. Tschannen saw other opportunities, and in early 2018, he made the single largest contribution ever to the University. His $9 million gift to support construction of the Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex was recognition of that project’s importance and of science’s prominent place in modern education.


Cheryl Dell '82 (Communication Studies)
Former newspaper executive
Doctor of Humane Letters 2017

Alumna Cheryl Dell is the former publisher and president of The Sacramento Bee, the fifth largest newspaper in California. Her career in news spans nearly 33 years and includes positions in Texas and Washington. She returned to Sacramento to take over the flagship publication of the McClatchy Company after 11 years with the organization.

Throughout her career, Dell strongly believed in volunteering and to that end, served on the board of directors for various organizations in the Sacramento region which include the Sacramento Tree Foundation, Valley Vision, Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization (SACTO), the Salvation Army Advisory Board and MLK 365. Additionally, she served on the executive committee and chaired the board for the Inland Press Foundation.

The Bee has a 160-year legacy of public service journalism and has won nearly every major journalism award under Dell's leadership, including the Pulitzer Prize.

Cheryl Dell

Ephraim Williams
Doctor of Humane Letters 2017

Pastor Ephraim Williams is the most senior pastor in the Sacramento region and leads the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest congregations in the area. Over his 45-year tenure, he has grown the church’s membership from 133 in 1971 to more than 4,000 today. He has performed more than 900 marriages, 2,200 funerals, 2,100 baptisms and 6,100 sermons.

His outreach to the community includes regular participation in the CSU’s and Sacramento State’s “Super Sunday” effort to encourage college enrollment. He also spearheads the St. Paul and Oak Park Community Outreach Program, which provides recreational, educational and family support programs. Williams’ commitment to the region extends to his service to organizations such as the Sacramento Baptist Ministers Conference, the Sacramento Urban League, the NAACP and the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Ephraim Williams

Gregory Kondos '51, MA '57 (Art)
Doctor of Fine Arts 2016

Renowned landscape artist Gregory Kondos’ contributions to the art community have earned him accolades around the world. Kondos is considered one of America’s leading contemporary landscape painters and his works have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the U.S. and abroad. 

For nearly 30 years Mr. Kondos taught art at the college level at Sacramento City College, where he founded the campus gallery which is named in his honor. At Sacramento State, he gifted his painting “River Life” to the University Library and it now hangs in the lobby of the Harper Alumni Center, where it can be enjoyed by hundreds of visitors each year. 

His many honors also include election to the National Academy of Design, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the 1999 International Biennale in Florence, Italy and a Master of Drawing Award from American Artist magazine.

David Lucchetti '67 (Physical Education), Credential '68
Business Leader
Doctor of Humane Letters 2016

David Lucchetti is president and CEO of Pacific Coast Building Products, a family-owned company based in the Sacramento region with operations in 13 western states and Canada.

Lucchetti has been an active member of the Sacramento community, co-chairing the capital campaign for Sierra Adoption Services and his family made the lead gift to the Sutter Medical Center Foundation in 2005 and was recognized with the naming of the Anderson Lucchetti Women’s and Children’s Center. In 2004 he was named Business Man of the Year and in 2008 he was named Sacramentan of the Year by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

At his alma mater, Lucchetti has been a supporter of Sacramento State athletics and scholarship programs and has been a member of the College of Business Administration Advisory Council.

David Lucchetti

Lester Holt
News anchor, NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC
Doctor of Humane Letters 2015

Lester Holt is an award-winning journalist who has covered some of the nation's—and the world's—most important news stories as a television reporter and anchor. After studying government at Sacramento State, Holt began a more than 30-year career in news that put him on the frontline of such breaking stories as the war in Afghanistan and the 2011 Egyptian revolution. 

Holt is a graduate of Cordova High in Rancho Cordova. His wife, Carol, and his parents, June and Lester Sr. were in the audience to see him receive his honorary doctorate.

"I am honored, and I certainly accept this degree with deep gratitude," said Holt, who noted that his father also attended—and graduated from—Sacramento State. "I am so proud to be and (to) have been associated with this University."

Joyce Raley Teel
Doctor of Humane Letters 2015

For nearly 80 years, “Raley” has been a household name in northern California. Joyce Raley Teel is the daughter of Thomas P. Raley, founder of Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, a privately held family business.

Carrying the legacy of her family’s commitment to community, Mrs. Teel co-founded the Raley’s Food for Families program, which started as a holiday food drive and now is a year-round effort to combat hunger. In addition, she and her husband James Teel ’53 (Business Administration) co-chair the Thomas P. Raley Foundation and contribute to the community through their own Joyce and Jim Teel Family Foundation. She was also honorary chair of the $100 million campaign to expand the Crocker Art Museum, which named the Teel Family Pavilion in honor of this leadership and gift.

"Thank you for this most esteemed honor—my father and mother would be very proud of me today, if they saw me here on this stage."


Dale Carlsen '84 (Business Administration)
Doctor of Humane Letters 2013

Hugo Noe Morales Rosas
Doctor of Fine Arts 2011

Cruz Reynoso
Doctor of Laws 2012

Marcy Friedman
Doctor of Fine Arts 2010

Mario G. Obledo
Doctor of Laws 2010

Frederick Teichert '95 MBA
Doctor of Humane Letters 2009

Winnie Leung, MS '97 (Accountancy)
Doctor of Humane Letters 2007

Roger Valine '73 (Sociology)
Doctor of Humane Letters 2007

Robert T. Matsui
Doctor of Laws 2006

Hans J.A. Van Ginkel
Doctor of Letters 2003

Ingrid Moses
Doctor of Letters 2003

Phillip L. Isenberg '61 (Social Science)
Doctor of Letters 2002

Richard W. Riley
Doctor of Humane Letters 2001

Grantland Johnson '74 (Government)
Doctor of Humane Letters 2001

Dorothy Stevens Enomoto
Doctor of Humane Letters 2001

Steven Lee Yamshon '77 (Envrionmental Resources)
Doctor of Humane Letters 1999

Angelo K. Tsakopoulos '60 (History)
Doctor of Humane Letters 1998

Wayne Thiebaud '51, MA '53 (Art)
Doctor of Fine Arts 1998

Heitor Gurgulino de Souza
Doctor of Laws 1996

Sisbusiso M.E. Bengu
Doctor of Laws 1996

Federico Mayor
Doctor of Laws 1996

Anna Deavere Smith
Doctor of Fine Arts 1996

George Perle
Doctor of Fine Arts 1996

Lou Harrison
Doctor of Fine Arts 1993

Nathaniel S. Colley, Sr.
Doctor of Laws 1988

Albert S. Rodda
Doctor of Laws 1987