The Sacramento State Alumni Association and Sacramento State will present six awards to honor outstanding professional and personal achievement during the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards on Thursday, April 28, at the Leslie and Anita Harper Alumni Center. This year’s dinner and ceremony will recognize leaders in industry and the community for their efforts to improve the Sacramento region and the University.

“Each year, we celebrate alumni of Sacramento State during April, which is Alumni Month. Alumni, and in particular these honorees, make a huge impact not only for Sacramento State but for the state of California,” says Eric Guerra ’03 (Electrical and Electronic Engineering), MPPA ’08, president of the Sacramento State Alumni Association and a Sacramento City Council member. “Each year, I walk away from this event inspired by the graduates of Sacramento State. Their stories, accomplishments, and the hardships they have overcome motivate us to keep pursuing our dreams, and they make me proud to call myself a Hornet alumnus.”

This year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards recipients are being honored in three categories: Distinguished Service, Rising Star, and Honorary Alumna.

The Distinguished Service Award is given in recognition of professional achievements and community service. Recipients have achieved prominence in their chosen field and have brought distinction to the University and/or their community through their accomplishments. This year’s Distinguished Service Award recipients are:

  • Michael Ault ’92 (Communication Studies), executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, and Christine Ault ’92 (Communication Studies), communications adviser for Valley Vision: Mention Sacramento’s revitalization and economic development, and it’s likely the Aults’ names will be part of the conversation. Michael is executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. Christine is a communications consultant behind myriad economic and job growth initiatives. Together, the couple are visionaries, driving Sacramento’s reshaped reputation for more than two decades.
  • Tim Murphy ’91 (Government), CEO of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange: Land plans, blueprints, and success are consistent themes for Tim Murphy. As director of public affairs for Aerojet, he was instrumental in gaining approval for the eventual development of land once deemed unusable. As current CEO of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange, Murphy is building on a foundation of excellence to bring the 115-year-old construction industry association into a new era.
  • Craig Perez ’77 (Physical Education), emeritus Sacramento State staff member, and Ann Perez ’78 (Physical Education), MA ’92 (Education), educator: Craig and Ann Perez are a true Sac State pairing. The two former residence hall advisers are avid supporters of Hornet Athletics and other campus programs. Craig was instrumental in getting the Aquatic Center established and helped raise funds for the Broad Fieldhouse as a director of development. Ann served on the University Foundation at Sacramento State Board of Directors and will retire in June after 28 years as an educator.
  • Deborah Ross-Swain ’73, MS ’75 (Speech Pathology and Audiology), clinical director and owner of The Swain Center: Thirty years after founding The Swain Center for Listening, Communicating and Learning, Deborah Ross-Swain continues to offer hope for families searching for answers. Swain’s Santa Rosa practice offers early intervention for speech and language development delays, as well as autism spectrum disorders. She also serves as president of the California Speech Language Hearing Association.

The Rising Star Award is given to a graduate of Sacramento State who has received his or her first Sacramento State degree since 2005 and has made outstanding contributions professionally, to the community, or to the University. This year’s Rising Star Award recipient is:

  • Justin Knighten ’08 (Communication Studies), vice president of Lucas Public Affairs: There are many words to describe Justin Knighten’s role in the Sacramento community: engaged, connected, but perhaps most of all, busy. The Lucas Public Affairs vice president has caught the attention of many local and national associations for his professional and public service efforts. Among the organizations in which Knighten plays an important part are the Harvey Milk Foundation and Best Buddies International.

Honorary Alumna/us Awards are given to friends of the University who have demonstrated a close affinity to the campus and who have rendered exceptional support and leadership to the University or the Alumni Association. This year’s Honorary Alumna Award recipient is:

  • Susan McGinty, professor emerita, Department of Physical Therapy: When Susan McGinty sets her sights on a goal, she’s going to achieve it. She successfully navigated Sac State’s physical therapy program through an uphill climb to the doctoral degree-granting level. She left a lasting legacy in the department and established the Susan Young McGinty Endowed Scholarship, which helps qualified students overcome costs associated with becoming physical therapists.

Each year, the Sacramento State Alumni Association joins the University community in dedicating April to celebrating its alumni.

Alumni Month features a full slate of activities – receptions, lectures, sporting events, a group photo at the Capitol, and more – designed to bring the Hornet family together, culminating with the Distinguished Alumni Awards. Alumni are encouraged to share their Alumni Month connections on social media using the #HornetProud hashtag.

Tickets to the awards dinner are available at A full list of Alumni Month events is available at

High-resolution photos are available of the award recipients. For more information, visit or contact Jennifer Barber at (916) 278-6295. For media assistance, contact the Office of Public Affairs and Advocacy at (916) 278-6156.