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Sac State celebrates six individuals by bestowing on them the University’s highest honors

The 2020 and 2021 recipients of honorary doctorates and the President's Medal for Distinguished Service. Top row, from left: Joy Stewart-James, Marielle B. Tsukamoto, and Lee Ritchey. Bottom row, from left: Lorenda T. Sanchez, Rekhi Singh, and Kevin Michael Nagle. (Sacramento State)

Each year, Sacramento State recognizes individuals who make a difference in their communities and the world at large by bestowing upon them the University’s highest honors. 

For 2020 and 2021, Sac State honors six outstanding women and men whose work has made a positive impact on peoples’ lives on campus, in Sacramento, and beyond.  

Three are recipients of the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service, an engraved medallion presented by University President Robert S. Nelsen to individuals who provide outstanding service to Sacramento State, higher education, the general public, or the common good. 

The other three receive honorary doctorates conferred by Sacramento State and the CSU Board of Trustees. 

The honors are typically bestowed at the University’s Spring Commencement ceremonies, which were held virtually in 2020 and via a socially distanced on-campus car parade in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 recipients have been recognized by the University, and the 2021 honorees will be celebrated later this year. 

2021 President’s Medal for Distinguished Service 

Rekhi Singh ’88 (MBA) practices the science of happiness and in 2019 founded Sacramento State’s first endowed professorship, the Rekhi Singh Endowed Professor of Happiness, housed in the Psychology department. Singh is founder and CEO of R Systems, a global company that specializes in information technology outsourcing. He will receive his medal in August.  

Joy Stewart-James, associate vice president for Student Health and Counseling Services, led Sacramento State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among her life-saving efforts was partnering with Sacramento County Public Health to establish the University as a vaccination site and then helping open a campus walk-up clinic where Nursing students vaccinated more than 19,000 faculty, staff, students, and community members. Stewart-James will receive her medal in September. 

2021 Honorary Doctor of Science 

Lee Ritchey ’67 (Electrical Engineering) is the founder and president of Speeding Edge, an international training and consulting company based in Bodega Bay. He built a circuit board that NASA sent into space on an Apollo moon mission. Ritchey regularly mentors Sac State’s Engineering students and three years ago helped launch the Hornet Leadership Program in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. His honorary doctorate will be conferred in July. 

2020 President’s Medal for Distinguished Service 

Marielle B. Tsukamoto is a lifelong advocate of inclusivity and civil rights, fueled by the three years she and her family lived in a World War II internment camp. Tsukamoto went on to serve as president of the Florin chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and as a school administrator. Her mother, Mary, another longtime educator, was instrumental in the creation of Sac State’s extensive Japanese American Archival Collection. 

2020 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters 

Kevin Michael Nagle, chairman and CEO of Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings, plays a major role in Sacramento’s sports scene. As the region’s largest owner of the Sacramento Kings, he was twice instrumental in keeping the team in town. And through Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings, which owns Sacramento Republic FC, he is leading the effort to bring Major League Soccer to Sacramento. 

Lorenda T. Sanchez, a Northern Paiute and the executive director of California Indian Manpower Consortium Inc., has dedicated more than 45 years to improving the lives of Native Americans. An estimated 100,000 individuals have benefited from her efforts to help Native Americans achieve excellence, revitalize their communities, and meet 21st-century challenges.

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Sacramento State’s News and Communications team writes and shares stories about the University, its students, faculty, and alumni, revealing the accomplishments, achievements and milestones that characterize its standing as an educational leader and an important community center. The department’s writers, editors and public relations personnel look across the broad spectrum of the campus and the people who thrive here to support the University’s mission.

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