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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 are 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. 

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2019 Recipients

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Marlene Marie von Friederichs-Fitzwater

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.” 

Hazel Witten Mahone

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.

 Beverly Gerth

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.”

Previous Recipients

Alice A. Huffman
Political Activist
Doctor of Humane Letters 2018

Ruth M. Rippon
Distinguished Artist
Doctor of Fine Arts 2018

Ernest E. Tschannen
Doctor of Humane Letters 2018

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

Ephraim Williams
Doctor of Humane Letters 2017

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

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

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

Joyce Raley Teel
Doctor of Humane Letters 2015

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