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Honorary Degrees

The submission period for 2023-24 Honorary Doctorate nominations has ended.

About 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.


Things to consider before submitting a nomination:

The submission form must be submitted completely. Partially complete submissions will not be accepted.

Questions that will be asked when submitting a nomination (* means required)

  • Nominator contact information (*name, *email, *phone, *address)
  • Nominee contact information (*name, *organization, *affiliation to Sac State, email, address, phone)
  • Additional information about nominee

Letters of recommendation/support/endorsement will not be accepted beginning this year.

Supporting documentation (such as pictures, articles, etc...) are highly suggested and can be uploaded as part of the nomination form.
Nominations without any additional supporting documentation are often not sufficient enough for the Selection Committee to evaluate compared to complete submissions.

2024 Recipients

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Russ Buettner

Investigative Reporter, The New York Times
2024 Recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.)

Russ Buettner is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times. He joined The Times in 2006 after working as an investigative reporter at The Daily News in New York and New York Newsday. Since 2016, his reporting has focused on the personal finances of former resident Donald J. Trump, including articles exploring Trump’s business records in Atlantic City, work which exposed a history of Trump overstating business revenues.

Investigative reporting by Mr. Buettner and two colleagues at The New York Times further revealed that Trump, contrary to representing himself as a self-made businessman, had received the equivalent of at least $413 million from his father, a figure that the team’s reporting showed had been greatly enhanced by tax avoidance schemes...

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Roger G.F. Fong

Sacramento County Assessor, retired, and Five Star Bank Founding Chairman of the Board
2024 Recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD)

Roger Fong was born in 1933 to Chinese immigrant parents Sam and Yee Yee Fong, who overcame social and legal discrimination to become successful landowners and farmers. When not attending American or Chinese school, young Roger labored alongside his siblings and friends in his family’s fields. Initially not planning to attend college, he was encouraged by childhood friend Gordon Fong to follow him to Sacramento City College to run track. After earning an associate’s degree in business, he transferred to Sacramento State, where he continued competing in track and also became an award-winning member of the first boxing team...

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Rhonda Ríos Kravitz

Dean Emerita, Sacramento City College, and alumna of Sacramento State
2024 Recipient of the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service

Dr. Rhonda Ríos Kravitz is an activist dedicated to fighting for social justice, educational, political and economic equity, immigrant rights, and an end to this nation’s history of erasure, exclusion, and oppression. Born in San Francisco to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, she was raised predominantly with her mother’s family and self-identifies as Chicana. She earned degrees from Sacramento State, Simmons College and the University of Southern California.

In 1987, Dr. Ríos Kravitz became the Ethnic Services Consultant for the California State Library, where she worked on grant programs to support community development and advocated for library collections, services and programs that accurately and authentically reflected the cultural perspectives of diverse communities...

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Vivian “Vicki” Pleau

Alumna of Sacramento State, philanthropist, advocate
2024 Recipient of the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service

Vivian “Vicki” Pleau was a fierce advocate for those who called Sacramento home. Born in Minnesota to Lyle Moore, a Canadian soldier, and Maggie O’Neil, a war bride from Scotland, her family relocated to Bakersfield when she was a child. After spending her early years in Fresno, Mrs. Pleau’s family moved to Sacramento while she was a teenager. She graduated from El Camino High School in 1964, and upon her graduation enrolled at Sacramento State. There she became a proud member of the Delta Gamma Alpha Psi sorority, an organization designed to uplift and encourage young women to strive for their goals and achieve their dreams.

In 1966 she met the love of her life, Steve Pleau, when they were both students at Sacramento State. They were married in January 1968, the same year she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in Sociology. Mrs. Pleau and Steve raised their two children, son Geoff Pleau and daughter Stacey Carter, in Fair Oaks, where they formed lifelong friendships in a close-knit community...

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Otis L. Scott

Dean Emeritus, Sacramento State
2024 Recipient of the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service

Dean Emeritus Dr. Otis Scott, a pioneer in the field of ethnic studies, was hired at Sacramento State to serve as a professor of its nascent Ethnic Studies program in 1974. He played a pivotal role in transforming the program into a full-fledged department, serving as its first chair for 21 years. In 2002, Dr. Scott was named associate dean of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies (SSIS). In 2004, he became SSIS dean, serving until his retirement from the University in 2009.

Dr. Scott’s educational journey began in Ohio, where he attended Central State University before joining the Air Force. He eventually came to Sacramento State, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Political Science...

Previous Recipients

Liz Igra
President, Central Valley Holocaust Educators’ Network
Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) 2023

Mathilde Mukantabana
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda
Doctor of Humane Letters 2023

Esteban Villa
Emeritus Professor of Art, Sacramento State and Founding Member, Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF)
Doctor of Fine Arts 2022

May O. Lee
Founding Director, Asian Resources, Inc.
Doctor of Humane Letters 2022

Lee Ritchey
Founder and President, Speeding Edge
Doctor of Science 2021

Kevin Michael Nagle
Chairman & CEO, Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings
Doctor of Humane Letters 2020

Lorenda T. Sanchez
Executive Director, California Indian Manpower Consortium, Inc.
Doctor of Humane Letters 2020

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

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

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