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Honorary Degrees

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
    * How does the nominee demonstrate inspirational character, excellence and extraordinary achievement in significant areas of human endeavor that reflect the objectives and ideals of the California State University?
    * What is your nominee's community involvement?
    * How does your nominee's life, conduct, and significant achievements serve as examples of the California State University's aspirations for its diverse student body?
    * Please provide any additional information that supports your nominee’s selection.

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.

Deadline to submit a nominee for the 2022-23 Honorary Doctorate is
October 21, 2022

Submit Nomination

2022 Recipients

Villa Headshot

Esteban Villa

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

Esteban Villa was born in 1930 in Tulare, California. He began his career as a high school teacher, but soon became a professor of art at Sacramento State, where he taught for over two decades. Professor Villa is best known for his work founding the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCFA), an iconic art collective focused on social justice during the civil rights era.

The RCAF was described in the Sacramento Bee as “a collection of artists-turned activists who used their words, music, and images to fight for justice and equality for farmworkers and other marginalized Americans.” The group was founded in 1969 to express the goals of the Chicano civil rights and labor organization movement of the United Farmworkers. The group’s early work and activism was in support of the United Farmworkers Union, and their art and talent inspired UFW leadership...

Lee Headshot

May O. Lee

Founding Director, Asian Resources, Inc.
2022 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

May O. Lee has been a pillar in the community since moving to Sacramento from Seattle in 1975. She is the founding director of Asian Resources, Inc. (ARI) and she has dedicated her personal and professional life to community service.

While a graduate student at Sacramento State, Ms. Lee recognized that the burgeoning Asian immigrant and refugee communities had critical needs for job assistance, English classes, youth and senior programs, and health education. She helped evolve the Asian Resource Center Senior Services into a nonprofit that could meet all of these needs, and became its founding director in 1981, where she served until 2006. Ms. Lee was instrumental in starting My Sister’s House (MSH) in 2000, which serves Asian and Pacific Islander and other underserved women and children impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. MSH has expanded to includes My Sister’s Café, a social enterprise to support MSH job training programs, as well as the MSH Housing First program...

Collom Headshot

Tim Collom

Owner, House Real Estate and Tim Collom Gallery
2022 President’s Medal for Distinguished Service

Tim Collom’s life is a blend of both the business and philanthropic values taught at Sacramento State, and his career is truly a reflection of the ideals of the California State University.

After leaving college, Mr. Collom began his real estate career, eventually founding House Real Estate. Starting with just four agents, House has grown to include 17 agents, listing 141 houses and selling $170 million in real estate this year alone, and was recently ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the Number One Small Real Estate Team in Sacramento. Mr. Collom is also an accomplished artist, and he has parlayed his success in art and business into helping others in California.

During the fires that devastated much of Northern California in 2020 and 2021, he designed a special California print which he sold throughout the state, donating more than $200,000 to the California Fire Foundation. These funds helped the residents of Paradise begin to rebuild their lives and their community. In 2019, he won the Hero Award from the California Fire Foundation, which is only given to three people every year in California.

Previous Recipients

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