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Guardian Awards celebrate achievements at USC Price

by Matthew Kredell
USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott, second from right, with honorees Michael Keston, Yoshi Honkawa, Irene Hirano Inouye and Kirby Dick (USC Photo/Tom Queally)
Photo: USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott, second from right, with honorees Michael Keston, Yoshi Honkawa, Irene Hirano Inouye and Kirby Dick (USC Photo/Tom Queally)

USC Price School of Public Policy alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends came together to celebrate the accomplishments of the school, and to honor three individuals who embody its mission of improving the quality of life for people and their communities, at the seventh annual Price Guardian Awards gala on Sept. 26.

The night’s honorees included real estate developer and philanthropist Michael Keston, who received the Sol Price Award; U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye ’70, MPA ’73, who received the Global Ambassador Award; and documentary director Kirby Dick, who received the Vision and Leadership Award.

Dean Jack H. Knott surprised USC Price Board of Councilors member Yoshi Honkawa with the new Lifetime Service Award, which in the future will carry Honkawa’s name. Actor and comedian Larry Miller added humor to the proceedings as master of ceremonies for the event held at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

“All of our honorees have used their expertise, their wisdom and their knowledge to shape a better world,” Knott said. “And like our honorees, USC Price distinguishes itself through the pursuit of truth and knowledge in service of the common good.

“To create a positive impact on society is our passion,” Knott added. “It is what makes our school so great. It is the force that drives our school’s momentum, and it is the bond that unites our students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters.”

Proceeds from the event will support the Learning to Excel Academically and Professionally, a USC Price initiative that aims to enhance undergraduate services at the school.

The Sol Price Award recognizes a business entrepreneur who also has made a significant philanthropic impact in the community. Keston, chairman and CEO of the KFG Investment Co., is an adjunct professor in the Dollinger Master of Real Estate Development program at USC Price.

“In addition to being a business leader in the real estate industry, Mike is a very active philanthropist and has served in various leadership positions in public agencies,” Knott said.

Keston is on the USC Price Board of Councilors and the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate’s executive committee. He also established the USC Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure in 2002 and recently endowed the Keston Family Chair in Global Real Estate.

“I want to thank USC for giving me the opportunity to teach more than 500 students over the past 23 years and seeing them grow into such strong leaders in our business and our community,” Keston said.

The Global Ambassador Award recognizes an individual who best represents the mission and expertise of USC Price in a global setting. Hirano is president of the U.S.-Japan Council, a nonprofit dedicated to building people-to-people relationships between the United States and Japan.

“She promotes human rights, including the right to health care, she promotes economic fairness and educational opportunity, she promotes bringing communities together, bridges being built to achieve academic progress,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas during his introduction of Hirano. “And that means she uplifts people in many nations.”

She received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in public administration at USC Price and serves on the board of advisers for USC Price’s Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy. She was married to the late U.S. Sen. Daniel  Inouye of Hawaii.

“It’s especially a pleasure to be acknowledged with the [Global] Ambassador’s Award as my work now with the U.S.-Japan Council is focused on building global relationships, especially between the United States and Japan,” Hirano said. “It’s critically important that we find ways to encourage young people to see themselves as both citizens and as individuals who can make a difference in the world.”

The Vision and Leadership Award is given to someone whose life and work demonstrate exemplary contributions to a field that is directly related to USC Price. Dick, an Academy Award- and Emmy-nominated director, has brought social and policy issues to the forefront of popular discourse with his documentaries, such as The Invisible War, an investigation into the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military. The film prompted congressional hearings and was instrumental in initiating key reforms and legislation. He was given his award by producer and colleague Amy Ziering.

“Amy and I strive to make films that impact policy concerns and social justice issues, so to be recognized by such a prestigious school in the public policy field is very meaningful to me,” Dick said.

“It’s particularly gratifying to receive this award,” he added, “because the films we make could have only had the impact they do because of the work the people in this room do day in and day out to make this world a more just and equitable place to live.”

Knott kept the Lifetime Service Award out of the program to surprise Honkawa, who has served as a mentor to many at the school.

“For decades, Yoshi has dedicated his time, his energy, his expertise and resources in support of USC Price and its mission,” Knott said. “His exemplary contributions have enriched the school immeasurably.”

Honkawa, who retired in 2001 from his role as vice president of government and industry relations for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, previously received a Guardian Award in 2008. He currently sits on the school’s Board of Councilors.

“It’s very easy to do so many things for the Price School, for Jack, for all the staff, because they’re all great people,” Honkawa said. “Thank you very much for this great honor. I will cherish it for the rest of my life.”

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