The very definition of “80 years young,” the USC Alumni Awards marked the completion of its eighth decade by celebrating the accomplishments of seven stellar Trojans on April 27. The event, hosted by the USC Alumni Association (USCAA), took place at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
Patrick Auerbach EdD ’08, interim associate vice president for alumni relations, and Mitchell Lew ’83, MD ’87, USCAA Board of Governors president, served as co-emcees for the 80th annual gala, which drew more than 600 Trojans and friends, including USC President C. L. Max Nikias, first lady Niki C. Nikias and local dignitaries State Sen. Curren Price and Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich ’73, MBA ’74.
Calling the Trojan Family “one of the university’s most treasured resources,” Auerbach paid tribute to both the evening’s honorees and all USC alumni for “enriching the lives of others and shining a light on our great university.”
The “light” burned brightly in the Westin’s California Ballroom, where Auerbach and Lew presented the Alumni Service Awards recognizing volunteer efforts on behalf of the university to Barbara Cotler ’60, a member of the USC Athletics Board of Councilors, the USCAA Board of Governors and an executive board member of the USC Trojan Marching Band; Linda Givvin ’70, a past president of Town and Gown of USC, a member of the USCAA Board of Governors and the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy Board of Councilors; and Jerry Neely ’58, USC trustee and a longtime mentor of USC Marshall School of Business MBA students through the TEC (The Executive Club) on Campus program.
Alumni Merit Awards, which are given to individuals whose accomplishments speak well for the range and quality of a USC education, were presented to Geraldine Knatz MS ’77, PhD ’79, the first woman to serve as executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest container port; and Mark Ridley-Thomas PhD ’89, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and a former California state senator.
The Young Alumni Merit Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of alumni under age 35, was given to six-time Olympic medalist Rebecca Soni ’09, who became the first woman to break 2:20 in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2012 Summer Olympics, where she won two gold medals and a silver.
Nikias took the stage to present the university’s highest alumni honor, the Asa V. Call Alumni Achievement Award, to USC Trustee Frank Fertitta III ’84.
Fertitta is chairman and CEO of Las Vegas-based Fertitta Entertainment, a resort and casino development and management company, and of Station Casinos, the largest provider of gaming and entertainment to residents of Southern Nevada. He is also a founder and principal owner of Zuffa LLC, which owns and operates the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest live pay-per-view content provider in the world. Last fall, he and his wife, Jill, contributed a naming gift that will create a new undergraduate instructional building and establish an endowed faculty chair at USC Marshall.
Accepting the award, Fertitta spoke about his parents “who never had the opportunity to graduate from college but always made education a top priority for their children.”
He concluded his remarks with a call to action: “Let’s continue to ‘Fight On!’ to keep USC one of the top institutions in the world.”