From left, back row: Jerry Neely, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Rebecca Soni, Barbara Cotler, Mitchell Lew; front row: Patrick Auerbach, Linda Givvin, Frank Fertitta, C. L. Max Nikias, Geraldine Knatz. Photo by Steve Cohn

Seven extraordinary Trojans were honored at the USC Alumni Association’s 80th annual Alumni Awards on April 27. Co-emcees Patrick E. Auerbach EdD ’08, associate senior vice president for alumni relations, and Mitchell Lew ’83, MD ’87, president of the USCAA Board of Governors, welcomed more than 600 Trojans and friends, including USC President C. L. Max Nikias and his wife, Niki C. Nikias. Meet the honorees:


This award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the university and the community and whose outstanding accomplishments have brought honor and recognition to USC.

Frank Fertitta III ’79

Member, USC Board of Trustees; Chairman and CEO, Fertitta Entertainment and Station Casinos

“My days at USC were some of the best times of my life. It was my first—and only—choice in terms of where I wanted to attend college. In 1984, I graduated from the USC Marshall School of Business, which provided the tools, skills and real-world business education that have allowed me to be successful in business. USC also provided me an overall college atmosphere and experience second to none.”


This award recognizes alumni whose remarkable accomplishments speak well for the range and quality of a USC education.

Geraldine Knatz MS ’77, PhD ’79

Executive director, Port of Los Angeles

“The teaching assistantship I had here gave me the ability to do back then what USC does so well today: engage in interdisciplinary studies. It was an opportunity I never could have afforded without this institution’s unyielding support. And it’s really gratifying to think that my work at USC paved the way for the leadership opportunity I was given to help shape our port’s efforts in reducing diesel particulate emissions by 70 percent in six years.”

The Honorable Mark Ridley-Thomas PhD ’89

Member, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Second District

“This university is by far the region’s premier asset—and the best is yet to come. It has been my high honor to collaborate with you [USC and the Trojan Family] as we seek to make Los Angeles a beacon for many to admire and emulate and celebrate for its diversity … and [see] USC as a model for universities across the length and breadth of the United States and even the world.”


This award recognizes the achievement of an alumnus or alumna under age 35.

Rebecca Soni ’09

Six-time Olympic medalist in swimming

“Over both of my Olympic experiences, in 2008 and 2012, I’ve really felt so much support from all of the USC community, which has been behind me 100 percent. Your pride in me has lifted me up and given me so much joy. Sharing my accomplishments with you has really made everything feel twice as strong. Sometimes I didn’t even know if I was racing for Team USA or Team USC!”


This award recognizes alumni for outstanding volunteer efforts on behalf of the university.

Barbara Cotler ’60

Member, USC Athletics Board of Counselors; Member, USC Alumni Association Board of Governors; Executive board member, USC “Spirit of Troy” Trojan Marching Band

“In the early ’70s, [my husband] Ken began to champion the need for the marching band to raise funds so they could travel to the away games. He knew I would take some convincing. I have never forgotten his sales pitch. He said, ‘Think about it. What gives you more pure pleasure than the TMB?’ I couldn’t think of a thing! Today, the band performs all over the world, [serving] as wonderful ambassadors for USC.”

Linda Givvin ’70

Past president, Town and Gown of USC; Member, USC Alumni Association Board of Governors; Member, USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy Board of Councilors

“USC has given me so much more than I can ever repay. With a great sense of pride, I am a USC Dornsife College girl and a graduate of the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. And so what inspired me to ‘Come Home to USC’ is what keeps me coming back for more: the unique Trojan Family spirit, the pride and traditions of USC, and the priceless lifelong friendships.”

Jerry Neely ’58

Member, USC Board of Trustees; Mentor, USC Marshall School of Business

“The Trojan Family has been very important in my life for more than 50 years. I am very honored and beyond proud to be included among this year’s honorees. And I am also mindful of all the USC Alumni Award honorees over the last 80 years … there could be more than 600 of them. That indicates how broad, how inclusive and how durable the university’s support groups are, including the [USC Alumni Association].”

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