By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service
Cal State LA honored 11 distinguished alumni at its 2018 Alumni Awards Gala, including MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian as Alumnus of the Year.
Generations of Diablos and Golden Eagles returned to the university for the October 12 gala for an evening of mingling, reminiscing and celebration of Cal State LA and its outstanding alumni.
President William A. Covino welcomed guests and noted the university’s ascension to national prominence. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the nation for the upward mobility of its students. Covino thanked alumni and supporters for their part in the university’s success and contributions to the region and the world.
“Los Angeles and the nation need Cal State LA alums who understand our ethos of excellence and of service. The world needs Cal State LA graduates who will follow in the footsteps of the alumni we are honoring tonight,” Covino said to the hundreds of guests gathered in the Golden Eagle Ballroom, adorned in black and gold. “To the honorees, simply, thank you. Your success inspires us all. Because of you, Golden Eagles, we are soaring.”
Speakers also included Cal State LA Alumni Association Board President Dwight Nakata, ’81, and program emcee and host Rosario Marin, ’83, the 2002 Alumna of the Year.
Marin, former U.S. Treasurer, introduced this year’s honorees and outlined their accomplishments and contributions to Cal State LA. The night was marked by awe-inspiring stories of humble beginnings, transformative education and exceptional accomplishments.
After receiving the Alumnus of the Year award, Larian shared an inspiring story about his journey from growing up in Tehran, Iran, to founding MGA Entertainment and building it into the largest private toy company in the world. The firm is well known for launching the Bratz line of dolls that revolutionized the doll industry.
Larian has been repeatedly named to the Forbes Billionaires List and was honored with the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2005.
Larian recounted his memories of coming to the United States at the age of 17 with $750 in his pocket. He worked as a dishwasher for $1.65 an hour while attending Cal State LA during the day. Larian graduated from the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1978 and started his company the next year.
“Only in a great country like America can an ex-immigrant and dishwasher like me stand here after 45 years in this beautiful country and be recognized as Alumnus of the Year,” Larian said to resounding applause. “America was great then and America is still great today.”
“I am thankful to Cal State LA for giving me the foundation that was needed for me to be successful as a businessman and as a person in this country,” Larian added.
President Covino, Vice President for University Advancement Janet S. Dial and the college deans greeted the Distinguished Alumnus and Alumna Award honorees, including Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny, alumnus of the College of Business and Economics, and Patricia A. Chin, alumna of the Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services.
Freeny thanked the professors and mentors who influenced his success in life, including one who was in attendance, fellow Cal State LA alumnus Ron Okum, who also served as Tournament of Roses president in 2001-2002.
Patricia Chin is the namesake of Cal State LA’s first named school, the Patricia A. Chin School of Nursing. She reflected on how the university has changed over the years but has retained its character while it has grown in prominence.
“It continues to be one of the best kept secrets in the L.A. basin,” she said. “I have always been and continue to be proud to say that I am a graduate of California State University, Los Angeles.”
The full list of honorees is included below.
Alumnus of the Year
Isaac Larian, ’78
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
MGA Entertainment, Inc.
College of Arts and Letters
Laurie Lopez Tixier, ’87
Senior Vice President, Unscripted & Alternative TV
Warner Bros. Television
College of Business and Economics
Gerald Freeny, ’83
President, Tournament of Roses
Charter College of Education
Raul J. Cardoza, Ed.D., ’67, ’73
Past President, Chabot Community College
College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology
Souzane H. Tacawy, Ed.D., ’82
Senior Manager, Boeing Test & Evaluation
The Boeing Company
College of Natural and Social Sciences
Sumanta Kumar Pal, M.D., ’99
Assistant Clinical Professor, Genitourinary Malignancies
City of Hope National Medical Center
Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services
Patricia A. Chin, R.N., D.N.S., ’80, ’84
Board President, Chin Family Institute for Nursing at Cal State LA
Alumni Family Award
Margarita Navarro, ’85
Vice President of Catering Operations
Porto's Bakery and Café
Raul Porto, Jr., ’84
Porto's Bakery and Café
Beatriz Porto-Magadan, ’80
Vice President of Community Relations
Porto's Bakery and Café
Golden Eagle Award
Ricson Chude, P.E., ’08
DSM Planning & Integration
Southern California Edison
Photos: Above, MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian speaks to the audience after receiving the Alumnus of the Year award. Middle, The Golden Eagle Ballroom was transformed for the October 12 gala. Bottom, The Alumni Awards Gala honorees with President William A. Covino. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores and Robert Huskey/Cal State LA)
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.