Alumnus George L. Pla awarded Cal State LA Presidential Medallion

May 20, 2017

By Cal State LA News Service

George L. Pla, an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose business and civic activities have helped communities across California, was awarded a California State University, Los Angeles Presidential Medallion during Commencement 2017.

A Cal State LA alumnus, Pla is president, CEO and founder of Cordoba Corporation, a nationally recognized civil engineering, program and construction management firm specializing in transportation, education, and water and energy infrastructure.

Pla delivered a moving address at the May 20 afternoon ceremony of the College of Natural and Social Sciences. He was applauded as he spoke about his immigrant background and how Cal State LA prepared him for a successful career. Pla, who was raised in East Los Angeles, arrived in the United States undocumented from Zacatecas, Mexico. He was the first in his family to graduate from college.

“My story is your story,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are a country of immigrants.”

Pla reminded the students that their strength lies in their diversity. “Your rich culture is a huge advantage. Be proud,” he said. “You are the future of our country.”

The Presidential Medallion is the University’s highest honor and is bestowed upon individuals who have displayed outstanding leadership and extraordinary service to the students and faculty of Cal State LA.

“George Pla is one of Cal State LA’s most distinguished alumni,” Covino told the thousands of people who filled the University Stadium.

Pla earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Cal State LA in 1972 and a Master of Public Administration from USC in 1974. In 1991, he was honored as Cal State LA’s Alumnus of the Year.

“He’s an inspiration to our students, and our community,” Cal State LA Executive Vice President Jose A. Gomez said. “George demonstrates that with opportunity comes responsibility.”

Pla has led Cordoba Corporation for more than 30 years. It is one of the top firms of its kind, providing services for large public infrastructure projects across the western United States. His professional achievements have been recognized by the Hispanic Business Magazine, where he was named as one of the “100 Most Influential Latinos” in the nation.

Pla has been a strong supporter of higher education and has served as a regent emeritus at Loyola Marymount University, presidential associate at the University of Southern California, and co-founder of the USC Latino Alumni Association.

Pla currently serves as the co-chair of the Southern California Leadership Council, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy partnership comprised of business and community leaders. He is also a member of the Cal State LA President's Council.

He is a co-founder of the City Club, a premier private business club in downtown Los Angeles that embraces and reflects the diversity and spirit of the city. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the California Science Center Foundation, and he chaired the planning and engineering efforts of the transport of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Pla is a past member of the Board of Directors for the Catalina Island Conservancy, which stewards approximately 42,000 acres on Catalina Island through a balance of conservation, education and recreation.

Cordoba Corporation is ranked by Engineering News-Record as one of the top professional services firms in the nation and transported the Space Shuttle Endeavour through the streets of Los Angeles in 2012 as more than one million cheering bystanders watched the historic event.

The May 20 ceremony was the second of nine that will run through Monday evening. More than 4,700 Cal State LA students will receive diplomas during the three days. The ceremonies take place as the University celebrates its 70th anniversary.   

Photo: President William A. Covino, right, presents a presidential medallion to Cordoba Corporation CEO George L. Pla. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

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Cal State LA is ranked number one in the nation based on the upward mobility of its students. Founded in 1947, Cal State LA is the premier public comprehensive university in the heart of Los Angeles and is dedicated to the mission of engagement, service, and the public good. The University serves more than 27,000 students and more than 247,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the region we serve. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

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