Class Notes

Winter 2018

Lead photo: Los Angeles State College, Sorority, Circa 1955. Image courtesy of Cal State LA Special Collections & Archives “Pictures of Our Past” Collection.


ABRAHAM HOFFMAN (’62 M.A.) gave a talk on his new book, California’s Deadliest Earthquakes: A History, at the Old Town Newhall Library on Aug. 12. He serves on the board of editors for Southern California Quarterly and is a member of the Los Angeles City Historical Society, and the Historical Society of Southern California.

FLORENCE LARUE (’66), an original founding member of the band The 5th Dimension and six-time Grammy Award winner, received an honor from former Los Angeles City Council Member Jan Perry during LaRue’s 75th birthday celebration in February 2017. The honor recognizes LaRue’s contributions as an artist and her support for youth in the arts and for the homeless.

SY A. LIEBERGOT (’63) will be added to the National Air and Space Museum’s Wall of Honor as an Air and Space Sponsor. Liebergot was an EECOM flight controller at the NASA Mission Control Center during the years of the Apollo Program.

ISA-KAE MEKSIN (’63 M.A.) was awarded the Distinguished Educator Award at the Cal State LA Charter College of Education’s 28th Annual Distinguished Educators Award Dinner. Meksin specializes in work with students who are disabled and visually impaired in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.

WALTER E. WILLIAMS (’65) is one of four recipients of the 2017 Bradley Prize, an honor that recognizes individuals of extraordinary talent and dedication to personal liberty, economic liberty and individual rights.


BRIAN FOGARTY (’74) has retired from his position as football head coach for the University of San Diego, having the most wins of any to hold this title.

BYRON NELSON (’77) served for 27 years with the Azusa Police Department and five years as chief of police. After retiring, Nelson moved to Sequim, Washington. He convinced the city manager of Sequim to keep the town’s police department and was offered and accepted the role of police chief.

GARY PHILLIPS (’78) edited and contributed to The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir, a satirical anthology series published in October by Three Rooms Press.

GEORGE L. PLA (’72), CEO and founder of Cordoba Corporation, was awarded a California State University, Los Angeles Presidential Medallion during Commencement 2017.

CYNTHIA M. RUIZ (’78, ’81 M.S.) was appointed to the Board of Administration of the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Ruiz has served as deputy executive director of external relations for the Port of Los Angeles, president of the Board of Public Works for the city of Los Angeles, on the city’s Emergency Operations Board, and was the lead commissioner for the city’s Bureau of Sanitation.

BERENICE ONOFRE VÁSQUEZ (’74, ’82, ’07, ’17) earned a doctoral degree in educational leadership at the age of 70. The four-time alumna was recognized by President William A. Covino during the Commencement 2017 ceremony for the Charter College of Education. She also earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing, master’s degree in nursing and master’s degree in public administration from the University.

FRANK YAN (’76) shared his oral history as part of the digital archives of the Chinese American Oral History Project at Cal State LA. Yan’s childhood was documented by well-known illustrator and author, Leo Politi, in the book Moy Moy, a classic in children’s stories about Los Angeles. A Los Angeles task force detective, Yan retired after 26 years of service with the rank of sergeant II.


ELIZABETH J. BLANCO (’88 M.A.) has been named assistant superintendent of special education and director of Pasadena Unified School District’s Special Education Local Plan Area.

EMILY DOLE (’80), athlete, actress and retired female professional wrestler, also known as Mount Fiji, played a beloved role in the 1986 television series Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, which is now the inspiration for the new Netflix series GLOW, released in 2017.

SALLY KAWANA (’87) has been promoted to chief financial officer of The Palisades Group, LLC.

BRIAN KORKUS, who retired from Coca-Cola after serving as the vice president of application and technology support, IT director and general manager of global field operations, will now serve on the Camp Haven Board of Directors.

TONY LEE (’89) has been named UCLA’s chief of police. For 26 years, Lee served the Beverly Hills Police Department in various roles, at one point as acting chief.

MICHAEL HANKIN LI (’85) has been appointed to the board of directors for Banro Corporation.

WARREN STANLEY (’89) was designated acting commissioner of the California Highway Patrol by Gov. Jerry Brown after serving two years as the CHP’s deputy commissioner.


FRANCES GIPSON (’98 M.A.), chief academic officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District, was the honorary chair of the Cal State LA Charter College of Education’s 28th Annual Distinguished Educators Award Dinner.

RAFAEL MORAN (’96), former Cal State LA men’s soccer player, is president, founder and director of Soccer With A Purpose (SWAP) training program. Moran develops youth soccer players through his passionate coaching philosophy.

GINA OROZCO-MEJIA (’91) was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Latinas of 2017 by for her position overseeing all gas distribution operations for Southern California Gas Company and San Diego Gas & Electric.

HERB POWELL (’92) has co-authored his first book My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire, a biography that delves into the life of band leader Maurice White.


WENDY CARRILLO (’05), an activist and journalist, was elected to California Assembly District 51. The district includes Cal State LA.

NATALIE HIDALGO (’08) was appointed the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station’s school resource officer for Golden Valley High School, Sierra Vista Junior High School and Sequoia School.

MARLENE LEYVA (’01) is a deputy coroner with the County of San Bernardino.

FELIZA ORTIZ-LICON (’09 Ph.D.) was a keynote speaker at Cal State LA’s 2017 Commencement for the Charter College of Education. She is the senior director of K-16 education for the National Council of La Raza and serves on the California State Board of Education.

SERGIO RAMIREZ (’05 M.P.A.) has been appointed to deputy director of economic and property development for the city of Long Beach.

SHELDON SCHWARTZ (’03) won best screenplay and cinematography at the Hollywood Weekly Film Festival with his film The Circle.

JUAN OBED SILVA (’08 M.S.), a former gang member who became paralyzed from a gunshot injury, is now a faculty member at East Los Angeles College and founded the ELAC Writers’ Society.

JOYCE WANG (’06), a teacher at City Terrace Elementary School and founder of the LAUSD Mandarin Immersion Program, was honored at the Charter College of Education’s 28th Annual Distinguished Educators Award Dinner.

LAKEISHA YOUNG (’03 M.A.) has been hired as principal at C.W. Woodbury Middle School in Las Vegas, Nevada.


JOHN CHEN (’11 M.S.) shared his history as part of the digital archives of the Chinese American Oral History Project. In 2015, he helped create a public history exhibit about his family, which was featured at Cal State LA’s John F. Kennedy Memorial Library. He retired from his medical practice at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and is now working on a second Ph.D. in history.

JOHN CHI (’15 M.S.), CEO and founder of Synova Life Sciences, won the top prize at the 4th Annual Cox Business Get Started Orange County Pitch competition.

JENNIFER CHUANG (’10 M.A.) was named Gamma Phi Beta Intercity Woman of the Year for her service to the sorority. She serves on the board of trustees for the Gamma Phi Beta Foundation, and she chairs the foundation’s finance committee.

PABLO DE LA HOYA (’16) was cinematographer for a short documentary film HALE, which won a 2017 Student Academy Award, and is eligible to compete for the 2018 Oscars in the documentary short subject category. De La Hoya is studying documentary at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

HANNAH FLANAGAN-FLORES (’13) was sworn in as a member of the Bellflower Unified School District’s Board of Education after serving on the PTA Council and the Measure BB Citizens Oversight Committee.

JAIME GUZMÁN (’12, ’14 M.A.) is a doctoral candidate in communication studies at the University of Denver and recipient of the California State University Doctoral Incentive Program. Guzmán has published a review of the book Latino City: Urban Planning, Politics and the Grassroots by Erualdo R. González.

MELODY KLINGENFUSS (’15) interned with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) before graduating from the USC Price School of Public Policy with a master’s degree. She now works as a statewide youth organizer for the California Dream Network run by the coalition.

MILES LAKE (’17) accomplished a childhood dream when he competed on the popular game show Jeopardy!

STACI MITCHELL (’05, ’10 M.A.), adjunct professor of Pan-African Studies at Cal State LA, wrote and directed Holy Seductive Dance, a play adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s novel Anthills of the Savannah, which was performed at the University’s Arena Theatre.

JOSHUA MUNZON (’16) has been signed to the Saigon Heat, a Vietnamese professional team in the ASEAN Basketball League.

CINDY VACA (’11), a veterinary student who volunteers for the community outreach program Triunfo, earned the Dr. Jack Walther Leadership Award from the Western Veterinary Conference.

MYLEN YAMAMOTO (’08, ’11 M.A.) won second place in the College of Business and Economics’ Business Pitch 2016 with the Cropsticks project. Yamamoto appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 7, 2017.

Lead photo: Los Angeles State College, Sorority, Circa 1955. Image courtesy of Cal State LA Special Collections & Archives “Pictures of Our Past” Collection.

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