search button
newscenter logo
Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Follow SDSU Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook SDSU RSS Feed

In 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy became the first to receive an honorary doctoral degree from what was then San Diego State College. In 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy became the first to receive an honorary doctoral degree from what was then San Diego State College.
 


SDSU to Award Seven Honorary Degrees

The group includes three individuals who were scheduled to be conferred honorary degrees in 2020.
By SDSU News Team
 

San Diego State University will award seven honorary degrees this year, recognizing individuals who have served the university, the San Diego community and the nation.

During this month’s Commencement ceremonies, honorary degrees will be awarded to Steve Doyle, Walt Ekard, Thuan Nguyen and Jose Padilla as well as Jessie Knight, Joe Kiani and Nicole Clay, who were scheduled to be conferred honorary degrees in 2020. Padilla will be conferred the honorary degree in 2022, when SDSU Imperial Valley holds an in-person Commencement ceremony.

In 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy became the first to receive an honorary doctoral degree from what was then San Diego State College. 

About the 2021 Awardees

Nicole Armanino Clay’s (Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters) relationship with the university began nearly six decades ago as a student at San Diego State College, where she was active in Associated Students. As an alumna, she has been a consummate volunteer and donor under four San Diego State presidents. She serves as the current chair of The Campanile Foundation after more than 20 years as an active board member. She is a past member and chair of the alumni board, with a leadership role in fundraising for the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center. Clay and her husband, Ben, support Presidential Scholars, the Ben and Nikki Clay Scholarship in Public Affairs, The Campanile Foundation Endowed Chair and athletics and veterans programs.

Jessie J. Knight, Jr. (Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters) is managing director of Knight Angels LLC, a private equity fund devoted to anonymous financial support of community improvement projects that are led by innovative minority, women and military veteran leaders. He formerly served as Sempra Energy's executive vice president of external affairs, chief sustainability officer and chairman of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Company. Knight was the governor-appointed commissioner for the California Public Utilities Commission. In 2013, the Corporate Directors Forum named Knight Director of the Year for Corporate Citizenship. 

Thuan Dinh Nguyen (Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters) has more than 20 years of experience in education. He has held executive roles in information technology, instructional technology, safety and security, communications and public relations. His work has been recognized by the Center for Digital Education, the National School Public Relations Association and the National School Boards Association. He was also named one of the 100 most important people in education technology by Tech & Learning. As chief operating officer for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination, Nguyen oversees digital teaching and learning for the nonprofit organization that is dedicated to supporting underserved students.

Walter Francis Ekard (Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters) served as the chief administrative officer for the County of San Diego from 1999 to 2012. During his tenure, he participated in San Diego's dramatic transformation, including the creation of a structurally balanced budget and the implementation of a general management system. In this role, he provided policy-based program and financial decision-making support to the board and oversaw the operation of 40 departments that provided services ranging from health and human services to criminal justice programs, land use planning, public works, libraries, and voter registrar services. As a lecturer in the School of Public Affairs at SDSU, he taught and mentored students, providing them with contemporary theory in practice as well as assistance in securing internships in the offices of local elected officials. 

Stephen P. Doyle (Doctor of Science) is a proud and active alumnus of SDSU, where he earned his engineering degree in 1980. Doyle was elected president of the San Diego Building Industry Association in 2001, and was named to the California Building Industry Hall of Fame in March 2007 and the San Diego Building Industry Hall of Fame in 2009. Doyle is a long-serving member of SDSU College of Engineering Dean's Advisory Board, and has served as board chair since 2015. In 2008, Doyle received the SDSU College of Engineering Outstanding Alumni Award. In 2017, he joined SDSU's Campanile Foundation Board and served as fundraising chair of the Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences Complex. In 2018, Doyle’s leadership on the Friends of SDSU committee was instrumental in passing Measure G, which allowed the university to purchase city-owned property and expand its offerings through SDSU Mission Valley.

Massi Joseph E. Kiani (Doctor of Science) is the founder, chair and chief executive officer of Masimo, a medical device company that focuses on medical monitoring. In 2012 as founder of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation, he launched a mission to drastically reduce the number of preventable deaths in U.S. hospitals. The movement soon became global, with more than 54 countries and nearly 5,000 hospitals joining and reporting more than 350,000 lives saved worldwide. Becker's Hospital Review has named him one of the “50 Experts Leading the Field of Patient Safety.” Kiani has been a longtime member of the SDSU College of Engineering Advisory Board, and a recipient of SDSU’s Distinguished Alumni Award. He received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from San Diego State in electrical engineering.

José Padilla (Doctor of Laws) is the executive director of the state-wide nonprofit law firm California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA). For decades, the firm has been committed to advancing access to public education for all children in California and protecting the rights of essential workers, particularly farmworkers. Padilla is the vice-chair of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council and serves on the National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s Board of Directors, where he served as board chair in 2008. He testified before President Bill Clinton’s Commission on Race, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and various legislative bodies addressing issues of voting and language rights. In 2001 and 2007, the LA/SF Daily Journal selected him as one of the “100 Influential Lawyers in California.” In 2006, he was named one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States” by Hispanic Business Magazine. 

 
SDSU to Award Seven Honorary Degrees
The group includes three individuals who were scheduled to be conferred honorary degrees in 2020.