Top Alumni Inspire Success
Fresno State Alumni Association celebrates 2016 Top Dogs
by Kathleen R. Schock
Their diverse life stories touch nearly every corner of the globe, and all share one thing in common – an education at Fresno State. Whether restoring the gift of sight to people in developing countries, protecting the world’s rainforests, changing the lives of people with disabilities or improving the safety and well-being of agricultural workers, the 2016 Top Dog honorees embody what it means to be a Bulldog. Extraordinary professional success and a passionate commitment to give back are at the core of what it takes to be a Top Dog.
More than 1,000 people gathered Oct. 15 at the Save Mart Center to celebrate 14 of Fresno State’s most accomplished alumni at the Fresno State Alumni Association’s Top Dog Awards Gala, an inspirational night filled with bold stories of achievement and service.
Lawyer, international businessman and philanthropist James E. Brumm (1965) took home the Distinguished Alumnus award, the highest alumni honor of the night. “I didn’t know if I could cut it in college,” Brumm shared with students during Top Dog Talks, a TED-inspired event held two days before the gala. But he went on to excel academically, gaining confidence that propelled him to Columbia University in New York, where he earned his law degree.
A deep curiosity about the world inspired Brumm to achieve at a global level. In 1977 he joined Mitsubishi International Corporation, the U.S. subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation. He served as executive vice president and general counsel in the U.S. through 2012. In 1995 he became the first westerner to serve on Mitsubishi Corporation’s board in Japan, a position he held until 2002.
“One thing that always has given me pleasure is helping people and being of some value to somebody,” he says. “It just seems part of what the meaning of life is.”
Brumm’s commitment to human rights and environmental issues has taken him across the globe, working to protect the culture of indigenous peoples and natural habitats.
Each year one alumnus from each of the University’s eight academic schools and colleges, as well as the Department of Athletics, the Henry Madden Library, the Division of Student Affairs and the Division of Graduate Studies, is chosen to be honored with an Outstanding Alumni Award.
Valerie A. Vuicich (1979) was honored with the Arthur Safstrom Service Award, a special distinction to recognize service to the University and community. An administrator of the Career Technical Education/Fresno Regional Occupation Program for the Fresno County Office of Education, Vuicich has held a lifelong devotion to giving back. “The way you choose to serve will define the kind of community you want to live in,” Vuicich says.
Based on her decades of tireless work on behalf of Fresno State and the California State University, it is evident that Vuicich believes the University and community together
are improving the quality of life in the Central Valley.
“Our honorees are at the top in ways that matter: in character, in their families, in service to others, in their efforts to drive innovation and promote inclusiveness to solve our toughest problems on every front,” says Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. “Every year I am amazed by what our alumni have accomplished and inspired by the impact they make on the world.”
— Kathleen R. Schock is director of strategic communications at Fresno State.
One Night. 14 Stories. Endless Inspiration.
James E. Brumm (1965)
Mitsubishi Corporation, attorney/adviser
Arthur Safstrom Service Award
Valerie A. Vuicich (1979)
Fresno County Office of Education, administrator
Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
Earl E. Hall (1964)
Hall Management, founder
College of Arts and Humanities
Dr. Janice M. Emerzian (1969, ’73)
State Center Community College District, director for Disabled Students Programs and Services
Department of Athletics
Dennis DeLiddo (1969)
former Fresno State wrestling coach
Craig School of Business
Dora Celia Westerlund (1996)
Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation, founder/CEO
Kremen School of Education and Human Development
Dr. Berta Gonzalez (1970)
former associate dean/founder of the Division of Continuing and Global Education
Lyles College of Engineering
Raj Beasla (1989)
Pacific Gas and Electric, senior director of service planning and design
Division of Research and Graduate Studies
Anthony J. Rubino (1988, 2010)
Range squadron director at Edwards Air Force Base
College of Health and Human Services
Debbie Poochigian (1974)
Fresno County Board of Supervisors
Henry Madden Library
Dr. Lois Huter Tarkanian (1955, ’64)
Las Vegas City Council
College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Richard Whitten Jr. M.D.
Ophthalmologist/chief medical officer of Vision Health International
College of Social Sciences
Dante R. Simi (1963)
Division of Student Affairs
Paul DeRuosi (1972, ’85)
retired director of development and educational advocate