Top Alumni Inspire Success

Fresno State Alumni Association celebrates 2016 Top Dogs

by Kathleen R. Schock

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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.


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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.

Distinguished Alumnus

James Brumm

James E. Brumm (1965)
Mitsubishi Corporation, attorney/adviser

Arthur Safstrom Service Award

Valerie A. Vuicich

Valerie A. Vuicich (1979) 
Fresno County Office of Education, administrator

Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Earl E. Hall

Earl E. Hall (1964)
Hall Management, founder

College of Arts and Humanities

Dr. Janice M. Emerzian

Dr. Janice M. Emerzian (1969, ’73)
State Center Community College District, director for Disabled Students Programs and Services

Department of Athletics

Dennis DeLiddo

Dennis DeLiddo (1969)
former Fresno State wrestling coach

Craig School of Business

Dora Celia Westerlund

Dora Celia Westerlund (1996)
Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation, founder/CEO

Kremen School of Education and Human Development

Dr. Berta Gonzalez

Dr. Berta Gonzalez (1970)
former associate dean/founder of the Division of Continuing and Global Education

Lyles College of Engineering

Raj Beasla

Raj Beasla (1989)
Pacific Gas and Electric, senior director of service planning and design

Division of Research and Graduate Studies

Anthony J. Rubino

Anthony J. Rubino (1988, 2010)
Range squadron director at Edwards Air Force Base

College of Health and Human Services

Debbie Poochigian

Debbie Poochigian (1974)
Fresno County Board of Supervisors

Henry Madden Library

Dr. Lois Huter Tarkanian

Dr. Lois Huter Tarkanian (1955, ’64)
Las Vegas City Council

College of Science and Mathematics

Dr. Richard Whitten Jr. M.D.

Dr. Richard Whitten Jr. M.D.
Ophthalmologist/chief medical officer of Vision Health International

College of Social Sciences

Dante R. Simi

Dante R. Simi (1963)
Learn4Life, co-founder/CEO

Division of Student Affairs

Paul DeRuosi

Paul DeRuosi (1972, ’85)
retired director of development and educational advocate