Skip to Content (Press Enter)

University to Honor Visionary Alumni

Share This:

Five Titan alumni and an honorary alumnus will be recognized for their service and support of the university on Thursday, Feb. 28, during Cal State Fullerton’s annual Vision & Visionaries dinner and celebration at El Dorado Ranch.

This year’s honorees are:
Stephen Knott, chairman of the board, Knott’s Berry Farm (retired)
Honorary Alumnus Award

Knott and his family have been dedicated supporters of Cal State Fullerton for decades. He is an emeritus member of the university’s Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors, and is highly involved with the Guardian Scholars and President’s Scholars programs.

Knott’s charitable gifts were recognized in 2007, when he received the Bronze Legacy award at the university’s Legends & Legacies gala. He worked at Knott’s Berry Farm for 50 years, starting out as a grounds sweeper and eventually serving as chairman of the board until his retirement in 1997. His family of Titans includes his daughter Kimberly Knott-Verhoef ’86, ‘94 (B.A. business administration-marketing, MPA), and son Daniel Knott ’93, ‘97 (B.A. business administration-finance, MBA business administration-marketing).

Patrick S. Donahue ’78 (B.A. business administration-marketing), chairman  and chief executive officer, Donahue Schriber
Distinguished Alumnus Award

Donahue and his company, Donahue Schriber, have been generous supporters of Cal State Fullerton’s Real Estate and Land Use Institute (RELUI); the Guardian Scholars Program, which supports former foster youth; and the Veterans Resource Center.

His leadership led to the creation of the annual RELUI luncheon, which brings CEOs from the Orange County real estate community together, and the Titan Future Leaders Talk series, which showcases leadership skills to mentor CSUF students. Donahue Schriber’s executive team spearheaded the Orange County Real Estate Luncheon, an event that has raised more than $2 million to benefit Orange County veterans and granted funds to the Veterans Resource Center. Donahue and his wife, Paula, also support the Guardian Scholars program by annually providing new laptop computers for all incoming scholars. 

Donahue serves as chairman and chief executive officer of Donahue Schriber, which owns and operates 65 retail shopping centers.

Laurie Haack ’79, ’06 (B.S. computer science, M.S. software engineering), Battlefield Radar SW Section manager in Integrated Defense Systems (IDS), Raytheon
Distinguished Alumna Award

Haack has led efforts with Raytheon to support multiple College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) initiatives. She has been a driving force behind the Women in Computer Science and Engineering program; the ECS Center for Cybersecurity; and the future Navigation, Controls and Guidance Center.

Haack visits CSUF often as a member of the ECS Leadership Council and as a mentor and participant in ECS Professor for a Day, as well as the CSUF/Orange County Girl Scouts STEM event. She also mentors students as a partner on faculty research projects and encourages Raytheon coworkers to sponsor research projects, teach as part-time instructors and serve as judges for student projects.

Haack was the only female in her first undergraduate computer science course and was named “Best Master of Science” student in the first graduating class of the Software Engineering master’s program. Shortly after receiving her master’s degree, she was named as one of CSUF’s “50 Women of Distinction” for her career and life achievements.

Elizabeth Macias ’95 (B.A. psychology and ethnic studies), superior court judge, County of Orange
Distinguished Alumna Award

Macias, a Superior Court judge in Orange County’s Central Justice Center and a former deputy federal public defender, has shared her story to inspire Titans as the commencement keynote speaker in 2013, in classrooms and during her keynote for the launch of the university’s Criminal Justice Success Academy. She recently partnered with criminal justice faculty to offer a criminal courts experience to Titans, preparing them with skills to aid in their transition to the legal profession.

Macias is a first-generation Mexican-American and the first in her family to obtain a high school diploma and college degree. She is a graduate of California Western School of Law. In 2017, her alma mater, Santa Ana High School, named its Legal Studies Academy for her. The Orange County Hispanic Bar Association named her Judge of the Year. She is the vice president of the California Judges Association and president of the California Latino Judges Association.

Scott O’Brien ’77 (B.A. business administration-marketing), president, The Safariland Group
Distinguished Alumnus Award 

O’Brien is an active member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for Mihaylo College of Business and Economics and is highly invested in the college’s student success programs. He and his wife, Deanna, were initial contributors toward the construction of Mihaylo Hall. 

The Safariland Group, which provides security products to law enforcement and the military, works with Mihaylo graduate students in the college’s Small Business Institute capstone program, offering a semesterlong consulting opportunity for MBA students. O’Brien, who began his career at the company while a student at CSUF, also launched a student internship program for operations and supply chain management students to work at the Safariland Group.

Joaquin Valdepeñas ’78 (B.M. music performance), principal clarinetist, Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Distinguished Alumnus Award

Joaquin Valdepeñas is considered one of the most distinguished clarinetists of his generation. As a soloist and recitalist, he has been principal clarinetist in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since 1980. He also is a founding member of the Grammy-nominated Amici Chamber Ensemble. He recently returned to CSUF to teach classes for maturing clarinetists.

His dozens of recordings have earned two JUNO awards and three Grammy nominations. He has performed with Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Leif Ove Andsnes and Kathleen Battle, as well as the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio.

A native of Torreon, Mexico, Valdepeñas grew up in Anaheim, where he began studying the clarinet with the school band at 13, using a borrowed instrument. After completing his studies at CSUF, he was admitted to the prestigious music performance program at Yale University, where he earned his master’s degree.

Established in 1994, the Vision & Visionaries awards are the highest honors that the university bestows on alumni and community supporters. Event sponsors include Donahue Schriber Realty Group and GEICO. For more information about Vision & Visionaries, visit the event website or call 657-278-2586.