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Cal State Fullerton students perform a tribute to the Auto Club. Photo by P. O'Donnell

Saluting a SoCal Icon

Cal State Fullerton Honors Automobile Club

March 2, 2010

At the very beginning of the 20th century, 10 men recognized that the automobile would play a key role in the future and founded the Automobile Club of Southern California. Today, more than six million Californians are members of the Auto Club, making it the largest affiliate of the American Automobile Association.

Cal State Fullerton honored that legacy Feb. 20 when it presented the Orange County Titan Award to the Automobile Club of Southern California during Front & Center 2010.

Thomas V. McKernan, right, accepts Cal State Fullerton's Orange County Titan Award from President Milton A. Gordon, left, and actress Kirsten Vangsness. Photo by P. O'Donnell

Now 110 years old, the Auto Club started by offering travel services and social events for its members, promoting the construction of good roads, and protecting the rights and privileges of motorists. As Americans began touring the region, the Auto Club began posting safety and direction signs, developing maps and tour books, and educating its members about traffic safety through programs offered at its many local offices. Offering home and auto insurance services followed.

Education and community involvement are part of the Auto Club’s efforts throughout the region. In Orange County, the organization recently partnered with the County of Orange Health Care Agency’s alcohol and drug education and prevention team to launch the Orange County DUI Prevention Task Force, whose goal is to combat impaired driving.

At Cal State Fullerton, the Auto Club has been a strong supporter of the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics’ Center for Insurance Studies, where CEO Thomas V. McKernan serves on the board of directors.

McKernan, a Cal State Los Angeles graduate who has spent most of his career with the Auto Club, accepted the Orange County Titan Award on behalf of the organization.

During his nearly 20-year tenure as Auto Club CEO, membership has tripled and expanded into other states, growing into one of the largest auto and home insurers in California.

Like the Auto Club, McKernan is involved in his community. Since 1997, he has chaired the board of the California State Chamber of Commerce and since 2008, the Orange County Performing Arts Center Board of Directors. He co-chairs California Forward’s Leadership Council. In addition, he serves on the California Business Roundtable and is past chair of the Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees. Currently, he serves on the boards of Payden & Rygel Investment Group, Blue Shield of California and Forest Lawn Memorial Parks Association.

Previous Orange County Titan Award recipients include: Orange County Teachers Federal Credit Union, First American Corp., Anaheim Angels, Orangewood Children’s Foundation, Emulex Corp. Executive Chairman Paul Folino, Robert and Marie Gray of St. John Knits, and Jim and Patti Edwards of Edwards Theatres.

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