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University News

Celebrations and Milestones


from Dateline (June 19, 2003)

Graduating class of 2003
Graduating class of 2003

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More than 34,000 graduates, candidates and guests took part in Cal State Fullerton’s 44th annual commencement celebrations May 31 and June 1.

This year, the campus celebrated the graduation of the first class of the Blended Teacher Education Program. The program, instituted in 1999, offers aspiring elementary school teachers the chance to earn a bachelor’s degree while simultaneously preparing for a teaching credential.

Last year, Cal State Fullerton saw the first graduates from the Guardian Scholars Program take part in commencement. This year, the university celebrated the continued success of the program as seven scholars joined in commencement festivities. The Guardian Scholars Program, established in 1998, provides financial and other support to CSUF-admitted students who have left the foster care system, were wards of the court or come from similar backgrounds.

Among those who wore the black gowns and mortarboards signaling the achievement of education and a transition to careers and other goals was the university’s youngest graduate, Shawna Tarr. Tarr was just 14 when she began her studies at Cal State Fullerton. Now 17, she recently completed the CSU Sacramento Semester and an internship in the office of state Sen. Dick Ackerman (R-Tustin). Tarr, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science, plans on joining the Navy and working in intelligence as a linguist.

On the same day, Helen Daniel took part in commencement as this year’s
oldest graduate. The 68-year-old received her bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies with a concentration in Chicano Studies.

One of the most inspiring speakers at commencement was this year’s President’s Associates Scholastic Award recipient: Sunshine Lawson, a blind, single mother of three who graduated summa cum laude. “One of my goals is to be a role model for my children in getting an education,”
she said. “I want to give them the message that if mom could do it, they could do it.” All three of her children, students at Sunny Hills High School, were there to join in the celebration. Lawson plans to continue her education in a doctoral program.

Sommer Kaskowitz, who compiled a record of community service that stretches from Orange County to Honduras, was awarded this year’s President’s Associates University Service Award, as well as the Miles D. McCarthy Health Professions Award, which honors a health professions student who demonstrates academic achievement, integrity and commitment to serve humanity. Kaskowitz has made annual visits to remote areas of Honduras with MEDICO, an organization that provides free medical, dental, optometric and educational services to people who have no basic health care. Kaskowitz, who has been accepted at four medical schools, returns to Honduras four weeks after graduation.

A former actress, who decided to change career roles from musical theater to medicine, was this year’s recipient of the Kenneth L. Goodhue-McWilliams Award for outstanding community service in the health professions field. After a seven-year stint on the New York stage, Heidi Meyer returned to the classroom as a postbaccalaureate student at Fullerton. During her tenure on campus, Meyer was a collegiate volunteer in the emergency room at Western Medical Center, a clinical care extender at Hoag Hospital and an after-school tutor in Orange.

The President’s Associates Outstanding Graduate Student Award was presented to Donovan German, a marine biology student who earned straight A’s while researching the digestive tract of herbivorous and carnivorous fish with mentor Michael H. Horn, professor of biological science. (See related story on Page 3.) German will pursue a doctorate in marine biology
at the University of Florida with the support of a five-year fellowship.

Jason Lorge, director of technology in the College of Communi-cations, celebrated earning his M.B.A. and this year’s Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award. Lorge has served as a volunteer in numerous endeavors with the Boy Scouts of America and Order of the Arrow and is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society, University Honors Society Council and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

Carey Kirian, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent development, won the Alumni Association Outstanding Senior Award for her community involvement. Kirian was a mentor at New River Elementary School in Norwalk, a student ambassador with the Orange County Association for the Education of Young Children and was involved in the Child and Adolescent Studies Student Association. She plans on starting
the campus teaching credential program this fall.

Cynthia Tran, this year’s recipient of the university’s International Under-standing Award, also earned a bachelor’s degrees in child and adolescent development. During her college career, Tran was actively involved in several campus organizations, including Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Student California Teachers Association, Golden Key International Honor Society, Phi Beta Kappa International Scholar Honor Society and the Finance Association.
She volunteered at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, elderly nursing
centers and with the Special Olympics. She returns to campus this fall to begin the multiple-subject credential program.

Seventeen members of the campus Army ROTC were commissioned as
second lieutenants on May 31. It is one of the largest classes of cadets to be commissioned in the university program. Among the new lieutenants were cadets from Battombong, Cambodia, and Zacatecoluca, El Salvador.

Commencement was a time of sadness and celebration for Nanci and Rick Perkins as they received a posthumous bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent development for their daughter Kimberly, who died in January. To further honor their daughter, the Perkins instituted the Kimberly Perkins Award for Dedication to Academic Excellence. The first recipient was Tracey Hughes, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent

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