Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin honored Fresno State President John D. Welty with the Key to the City during the annual State of the City luncheon today in downtown Fresno.

During the presentation, Mayor Swearengin commended Welty for his 22 years of service to Central California and recognized Fresno State as an economic engine that drives regional growth.

“It is difficult to imagine anyone who has had a more significant positive impact on the City of Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley over the past 20-plus years than President Welty,” Mayor Swearengin said. “He has put the university – and us – on the national map.

“When he arrived in Fresno in 1991, he challenged the status quo. He simply did not accept that the way things were was the way that they had to be. He turned the university inside out in his pursuit of excellence, reaching deep within the university to find students and faculty and administrators who could apply their talents and passion to improving the San Joaquin Valley.”

After awarding the key, the mayor invited the audience of more than 700 to stand and wave red pompoms as the Bulldog Beat band played the Fresno State fight song.

Since taking office in 2008, Mayor Swearengin has established a tradition of awarding the Key to the City to an inspirational community leader. Previous recipients include retired City of Fresno employee Shur Vangyi; long-time foster parent Shirley Bobbitt; Dr. Marty and Joanie Martin, who have spent more than 20 years in the Lowell neighborhood caring for its residents; and Janice Scott, a former homeless person who overcame incredible odds to graduate with honors from Heald College and continues to pursue her education.