Author and education administrator Armen Derian Bacon leads the 2015 class of accomplished Fresno State alumni who will be recognized Oct. 9 at the Fresno State Alumni Association’s Top Dog Alumni Awards Gala at the Save Mart Center in Fresno. Bacon will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award for her service to the community, professional accomplishments as an educational and non-profit leader and her success as the published author of two books.
Each year, one alumnus is chosen as Top Dog Outstanding Alumni from each of the University’s academic schools and colleges, the Department of Athletics, the Henry Madden Library, the Division of Student Affairs and the Division of Graduate Studies. (See bios below).
Service to the University and community will be recognized with the Arthur Safstrom Service Award, presented this year to Dr. Robert Monke, emeritus faculty and former associate dean of Fresno State’s Kremen School of Education and Human Development.
“The Top Dog Alumni Awards Gala is Fresno State’s premier event recognizing the incredible achievements of our alumni,” said Jacquelyn Glasener, director of the Alumni Association. “The honorees this year represent the very best of what it means to be a Bulldog, and we are excited to celebrate each honoree’s inspiring accomplishments.”
Based on scholarship, leadership and service to the University, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest alumni honor given.
Bacon, a native of Fresno, graduated from Fresno State in 1973 with a degree in psychology. A leader in education, public relations and non-profit administration, Bacon served for two decades as administrator of communications and public relations for the Fresno County Office of Education. Her vast community service includes serving on Fresno State’s University Advisory Board, the Kremen School Alumni Association’s board and the College of Arts and Humanities Advisory Board.
Bacon is a featured columnist at The Fresno Bee and author of two books — “My Name is Armen: A Life in Column Inches” in 2014 and “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship,” co-authored with Nancy Miller and published in 2012.
Fresno State’s 2015 Outstanding Alumni are:
- Distinguished Alumna: Armen Derian Bacon (1973), author and former administrator of communications and public relations for the Fresno County Office of Education
- Arthur Safstrom Service Award: Dr. Robert Monke (friend), emeritus faculty and former associate dean of Fresno State’s Kremen School of Education and Human Development
- Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology: Marvin A. Meyers (1956) farmer, water conservationists and advocate for education
- College of Arts and Humanities: Honorable Mark Anthony Scott (1980), Superior Court judge in the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit
- Department of Athletics: R. Elaine Mason (1947), coach of Fresno State’s women’s tennis team and winner of 94 national tennis championships
- Craig School of Business: Kyle T. Stephenson (1974), managing partner of Fresno accounting firm Baker, Peterson, Franklin
- Kremen School of Education and Human Development: Dr. Robert Aguilar (1962), retired superintendent of Delano School District
- Lyles College of Engineering: Diana Gomez (1988), Central Valley regional director of the California High Speed Rail Authority
- Division of Graduate Studies: Robin Johnston McGehee (1998), communications professor at College of the Sequoias and national LGBTQ rights advocate
- College of Health and Human Services: Dr. Stuart Katzman (1987), physical therapist and owner of Evergreen Physical Therapy in San Jose
- Henry Madden Library: Geraldine Tahajian (1965), teacher, education leader, community volunteer and general contractor
- College of Science and Mathematics: Scott Barton (1982), CEO/director of Fresno Chaffee Zoo
- College of Social Sciences: Diana S. Dooley (1972), secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency
- Division of Student Affairs: Ryan Jacobsen (2002, 2004), director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau
The formal event will also recognize student scholars with $147,000 awarded to students based on academic achievement, financial need and service to the community. The Fresno State Alumni Association leads the 23-campus California State University system in student scholarship giving.
Tickets for the Top Dog event are $125 per person and available by calling 559.278.ALUM or online at www.fresnostatealumni.com.
Sponsorship opportunities are available. Contact Katie Adamo at email@example.com or 559.278.5723 for more information.
Top Dog 2015 Bios
Armen Derian Bacon BA ’73 (LIFE)
Armen Derian Bacon, a 20-year leader in education, public relations and non-profit administration, is today best known for her storytelling. As a featured columnist for “The Fresno Bee,” Armen is a master at finding insight into the human condition. She is a sought-after public speaker and author of two books (“My Name is Armen: A Life in Column Inches” and “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship,” co-authored with Nancy Miller).
Her current success as an author was never an aspiration during childhood, although meeting William Saroyan (her literary hero) and working on two festivals organized in his honor definitely inspired her. The spark igniting her writing passion was an unexpected call delivering unthinkable news. Her son, Alex, had died.
Armen discovered writing to be the wind in her sails that helped her navigate and survive her grief. Returning to Fresno State, she spent four summers studying memoir, narrative non-fiction and poetic prose as part of the CSU Summer Arts Program. The experience, she says, was “life-changing.”
Deeply rooted to the Valley, Armen served as administrator of communications and public relations for the Fresno County Office of Education for two decades and has a long history of community involvement serving on boards of multiple organizations: ValleyPBS, Fresno Regional Foundation, Fresno Art Museum, YWCA, and the Junior Company Foundation. Her support of Fresno State includes serving on the University Advisory Board, the College of Arts and Humanities Advisory Board and the Kremen School Alumni Chapter’s Board of Directors.
Armen earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Fresno State in 1973. In 2002, she was recipient of the Marjaree Mason Top Ten Women of the Year Award. In 2006, she received the Fresno State Kremen School of Education and Human Development Friend of Education Noted Alumna Award. In 2014, she received the William F. Noli and FCOE Lifetime Achievement Awards for her work in education.
While book writing, speaking engagements and a love of travel take Armen around the globe, she is happiest at home surrounded by family: her husband, Dan; daughter, Danielle; and grandchildren, Logan, Arden, Ani, Dennis and Sosi.
Robert Monke (LIFE)
ARTHUR SAFSTROM SERVICE AWARD
When Dr. Robert Monke arrived at Fresno State in 1969 as a faculty member in the Kremen School of Educational and Human Development, the school gained one of the most dedicated and effective champions in its history. Robert has dedicated his career and retirement to improving educational opportunities for students in the San Joaquin Valley by supporting the Kremen School and advancing teacher training opportunities.
Born in Litchfield Ill., Robert started his career in education as a high school teacher, then a counselor. He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts and master’s in counseling from Illinois State University, then a Ph.D. in counseling at Arizona State University.
During his career at Fresno State, he focused on counseling and teacher preparation, gender equity and diversity, and community collaboration for improved learning. In 1985, he was named associate dean of the Kremen School and served as interim dean from 1988 to 1989 and from 1996 to 1997.
He was instrumental in the planning, development, construction and relocation into the school’s current building on Maple and Shaw avenues in 1994. He has served on numerous boards to enhance the teacher credential program at Fresno State. In 1993, Robert helped develop the concept of the Teacher and Friends of Education Honor Wall outside of the Kremen School. He has served as the chair of the Bricks Committee for more than 20 years. To date, that project has raised nearly $332,000 to improve educational technology that prepares future teachers. His colleagues established a scholarship in his name to support future teachers and counselors. That endowment fund has currently raised $36,000 and continues to grow.
Robert retired in 2002, but never stopped giving back to the University. He currently serves on the Kremen Alumni Chapter Board, helping to lead one of the most engaged alumni chapters at Fresno State.
Marvin A. Meyers BS ’56 (LIFE)
Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
A pioneer in agriculture and water conservation, Marvin Meyers is a visionary businessman and community leader who founded the state’s only privately owned water banking facility.
Born in Los Angeles, Marvin set his sights on agriculture at a young age. He earned his degree in agriculture from Fresno State in 1956. Following his service in the U.S. Army, Marvin operated Meyers Agricultural Chemicals for 16 years. In 1977, he sold the business and began farming, eventually expanding to 6,000 acres of almonds, cherries, pistachios and olives on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Inspired by the drought in the mid-1990s, Marvin purchased the old Spreckles Sugar property near Mendota and launched the Meyers Water Bank and Wildlife Project. This one-of-a-kind project makes surplus water from wet years available for use in dry years by banking it underground. After years of negotiations, in 2002 Marvin obtained the necessary permits to begin pumping water from the Mendota Pool. The project was completed with private funds.
He is a passionate supporter of education. In conjunction with the Fresno County Office of Education, the Meyers Water Bank and Wildlife Project hosts hundreds of children each year and participates in a Fair Education Program to inform students about the Valley’s rich agricultural heritage.
Marvin remains deeply connected to Fresno State, supporting the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, the College of Arts and Humanities, and the Department of Athletics. He is a member of the Presidential Commission on the Future of Agriculture and the President’s Task Force on Water. He also restored the Jordan College’s livestock judging team, a popular student activity that had been dormant due to lack of funding.
He has served on the boards of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, Fresno County Office of Education and Drought Advisory Panel. In 2007, he was recognized by Gov. Schwarzenegger with the Environmental and Economic Leadership Award. The San Joaquin Valley Chamber of Commerce chose Marvin as Agriculturalist of the Year in 2010.
Marvin and Patricia Meyers have been married for more than four decades and have three children and six grandchildren.
Mark Anthony Scott BA ‘80
College of Arts and Humanities
In Decatur, Georgia — where Judge Mark Anthony Scott presides over the Superior Court in the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit — identifying as a Bulldog has a very different meaning than it does in California. But as a proud alumnus, Mark jokes that the only Bulldog he allows anyone to root for in his courtroom is Fresno State’s.
Born in Charlottesville, VA in the years trailing the landmark Brown vs. The Board of Education decision, Mark made his way through recently desegregated public schools before joining the Air Force. While stationed in Victorville, Mark earned an A.A. from a local community college and was presented with an opportunity to continue his education at either Fresno State or UCLA. Looking back on that time, Mark says choosing Fresno State is one of the best decisions he ever made.
Mark excelled academically, graduating from Fresno State in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in communication. With encouragement from his professors at Fresno State, Mark went on to study law at Howard University in Washington D.C., graduating in 1984.
During law school, Mark became a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. fraternity, reaching the position of a Province Polemarch (regional director) only seven years after initiation. In 2007, he received the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Elder Watson Diggs Award.
He is a former board member of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council and a graduate of the National Judicial College. He is a current member of the 100 Black Men of DeKalb County Inc. and has mentored young African-American youth through the organization’s Leadership Academy. He is also the recipient of the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service.
Mark continues to engage with his alma mater, mentoring Fresno State students, participating in panels, and enthusiastically promoting the University with friends and colleagues.
R. Elaine Mason BS ’47 (LIFE)
Department of Athletics
When R. Elaine Mason says that tennis is a lifetime sport, she means it. After a career teaching tennis to others, Elaine decided it was time for her to play competitively, making her national tournament debut at the age of 64. She quickly made a name for herself, becoming one of the top players in the world.
Elaine played little tennis as a student. After graduating from Fresno State in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, she taught high school in Modesto, where she also had her first tennis lesson. She became passionate about teaching the sport, designing and patenting the world’s first children’s tennis racquet in 1963 and leading clinics for tennis instructors.
After a decade teaching high school, Elaine returned to her alma mater as a professor. During her 22-year career at Fresno State, she taught, served as department chair in physical education and coached women’s tennis. She authored a book on tennis, published articles and appeared in tennis films.
After retirement, Elaine made the bold decision to play competitively. To date she has won 95 national age group championships, 14 world titles and 11 gold slams. Her tournament play also paved the way for international travel as part of USTA “Cup” teams in Turkey, Austria , South Africa, Spain and Australia.
Elaine says a highlight of her competitive career was serving as captain at the “Friendship Cup” from 2002 to 2012. She won eight European Championships and one Austrian Championship during this period. She was a staff member for the USTA Tennis Teachers workshop in New York, where she taught professionals from around the world.
In 1971, Elaine was awarded the USTA Tennis Leadership Award; and in 1982, she was awarded the USTA Special Education Tennis Merit award. Elaine was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996, the Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Central California Tennis Association Hall of fame in 2005. In 2010, the USTA presented her with the Service Bowl Award; in 2013, a sculpture was dedicated in her honor at the Fig Garden Swim and Racquet Club in Fresno.
Kyle T. Stephenson BS ’75 (LIFE)
Craig School of Business
Kyle Stephenson’s philosophy is that accounting is about people, not numbers. He says that the collaboration he has with clients, community leaders and co-workers is what creates the solutions and opportunities that help make the community a better place.
Born and raised in Fresno, Kyle is the managing partner of Baker, Peterson, Franklin, one of the largest locally owned accounting firms. In that role, he supports the local economy, serving a number of industries including agriculture, real estate, manufacturing, distribution and processing, as well as closely held family businesses.
Kyle’s interest in business goes back to an early age. He graduated from the Craig School of Business in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He joined Baker, Peterson, Franklin in 1976 and received his CPA certificate in 1979. With nearly 40 years’ experience with the firm, Kyle has played an integral part in the company’s growth.
Active in his community, Kyle has a particular passion to improve the health, wellness and education of the Central Valley. He served as past chairman of the board of trustees for Valley Children’s Hospital. Currently he serves on the Community Regional Medical Center’s finance and planning committee; he is also on the strategic planning advisory committee for the California Health Sciences University.
A long-time volunteer and friend to the Craig School of Business, Kyle has supported his alma mater as a former board member of the Business Advisory Committee and former president of the Fresno State Alumni Association. He was also a member of the Business Associates and currently serves as a board member for the California State University, Fresno Foundation. Over the years, Kyle has also served as a mentor to the many Fresno State students and alumni who intern and work for his firm.
Kyle and his wife Terri (who met while attending Fresno State) have two children and one grandchild.
Robert Aguilar BA ’62 (LIFE)
Kremen School of Education and Human Development
Dr. Robert Aguilar’s appointment in 2007 as superintendent of the Delano Union School District was a homecoming for the educational leader. Robert’s experience with the district started as a student in the 1950s, then as a teacher in the 1960s. Under his leadership, the district opened a new education complex, expanded learning programs and received state recognition for academic achievement. For Robert, the accomplishments were a way to give back to the district that launched his success.
Born in Texas, Robert’s mother moved the family to Los Angeles before settling in Delano when he was in seventh grade. When not in school, Robert played sports and worked in the fields along with his five siblings. He served in the U.S. Army Airborne before working with the late Cesar E. Chavez and the United Farm Workers.
Robert received a bachelor’s degree in education from Fresno State in 1962, a master’s in administration/instruction from San Jose State University in 1972 and a doctorate in administration/curriculum from the University of the Pacific in 1976.
With more than 50 years’ experience in education, he has served as teacher, counselor, principal, director of migrant education and superintendent for school districts throughout California. He co-founded the Association of Mexican American Educators in 1965 and the California Association of Latino School Administrators in 1977.
His accolades include Administrator of the Year from the Association of California School Administrators region 14, and recognition from Executive Education 100 as one of the 100 Outstanding School Executives in North America. The Association of School Administrators named Robert as Superintendent Emeritus in honor of his 35 years in the superintendency.
Robert is serving his third year as a Kremen School of Education and Human Development Community Council member and is the driving force behind a new initiative to create a teacher pipeline between Fresno State and the South Valley.
Robert is now president/CEO of WASA. Married to wife Gloria for more than 50 years, they are parents to Tony and Robert Jr. and grandparents to Candice, Tara, Carley, Curste, Trenton and great grandson Asher, as well as Ariel, Alyssa and Brandon.
Diana Gomez BS ’88 (LIFE)
Lyles College of Engineering
As the Central Valley regional director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Diana Gomez is driving the effort to bring a high-speed rail system that’s on time and on budget. Her responsibility is massive, but Diana says the foundation of her success is based on the values of hard work and persistence she learned from working in the fields with her grandfather.
Born and raised in Parlier, Diana says her interest in engineering was sparked when a female engineer gave a lecture at her high school. With her goal firmly cemented, Diana followed in her sister’s footsteps and enrolled at Fresno State. She describes her first days on campus as overwhelming, but cites the support of key faculty as helping her excel in the program. Diana graduated in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and began her career with Caltrans as a transportation electrical engineer. She has held various leadership positions with Caltrans, including serving as the deputy district director of operations in Los Angeles.
For more than two decades, Diana has played an active role in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. In 2003, she was selected to serve as the organization’s national president. In 2014, she received the Jamie Oaxaca Award, the highest honor awarded by the national organization.
Diana gives back to her community by speaking at local high schools and encouraging young people to pursue careers in mathematics, technology, engineering and science. She has led academic programs for Latino students directed at developing science education and college awareness initiatives. Diana has received national recognition as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics by “Hispanic Business” and as one of the top 100 Hispanics in the technical field by “Hispanic Engineer.”
She is currently a board member for the Fresno State Alumni Association and on the advisory board for the Lyles College of Engineering.
Robin Johnston McGehee MA ‘98
Division of Graduate Studies
When communication professor and LGBTQ-rights advocate Robin Johnston McGehee married business-owner and artist Karen Johnston McGehee earlier this year, the ceremony coincidentally coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage legal in all states. As one of the key advocates for marriage equality, Robin was on the front lines of the debate, organizing state and national rallies for equality. The timing of the nuptials was both fitting and poetic, as the LGBTQ-advocates celebrated a historic legal victory.
Originally from Jackson, Miss., Robin came to Fresno State as a Rodham Scholar. She graduated with a master’s in Communication in 1998. She found her calling as an advocate for LGBTQ rights in 2008 after being asked to resign as the PTA president of her son’s school because of her vocal opposition to California’s Proposition 8, which denied same-sex couples the right to marry.
She was the lead organizer for “Meet in the Middle,” a statewide rally that met in Fresno the summer of 2009. In October of that year, she was the co-director of the “National Equality March” in Washington D.C. Following the national march, Robin co-founded GetEQUAL, a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group. She is the former regional organizer for GSA Network and former chair of the Committee on Reconciliation at Wesley United Methodist Church. She has also worked for the Fresno Reel Pride film festival.
In 2001, she was honored with the Martin Luther King Jr. award for her “tireless pursuit of equality for all.” In 2009, she received a Dove Award from the Fresno Center for Nonviolence and a Free Speech award from the Fresno Free College Foundation.
Robin, who teaches human communication and public speaking at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, enjoys traveling and spending time with her wife and children, Sebastian and Jackson.
Stuart Katzman BS ‘87
College of Health and Human Services
Dr. Stuart Katzman’s has an easy rapport with the many patients he treats at Evergreen Physical Therapy, the San Jose practice he opened with his wife Linda in 1991. Together, the two Fresno State alumni focus on providing personalized and comprehensive physical therapy services to improve the quality of life and support the healing of their patients.
Service, to both his clients and his profession, has been a running theme in the San Jose native’s life since his early days at Fresno State.
While a student, Stuart was president of the physical therapy club, playing an active role on top of the demanding course work. His commitment to service during his time as a student was so significant, an award was created in his name to recognize physical therapy students with extraordinary service records.
Stuart earned his bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from Fresno State in 1987 and completed his doctoral studies in 2013 through Evidence in Motion.
Throughout his professional career, Stuart has taken on leadership roles with the California Physical Therapy Association, including serving as finance officer from 2004 to 2009 and vice president and speaker of the assembly from 2012 to 2014. Stuart’s leadership also reached a national level. He has represented California during 17 of the last 20 years and recently completed a three-year term on a national advisory panel. In recognition of his leadership and service, Stuart has received multiple awards from the association, including the Charles Magistro Service Award in 2008 and the James B. McKillip Leadership Award in 2001.
Stuart’s support of the profession includes a continued commitment to the physical therapy program at Fresno State. He has been a member of the alumni association’s physical therapy chapter since his graduation and is an active supporter of the golf tournament and other fundraising efforts.
Stuart and Linda are the proud parents of two CSU graduates, Steven and Shanelle, who are already thriving in their respective fields.
Geraldine Tahajian BA ’65 (LIFE)
Henry Madden Library
Geraldine (Geri) A. Tahajian put her childhood ambition