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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 taug