Superpowers, Activate!

2019 recipients of USD's Alumni Honors awards on stage


The University of San Diego continued its tradition of honoring extraordinary alumni who exemplify the values and mission of USD. This year’s Alumni Honors celebration took place on Oct. 3, 2019, just prior to Homecoming and Family Weekend, at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

The theme of the 24th annual event was a lively celebration of 11 honorees who are truly superheroic: Each is a fantastic force to be reckoned with.

Stephen “Swooper” Gauvin

The 2019 recipient of the Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill Award — which is presented to an alumnus who personifies the spirit and philosophy of the University of San Diego — was Stephen A. Gauvin ’84 (BBA). He is a senior field sales representative for Arrow Electronics and is a five-time President’s Club member with the company.

As a student, Gauvin was a founding member of USD’s chapter of the Sigma Pi fraternity, serving as its first social chair and later as its second president. He was also active in campus ministry, serving as a retreat leader in 1983 and was confirmed in 1984.

His passion for being a Torero continued to grow as an alumnus. He served as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors for many years and has served as the board’s vice president.

Marilyn “Do-Right” Ditty

The Bishop Charles Francis Buddy Award is presented to an alumnus in recognition of his or her extraordinary contribution and commitment to humanitarian causes. This year’s recipient was Marilyn Ditty ’76 (MEd), the founder emerita of Age Well Senior Services.

She has been a catalyst and advocate for seniors in Orange County, California, for more than 40 years and has been instrumental in the planning and development of affordable senior housing communities and senior centers throughout Orange County.

She has received numerous accolades for her dedication to improving the welfare of senior citizens and has served as a delegate to the White House’s Conference on Aging several times.

Therese “The Treasure” Whitcomb

The late Therese Truitt Whitcomb ’53 (BA) — the first graduate of the San Diego College for Women — was the first recipient of the Therese Truitt Whitcomb Faculty Award, honoring her posthumously.

She founded the university’s art history program and Founders Gallery and was USD’s inaugural director of institutional design. In that role, she had responsibility for setting the standards and preserving the beauty and consistent Spanish Renaissance architecture of the USD campus.

Heidi “Sporty Sport” Watney

The Alumni Emerging Leader Award was bestowed upon Heidi Watney ’03 (BA), who is a studio host and reporter appearing across MLB Network’s studio programming. During the regular season, she hosts a nightly show called Quick Pitch; during the offseason, she is a contributor to the weekday morning show, Hot Stove.


John “Peace Purveyor” Patterson

John H. Patterson ’13 (MA) was honored by the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. He works for USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) as a regional advisor for OFDA’s Europe, Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia regional offices. In his six years with OFDA, he has also worked as an advisor to the U.S. Southern Command and as deputy team leader (Colombia) for the Venezuela regional crisis response.

Michaella “Globally Green” Wittmann

The Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering lauded Michaella Wittmann ’92 (BS/BA) who leads the Office of Sustainability for HDR, a global firm specializing in engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services. She and her team focus on adding value to projects by balancing environmental, economic and social equity goals.

Laurie “Excellence Empress” Ecoff

Laurie Ecoff ’83 (BSN), ’09 (PhD), the vice president of the Center of Nursing Excellence for Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, was honored by the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science. She oversees Sharp’s strategic plan to advance the profession of nursing to achieve exemplary patient, nursing and organizational outcomes. She is also a clinical associate professor in USD’s Clinical Nursing and Executive Nurse Leader Programs.

Angelo “Groundbreaker” Tsakopoulos

Angelo G. Tsakopoulos, Esq. ’94 (BBS), ’98 (JD) was the honoree for the School of Business. He is a principal at Tsakopoulos Investments and is manager of the firm, one of the largest land owners in the Sacramento region. Among its many projects, the firm and its affiliated entities have permitted and
developed retail sites, master planned communities and high-rise office buildings.

Lawrence “Rock Doc” Sykoff

The School of Leadership and Education Sciences bestowed its award on Lawrence S. Sykoff ’73 (MEd), ’88 (EDd). He is president of the LSS Consulting Group, LLC. As former head of school and appointed headmaster emeritus of Ranney School, his 20-year tenure saw unprecedented levels of enrollment growth. He has been a frequent speaker at state and national educational associations and has received numerous awards over the course of his career.

Jack “Can-Do” McGrory

Jack McGrory ’81 (JD) was honored by the School of Law. He is CEO of La Jolla MJ Management, LLC, a real estate investment company. During his long and illustrious career, he served as city manager of the City of San Diego, was president and chief executive officer of Price Enterprises, Inc., was chief operating officer of the San Diego Padres and chairman and chief executive officer of Price Legacy Corporation.

Kris “Bat Buster” Bryant

The 2019 inductee to the Chet and Marguerite Pagni Family Athletic Hall of Fame was Kris Bryant, who spent three seasons with the San Diego baseball program from 2011 to 2013. He emerged from his collegiate baseball career as one of the most distinguished and successful players in the history of the university’s program.

The highest draft pick in USD history, he was drafted No. 2 overall by the Chicago Cubs in 2013, and in 2016, helped lead the Cubs to a World Series championship — their first in 108 years — fielding the final out to clinch the title in Game 7.

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