Agents of Change

Pictured: Ronson J. Shamoun ’98 (BAC), ’02 (JD), ’03 (LLM), Mou D. Riiny ’11 (BS/BA), Deena Drake ’13 (MSN), ’19 (PhD), President James T. Harris, Josh Williams ’16 (BA) and Laura Nunn ’08 (MA).


Powerful agents of change were celebrated at the University of San Diego Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice on Friday, Oct. 15, for the 2021 Alumni Honors event.

For more than two decades, the USD community has come together each year for an evening that honors Torero Changemakers. This year, the event was all the more poignant, as it signaled the first time it had been held in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Director of Alumni Relations Charles Bass presided over the festivities, donning a secret agent alter ego persona to announce the honorees for the Bishop Charles Francis Buddy
and Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill Awards and the salute to six Torero Changemakers.

“Tonight, we are celebrating USD’s ‘agents of change,’ and in true Bond fashion, we’ll do the right thing and honor these amazing folks,” said Bass. “007 was, of course, a secret agent. Tonight, we’ll make sure the work of the ‘agents of change’ we’re celebrating is anything but secret. The work they do in their communities, through advocacy and involvement, on the front lines of social challenge to forge social change, deserves more than our attention; it deserves our respect and our gratitude.”

The Bishop Charles Francis Buddy Award, an honor presented annually to an alumnus/a in recognition of a commitment to humanitarian causes, was awarded to Mou D. Riiny ‘11 (BS/BA). The founder and CEO of SunGate Solar, Riiny has dedicated his professional career to improving the standard of living in his native South Sudan. The idea for SunGate Solar — a solar power design, installation and maintenance company — began while Riiny was a student at USD. Since then, the company has helped transform the solar industry in South Sudan.

Ronson J. Shamoun ‘98 (BAC), ‘02 (JD), ‘03 (LLM) was awarded the Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill Award, an honor presented to an alumnus/a to recognize service and commitment to USD. Shamoun, the founder and CEO of RJS Law, A Tax Law Firm, serves as an adjunct professor in USD’s School of Law and regularly supports business and law scholarships. In addition, Shamoun serves on the USD School of Law Board of Visitors and the USD School of Business Board of Advisors.

The evening also featured a salute to Torero Changemakers — six alumni who have demonstrated over the past two years a commitment to their communities in the midst of a global health crisis and a national reckoning of social justice.

Deena Drake ‘13 (MSN), ‘19 (PhD), a palliative care clinical nurse specialist at Sharp Chula Vista, worked throughout the pandemic to change hospital policies to enable terminally ill patients to communicate with their loved ones.

An associate reporting officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Afarin Dadkhah Tehrani ‘14 (MA) helped provide life-saving aid and protection to refugees.

Creating a space of courage and voice, Anthony Lê ‘18 (MA), the deputy director of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute, led efforts to promote API equality in the USD community.

Through work with Casa Alitas, Ally Ramona ‘20 (BA) helped serve migrant families seeking shelter in the United States.

Chief of Policy and Education for the San Diego Housing Federation, Laura Nunn ‘08 (MA) has spent a decade advocating for affordable housing in the San Diego region.

Josh Williams ‘16 (BA), a district engineer with San Diego Gas and Electric, has been at the forefront of efforts in San Diego to address equity and social justice.

A special tribute to those among the Torero community who spread the changemaking mission worldwide, the evening’s salute was, for Bass, the first in a series dedicated to honoring those “in the corner office, those on the front lines and folks from all walks of life.” — Allyson Meyer

Pictured: Ronson J. Shamoun ’98 (BAC), ’02 (JD), ’03 (LLM), Mou D. Riiny ’11 (BS/BA), Deena Drake ’13 (MSN), ’19 (PhD), President James T. Harris, Josh Williams ’16 (BA) and Laura Nunn ’08 (MA).

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