HEROES for our times

Saluting the courageous CSU alumni on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Some work at hospitals, some educate future generations and others volunteer their time to those in need. While CSU alumni have a long history of stepping in and helping out, we are especially proud of those who are making a difference during the current pandemic. Following is a small sampling of the many alumni throughout California who have risen to the challenge. The goal of the California State University is to create leaders for our times by instilling a foundation of community engagement that students will carry with them throughout life. This Fourth of July, we tip our hats to honor all the remarkable heroes made in the CSU who embody that spirit. ​

Mary Barlow

MARY BARLOW, CSU BAKERSFIELD

The CSU prepares more of California's teachers than all other institutions combined. Mary Barlow, superintendent of schools for Kern County, oversees 47 districts and 190,000 students, a third of which live under the poverty line. She’s been working hard to make sure all students have what they need for virtual education during the pandemic. Her office has purchased thousands of Chromebooks and Internet hot spots to serve these kids.


Ted Ross

TED ROSS, CSU DOMINGUEZ HILLS

When California went under shelter-in-place orders, Ted Ross helped Los Angeles go from 12 teleworking employees to 12,000 in less than two weeks. The numbers kept growing: As CIO for the City of L.A. and general manager for the Information Technology Agency, he has managed the transition to the Connect2LACity platform for nearly 20,000 employees. But Ross has been doing great things for a long time. Under the leadership of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, he implemented initiatives that earned L.A. the #1 Digital City in America award for 2016, 2017 and 2018.


Kirsten Vangsness

KIRSTEN VANGSNESS, CAL STATE FULLERTON

Criminal Minds actress Kirsten Vangsness​ is a co-owner of Blinking Owl Distillery in Santa Ana, California. During the pandemic, the distillery had to close its tasting room, but quickly switched gears from crafting booze to crafting “Dirty Bird” hand sanitizer. It is for sale, but they have also donated $25,000 worth thanks to help from the community.


Holly Hosterman and Paul 'Yashi' Lubitz

HOLLY HOSTERMAN & PAUL “YASHI” LUBITZ,
HUMBOLDT STATE

When a friend pointed out that their Holly Yashi jewelry company waterjet cutter could make more face shields in less time than a 3D printer, Holly Hosterman and Paul Lubitz pivoted to meet the community need. Committed to keeping its employees, customers and community safe, the company has started producing face shields for county sheriff and police workers, government employees who come in contact with the public and pharmaceutical and medical workers.


Dr. Leana Wen

DR. LEANA WEN, CAL STATE LA

A current faculty member at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and the former commissioner of health for Baltimore, Dr. Leana Wen has been called on as an expert regarding COVID-19 by outlets ranging from CNN and NPR to BBC World News. After having a baby in April, she appeared on NBC, Know Your Value and Morning Joe to share her experience expecting and delivering during the coronavirus.


Bonnie Castillo ​Photo: Michael Gerometta​​​

BONNIE CASTILLO, SACRAMENTO STATE

The CSU produces about 40 percent of California's nurses, offering programs at 21 campuses. Now more than ever, we appreciate the nurses working on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. One of them is Bonnie Castillo. She is the executive director of National Nurses United​ and has been at the forefront of advocating for these essential healthcare workers in California and nationwide. Castillo was recently interviewed for NPR's All Things Considered regarding the PPE shortage for nurses.


Ron Fong

RON FONG, SACRAMENTO STATE

Ron Fong is president and CEO of the California Grocers Association, which means he's been front and center advising industry groups and consumers on how to navigate food distribution and purchasing during these unprecedented times. Fong is also a member of the CSU Foundation Board of Governors and helped establish the Agribusiness Food Retail Management Program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.


Raul Figueroa-Valenzuela

RAUL FIGUEROA-VALENZUELA, SAN FRANCISCO STATE/CSUN

Raul Figueroa-Valenzuela's master's thesis work on disease ecology for SFSU​ led to his MPH in applied epidemiology from CSUN. Now he’s an epidemiology analyst for LA Public Health. Beginning in January, his team's work shifted from monitoring foodborne illness to acting as “disease detectives,” tracking down people who had traveled from virus hot spots abroad to get them to quarantine and follow their progress.


Chris Larsen

​CHRIS LARSEN, SAN FRANCISCO STATE

Financial technology firm Ripple cofounder Chris Larsen contracted and beat COVID-19. Now he's donating blood containing his antibodies to help people who are fighting the disease. On top of that, his company is giving $5 million to local area food banks and meal service providers supporting those who are struggling financially during the pandemic.


Dr. David Persing and Rich Nolasco

DR. DAVID PERSING & RICH NOLASCO, SAN JOSÉ STATE

Dr. David Persing and Rich Nolasco are part of the team at molecular diagnostic testing company Cepheid, which developed the first rapid-results COVID-19 test. The company received emergency authorization from the FDA for the Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test that can be administered on-site and deliver results in 45 minutes.


Mike Frank

MIKE FRANK, CAL POLY SAN LUIS OBISPO

Mike Frank graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo​ and moved to New York City. As the pandemic swept through that metropolis, Mike wanted to find a way to help. He and two friends (one of whom is a Michelin-starred chef) co-founded Grub for Guardians, which provides free meals prepared by local chefs to healthcare professionals in New York. In less than two months, they raised more than $7,000 and gave away upward of 1,000 meals to workers on the front lines.


Michelle Harvey

MICHELLE HARVEY, CSU SAN MARCOS

In response to a need for cloth face coverings for hospital staff, Michelle Harvey created the San Diego Face Mask Sewing Group on Facebook. Growing to more than 1,700 members strong in just a few weeks, the group created and donated approximately 15,000 masks to area hospitals, school districts, police departments and a U.S. Navy ship.


Arnold Velasquez

ARNOLD VELASQUEZ, STANISLAUS STATE

As nurse practitioner Arnold Velasquez (far right) noticed his Turlock, California, office intake slow dramatically in response to shelter-in-place orders, he saw the need for nurses in New York surge in response to the COVID-19 crisis. He asked his boss if he could head east and help on the front lines. His education from Stanislaus State made it possible for him to help New York City in its time of need.