USD Spotlights Outstanding Alumni

12th Annual Gala Recognizes Outstanding Graduates in Career and Athletic Achievement, Contributions to Humanitarian Causes & Volunteer Service to USD

Nine outstanding University of San Diego graduates, including a local charter school leader and a champion in sports representation and marketing, will be honored April 21.


Rebecca C. Smith, director of community relations at High Tech High, and Leonard Armato, commissioner of the Association of Volleyball Professionals Inc., will each receive the Author E. Hughes Award for Career Achievement.


The USD Alumni Honors celebration is a gala evening of dinner, tributes, and dancing honoring outstanding graduates in the areas of career and athletic achievement, contributions to humanitarian causes and volunteer service to USD. This year’s celebration, themed the “University of San Diego in a Whole New Light” also will spotlight the university’s new logos and visual identity that were introduced late last year.


The event begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Jenny Craig Pavilion. For more information, visit or call (619) 260-4819.


Smith, who earned a master’s degree in educational counseling from USD in 1993, joined the innovative charter school development organization in 2000. She established its Manpower Academic Internship Program which now has more than 200 participating employers, including Qualcomm Inc. and Invitrogen. This spring the first group of 13 High Tech High graduates, including one from USD, will receive college degrees.


After earning a law degree from USD in 1978, Armato went on to represent some of the world’s finest athletes including Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon. In 1996, he negotiated what was at the time the largest contract in sports history, when O’Neal signed a multi-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.


In 2001, he turned his marketing savvy to beach volleyball, acquiring the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. As commissioner and CEO of the AVP, Armato consolidated the men’s and women’s tours and unified in one association more than 200 of the top players in the world. Under his leadership, the AVP has witnessed dramatic growth in the number of events, attendance and sponsorship support.


“Our honorees represent many different fields but they have all used their education and followed their passions to positively transform the organizations and the lives of individuals that they represent,” said Martin Kaplan, director of Alumni Relations at USD. “They have brought great credit and distinction to USD and we are very proud to honor them.”

Other Hughes honorees for career achievement this year are Ali Reza Arabnia, president and CEO of Gecofin, S.p.A., a leading industrial firm based in Rome, Italy; Timothy Luberski, president of Hidden Villa Ranch and Linda D. Urden, executive director of Nursing Quality, Education and Research at Palomar Pomerado Health.


Christine Schanes, founder of Children Helping Poor and Homeless People, an educational outreach program in Venice, Calif., will receive the Bishop Charles Francis Buddy Award for humanitarian service.


Jean Miller, a longtime volunteer and supporter of USD and the Associated Alumnae of the Sacred Heart, will receive the Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill award for service to USD. The two awards are named for USD’s co-founders.


Jebediah Dougherty, an Academic All-American in football and baseball, and Jose L. Noriega, a four-time All American in tennis, will be inducted into the Chet and Marguerite Pagni Family Athletic Hall of Fame. 


 The University of San Diego is a Catholic institution of higher learning chartered in 1949; the school enrolls approximately 7,500 students and is known for its commitment to teaching, the liberal arts, the formation of values and community service. The establishment of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies will bring the University’s total number of schools and colleges to six. Other academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Business Administration, Education, Law and Nursing and Health Sciences.


About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.