Founder of International Relief Agency to Receive University of San Diego Alumni Award

Ten notable Toreros including the local founder of an international relief agency and a Navy nurse captain whose research focuses on veterans will be honored by the University of San Diego on April 22.

A. Barry La Forgia, a 1976 USD law graduate, will receive the Bishop Charles Francis Buddy Award for contributions to humanitarian causes. After serving in the Air Force, La Forgia founded International Relief Teams, which has provided more than $350 million in humanitarian aid since 1989.

Navy Nurse CAPT. (sel.) Heather C. King, who earned her doctorate from USD in 2013 and has been awarded more than $2.4 million in grants focusing on the care of veterans, will receive the Author E. Hughes Award for Career Achievement. She is currently serving as the Director of Nursing Research for the Navy Medicine West Region that includes all bases in California, Washington, Hawaii, Okinawa, and Guam.

Other honorees include Marsha McDonald, a retired educator who helped originate the comprehensive elementary guidance program in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District and Criminal Court Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie of Liberia who has helped ensure the rule of law following the Liberian Civil War. 

"All our honorees are Changemakers who are creating a better world and helping USD to continue to grow and flourish as a contemporary Catholic university," said University of San Diego President James T. Harris III, DEd. "We are very proud to honor these living icons of our USD mission and values." 

Other honorees include Julie Chavez, founder, Chavez for Charity; Matthew E. Craig, Eastern Regional Vice President, Meijer Inc.; Michael Kaplan, Co-owner, ARKA Properties Group, Inc.; Michele L. Moore, Co-founder and former Chief Financial Officer, Zemax LLC; Shannon Smith, Correspondent Account Executive, Pacific Union Financial, LLC and Ali Troost, two-time West Coast Conference Volleyball Player of the Year. 

The 22nd Annual Alumni Honors celebration on April 22 will recognize 10 outstanding University of San Diego alumni for career achievement, contributions to humanitarian causes, extraordinary athletic success and exemplary service to USD.  

The event begins at 6:00 p.m. with the awards ceremony in the USD Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Theatre, followed by a cocktail celebration under the stars. Tickets are $75 per person, $55 for young alumni who graduated between 2006 and 2016 or $95 at the door. For purchasing tickets or more information, go to or call (619) 260-6894

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 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’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 recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that 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.