Founders Day dinner honors innovation, ideals, determination

Dana Priest
Patricia Zavella
Narinder Kapany
Founders Day attendees celebrate the honorees at the Cocoanut Grove. (Photos by r. r. jones)

The second annual UC Santa Cruz Founders Day gala dinner drew more than 350 people to the Cocoanut Grove Friday night to celebrate the founding ideals of the campus and the outstanding accomplishments of three individuals with ties to UCSC.

Guests were treated to three video presentations extolling the career achievements of alumna and Washington Post reporter Dana Priest; Professor Patricia Zavella; and Narinder Kapany, a research scientist, entrepreneur, and former UCSC professor.

In a video interview, Ben Bradlee, longtime executive editor of the Washington Post and now the paper's vice president at large, said Priest has "one of the best newspaper minds I've ever seen. She's the best in the business." Priest, a 1981 Merrill College graduate in politics, is an investigative reporter at the Post.

She won her second Pulitzer Prize in April, this time for Public Service with another Post reporter and photographer for their exposé of the mistreatment of wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She previously won in 2006 for revealing secret overseas prisons and extraordinary rendition used by the CIA.

In accepting the 2008 Alumni Achievement Award from the Alumni Association, Priest noted that she was once nearly kicked out of UCSC for missing a deadline and thanked the university for "being flexible and letting me stay."

Earlier Friday, Priest spoke on campus (see related story) and met with students. She said she was asked about her politics. Stressing that she tries to play it down the middle, she said her politics are "about making a difference, righting a wrong."

She visited Santa Cruz with her son, a high school senior, who is considering UCSC among his college choices.

Zavella, a professor of Latin American and Latino Studies, was honored for being selected by the Academic Senate as the Faculty Research Lecturer. She is one of the world's leading scholars in the fields of feminist ethnography and Chicano/a studies. Her lecture will be February 10, 2009.

Zavella said she first visited UCSC during a summer session and later, when she was hired, realized she had found her "dream job." There is at UCSC "an incredible sense of community that students, faculty, alumni all feel we are a part of," she said.

Kapany, a research scientist, professor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, conducted research in the early 1950s that demonstrated light could be passed through bent optical fiber. He has often been called the "father of fiber optics."

He received the Fiat Lux Award from the UC Santa Cruz Foundation given to alumni and friends who have demonstrated outstanding achievement, dedication, and service in support of the campus's programs and goals.

Kapany, a trustee of the foundation since 1994, noted that Fiat Lux means "let there be light." He thanked his wife of 55 years, Satinder, for giving him the "freedom to indulge in these various activities. She supported me every step of the way."

Chancellor George Blumenthal said Priest, Zavella, and Kapany are the kind of success stories UCSC's founders had in mind when they established the campus more than 40 years ago.

"Together, these three individuals exemplify what is unique and what is outstanding about UC Santa Cruz," he said. "Innovation, scholarship and research, determination, public service, and a desire to make the world a better place."

Campus and community patron Rowland Rebele and local business leader Sandi Eason served as masters of ceremonies for the sold-out event that drew area luminaries from political, business, and university circles.