Celebrating UCSC’s 2023 Alumni Award Recipients

Abel Pineda, bell hooks, Mark Phillips, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Nerton, Lisa Rose, and Jim Lapsley are this year’s recipients

Award winners from left to right: Abel Pineda (Outstanding Recent Alumni Award), bell hooks (Alumni Achievment Award), Mark Phillips (Alumni Achievment Award), and Bettina Aptheker (UCSC Ethos Award)
Fiat Lux Award winners from left to right: Susan Nerton, Lisa Rose, and Jim Lapsley

UC Santa Cruz alumni are at the forefront of innovation, the cutting-edge, and social justice. They are inspirers, ground-breakers, world-changers, truth-seekers and tellers. With a population of over 145,000, UCSC alumni are the voices that will define the century. 

The Alumni Association at UCSC is proud to present this year’s honorees of the UCSC Alumni Awards. These awards recognize and honor alumni who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements, made distinct contributions to society, provided impactful contributions to UC Santa Cruz, and who have embodied the values and spirit of the university.

“We are honored to recognize these outstanding alumni,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor of Alumni Engagement John D. Pine. “This year’s UCSC Alumni Award recipients have made significant contributions to their alma mater, the state, the country, and the world. We are beyond excited to celebrate this year’s honorees.”

The UCSC Alumni Awards consist of four categories: Fiat Lux, Alumni Achievement, Outstanding Recent Alumni, and UCSC Ethos. 

The Fiat Lux Award honors alumni and friends of UC Santa Cruz who have demonstrated outstanding achievement and distinguished service in support of the university’s programs and goals. This year’s Fiat Lux awardees are Lisa Rose, Susan (Su) Nerton, and Jim Lapsley for their multi-year dedication to Crown College which recently resulted in raising $1 million for the Crown College Endowment. 

“Jim, Lisa, and Su’s work will have a long-lasting impact on Crown College,” said Crown College Provost Manel Camps in his nomination of the trio. “Through their constant presence, they have modeled for current students what it means to continue to be engaged with the college. I have no doubt in my mind that they deserve the Fiat Lux Award for their outstanding achievement and distinguished service in support of Crown College.”

The Alumni Achievement Award is presented to UC Santa Cruz graduates who are renowned for their distinguished professional achievement, leadership, and service to the community. This year UC Santa Cruz is proud to present the award to bell hooks (posthumously) and Mark Philips. With over 30 books and articles to her name, hooks’s world-renowned contributions to the literary field amplify Black voices and expand feminist ideals. Phillips has made key contributions and discoveries both in the fields of active galactic nuclei and supernovae. 

The Outstanding Recent Alumni Award recognizes UC Santa Cruz alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years, who are recognized for their notable achievements. Abel Pineda—the youngest person to ever serve as Council Member, Vice Mayor, and Mayor on the San Pablo City Council—will receive the award. 

“Abel's extensive experience in public service and leadership has made a profound impact on the San Francisco Bay Area and communities throughout California,” said nominator Guadalupe Morales. “As the one of youngest mayors in the state, Abel has spearheaded transformative initiatives in the City of San Pablo, including expanding college access, providing COVID-19 relief, and advocating for high-quality education. His remarkable achievements, dedication, and commitment to positive change truly exemplify the core values of UC Santa Cruz.” 

The UCSC Ethos Award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to causes of social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion, and who exemplify and enrich UCSC’s principles of community. Bettina Aptheker, alumna and Professor Emeritus of Feminist Studies at UCSC, will receive the award for her scholar and activist work during the Free Speech Movement, the LGBT Movement, and the international movement to free Angela Davis. Her actions during pivotal moments in history, along with her 40-year teaching career at UCSC, embody the ethos of the university. 

The seven alumni awardees will be celebrated and honored at the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Awards Celebration on Oct. 27. Contact alumni@ucsc.edu with any questions. 

Meet the recipients 

Fiat Lux Award 

Lisa Rose (Crown ’72) has lived a fulfilling life as a photographer, a teacher, and a dedicated volunteer around the city of Santa Cruz, especially at her alma mater Crown College. In 1983, Lisa earned an MBA at San Jose State University and began her 25-year career as a business manager for the city of Santa Cruz Finance Department and UCSC Business Services. Through her and her co-awardee’s efforts, Lisa hopes they have laid footprints for other alumni to follow.

Susan (Su) Nerton’s (Crown ’71, ’87) career is marked by her passion for teaching. Su taught computer science at Cabrillo Community College for 25 years and held the position of Program Chair for both the Computer Science and Computer & Information Systems departments for 15 years. Upon retiring in 2013, Su was awarded the Floyd L. Younger Award for Teaching Excellence. Su is a dedicated volunteer for Crown College. 

Jim Lapsley (Crown ’71) is a member of Crown College’s first four-year class. He met his wife, Carol (Crown ’71) at Crown and they were married above the quarry in 1971. Jim received a Ph.D. in American agricultural history from UC Davis and worked at UC Davis for 44 years as a Continuing Education Specialist, an Adjunct Professor, and an Academic Researcher. Carol and Jim reside in an historic Craftsman bungalow in Woodland.


Alumni Achievement Award 

bell hooks (Ph.D. ’83) was a celebrated feminist theorist, cultural critic, artist, and writer of over two dozen books that ranged from the groundbreaking text Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism to her deeply felt memoir Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood to her acclaimed children’s book Happy To Be Nappy

Along with her steady stream of writing work, hooks maintained a vibrant career in academia. She served as a professor of English and African and Afro-American studies at Yale, was associate professor of American literature and women’s studies at Oberlin College, and was a distinguished professor of English at City University of New York. Since 2004, she was a Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky and helped establish the bell hooks Institute there for students to study her writing and teaching work. 

hooks is survived by her four sisters, Sarah Chambers, Angela Malone, Gwenda Motley, and Valeria Watkins, as well as her brother, Kenneth Watkins. hooks will be receiving the Alumni Achievement Award posthumously.

Mark Phillips (Ph.D. ’77) received his Ph.D. from UCSC, and spent his career at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American and Las Campanas Observatories. He has made important contributions both in the fields of active galactic nuclei and supernovae. In 1993, his research led to the discovery of a method for measuring precise distances to thermonuclear supernovae. He was also a member of the Calán/Tololo Survey and the High-Z Supernova Search, whose work led to the discovery of Dark Energy. 


Outstanding Recent Alumni Award

Abel Pineda (Oakes ’14) is the youngest person to serve as Council Member, Vice Mayor, and Mayor on the San Pablo City Council. He is amongst California's and the United States' youngest Mayors. Additionally, he serves as the Northern California Field Liaison for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Before his role in the State Department of Education, he served as Principal Field Representative for both Tony Thurmond and Rob Bonta during their tenure as State Assembly members.


UCSC Ethos Award 

Bettina Aptheker (Ph.D. ’83) is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz where she taught for more than 40 years. An activist-scholar,she co-led the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in 1964, and the National Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. She played a leading role in the international movement to Free Angela Davis. She has been part of the LGBT movement since the late 1970s. She has published several books including a memoir, Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech & Became A Feminist Rebel. Her most recent book is called Communists in Closets: Queering the History. She and her wife, Kate Miller, have been together since 1979. They live in Santa Cruz.