UCSC Alumni Awards 2023

Celebrating all of the recipients from this year’s Alumni Awards

From left to right: Kenneth Marlow Watkins, Gwenda Watkins Motley, and Angela Watkins Malone (accepting the alumni achievment award on behalf of their sister, bell hooks); Jim Lapsley, Bettina Aptheker, Abel Pineda, and Mark Phillips. 
The awardees were honored at the Alumni Awards Celebration on Oct. 27.

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.

Seven alumni were honored on Oct. 27. Learn more about each recipient below. 

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. 

Pineda is known for advocating for key issues in his community. 

For his service to his community and the public, Abel Pineda received the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award. 

Fiat Lux Award 

Jim Lapsley (Crown ’71), Susan Nerton (Crown ’71, ’87), and Lisa Rose (Crown ’72) were recognized for their commitment to volunteering for Crown College. Together, the three alumni raised $75,000 for the Fireside Lounge, planned and executed UCSC’s first-ever 50th reunion, and raised $1 million for the Crown College Endowment. 

Their commitment to Crown College and more broadly, UCSC, made them the recipients of the Fiat Lux Award.

Alumni Achievement Award 

bell hooks (Ph.D. ’77)  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 received the Alumni Achievement Award posthumously. Her siblings accepted the award in her honor.

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. 

Mark Phillips received the Alumni Achievement Award  for his pioneering supernova research that led to the reversal of a major scientific theory on the trajectory of the universe, and for the indelible legacy he has left for aspiring astronomers.

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.

For her dedication to causes amplifying social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion, Bettina Aptheker received the Ethos Award.