Distinguished Alumni Program
The Distinguished Alumni program was established in 2014 to recognize the prominent role of SCC alumni in our community. SCC alumni make a difference every day as leaders in business, education, the arts, government, and non-profit organizations. Through their association with SCC, they promote the value of educational excellence, inspire others to reach their potential, encourage personal growth, and promote the enrichment of life through education & community service.
Class of 2022 Distinguished Alumni
John L. Buriss (2022 Alumnus of the Year)
John L. Burris is a civil rights attorney, known for his work in police brutality cases representing plaintiffs. John attended Vallejo Junior College and earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Golden Gate University. He then on to graduate from UC Berkeley Graduate School of Business (MBA) in 1970 and UC Berkeley School of Law in 1973. He worked for Chicago law firm Jenner & Block immediately after law school, and went on to become a member of the California Bar in 1976. Burris’s work in police brutality cases began in 1979 when he was an investigator in the district attorney’s office working on the case of the killing of 14-year-old Melvin Black. He opened his law firm in 1985 and has represented plaintiffs in a number of high-profile lawsuits against police departments across the state of California. Mr. Burris is well known for his representation of Rodney King in his civil rights lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department. He has awards from the National Bar Association, ACLU, State of California and various Colleges and Universities. Clients he has represented include Tupac Shakur, Latrell Sprewell, Gary Payton, Keyshawn Johnson and Barry Bonds.
Steven C. Bird, Mayor, City of Dixon (2022)
Steven C. Bird attended Solano Community College from 1977 to 1978. He played football for the Falcons is a member of the SCC Football Hall of Fame. Steve received a full athletic football scholarship to CSU Fullerton and later transferring to CSU Sacramento where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in Police Management. He attended the Sacramento Regional Police Academy in 1984 and became a Police Officer for the City of Redding. Steve later joined Dixon Police Department and served for 25 years before his retirement as a Police Captain in 2012. Steve served on the Dixon City Council and was elected Mayor in 2020. As Mayor, Steve has been a champion for Dixon in the region by serving on boards, commissions and committees that address issues such as water, open space, affordable housing, public transportation, and economic growth. Steve also serves for the California League of Cities on the Public Safety Policy Committee. He is known as a reliable volunteer at community events, raising money for programs that make a difference in Dixon. Steve is married to Marilee and they have two adult children, Brittany and Jackson, both alumni of SCC.
Dr. Ella Clark-Tolliver, SCC Faculty and Dean – Retired (2022)
Ella Clark-Tolliver, grew up in Vallejo and attended Solano College. She transferred to Sonoma State where she received her Bachelor’s degree, then obtained Masters from Cal State Hayward, and Doctorate from Walden University. She became a Counselor/Professor at Solano Community College in the late 1980’s. It was her joy to return to SCC where she began her higher education. Her career at SCC spanned over 25-years and she retired in 2010 with the distinct privilege of serving as the first African American female to serve as the Dean of Counseling and Disabled Services. Her responsibilities were vast, managing the offices of Counseling, Disabled Student Services, Career Center, Transfer Center, Veterans Office, Re-Entry, and coordinated the College’s Outreach and Recruitment efforts. She hosted a High School Counselor’s Conference yearly and arranged for other events and services to support student success. After serving as Dean, she made the decision to return to counseling students until her retirement. It was during this time that she co-founded the Umoja Learning Community. This program became the catalyst and model student success program which was later recognized by the state Chancellors office. She also served as President of the African-American Staff Association and a member of the Minority Coalition that hosted community-wide events, such as the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Recognition Program. Her altruistic nature and her influence left an indelible mark on faculty, staff and students alike, and she has been recognized for her volunteer service and commitment to the community and her church. Ella has been married to John Tolliver Sr. for nearly 60-years. Together they have 3-adult children. Ella credits her husband’s encouragement that served as a catalyst for her educational and personal success.
Dr. Jeffrey Du Bois, Pediatric Surgeon (2022)
Jeffrey Du Bois, M.D. grew up in an Air Force family and he his father was stationed at Travis AFB during his high school years. He attended SCC from 1974-1977 and transferred to UC Davis to obtain a B.S. in Biochemistry. He chose the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD to obtain his medical degree, and returned to Travis AFB to complete his General Surgery Residency. He then secured an accredited fellowship in Pediatric Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. After he fellowship, Dr. Du Bois returned to Travis AFB and served as the first pediatric surgeon at David Grant USAF Medical Center. While on active duty he served as the Chief of Pediatric Surgery, then served in the USAF Reserve as a pediatric surgeon. He retired from the Air Force with 26 years of service in 2005. Since 2002 he has practiced pediatric surgery and became a Clinical Professor of Surgery at UCDMC, before becoming the Chief of Pediatric Surgery for Kaiser Permanente North Valley. Dr. Du Bois retired from full-time practice in April of 2018 and secured a position for the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he serves as a Clinical Professor of Surgery. During his time at SCC, Dr. Du Bois was a member of the water polo team that won the League Championship in 1974. He recently established the “George J. & Kenneth L. Laird Endowed Scholarship” to create a permanent scholarship program that will support future generations of students seeking a career in the healing arts who need financial assistance.
Professor Renée Hamlin, Adjunct Faculty Member, Solano Community College and Poet (2022)
A California writer, Renée Hamlin received her MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State in 2018. As a Solano Community College alumna, Renée was previously an editor of the Suisun Valley Review. She now teaches English and creative writing at SCC. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Booth, The Cardiff Review, and HOOT Review. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys visiting aquariums and drive-in movie theaters.
Lori D. Wilson, California Assembly Member (2022)
Lori D. Wilson was elected as District 11’s Assemblymember in April 2022, previously, she was the first Black female to serve as a Mayor in Solano County. She was elected to the Suisun City Council in 2012, then served as Vice-Mayor for six years before winning the Mayor’s race in 2018. Lori attended SCC while raising her family and later graduated from Sacramento State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Her diverse career includes more than 20 years in accounting & finance. In her career as a public servant, Lori has been committed to supporting women in leadership positions, and is a founding member of WIP Solano, a non-partisan organization formed to inspire more women to become visionary leaders in Solano County. Lori is married to her high school sweetheart Chavares Wilson, a retired Air Force Reserve Technical Sergeant and they have two adult sons.
Business Owners & Executives
Jack Anthony, Owner, 7 Flags Car Wash and CEO Jack Anthony Industries, Inc. (2014)
Jack was born in San Rafael and his family moved to Vallejo in 1952. He has been living and or working in Vallejo ever since. After serving in the Air Force, Jack came home to attend Solano Community College and received his AA in Business. He transferred to CSU, Chico, receiving a BS degree in Business. He is a second-generation car wash operator. In 1964, his family started in the self-service business, building three of the first coin-ops in Northern California. He and his wife Cathy have two sons, Jason, who graduated CSU, Fresno and Kyle a graduate of CSU, Chico.
Veronica Favela-Diaz, Owner, Favelas Mexican Grill (2014)
Veronica Favela-Diaz launched Favelas Mexican Restaurant 23 years ago while still a student at CSU, Sacramento. Since the opening the restaurant has won numerous awards over the years for outstanding food and service. She grew up in Fairfield, graduated from Fairfield High, attended Solano Community College, then transferred to Sacramento State and received a degree in Business and Spanish. In addition to running her three restaurants, she oversees the Spanish program at Holy Spirit School. She previously was a member of the Solano Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board where she concentrates on education.
John Hill is Vice President of Strategic Sourcing at Valero Energy Corporation (2014)
John was raised in Solano County and entered the Solano Community College Electronics Apprenticeship program. He spent eight years employed by the Department of Defense at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. John began his association with the Benicia refinery in 1990 when he was hired as an operator/technician at the refinery, then owned by Exxon. John was promoted to Maintenance Director at Valero’s St. Charles Refinery in Louisiana, then moved into the role of Vice President and General Manager at several Valero refineries, including the Valero Benicia Refinery. He was a member of the Benicia refinery’s volunteer fire brigade and certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), following course completion at SCC. As part of the refinery’s Valero Volunteer Council, John was an active participant in volunteer efforts such as Napa-Solano Habitat for Humanity and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, and United Way of the Bay Area. John and his wife Nancy Hill reside in the San Antonio, Texas area.
Monte Hoover, President and General Manager, Gillespie’s Abbey Carpet and Floor (2015)
Monte’s company was established in 1934 and the Hoover family has owned and operated the company for 40 years. He started at the bottom as a Cleaning Technician and worked his way up to the top job. When the family became owners of the company in 1975, there were only two employees in a 1,000 square foot building space. Today, the company operates out of a 19,000 square foot building within the past few years; Monte has led a turnaround plan for the company and returned it into a profitable growing company once again. Monte graduated from Vacaville High School and Solano Community College with a Marketing and business degree.
2015 Alumni of the Year: James M. Syar, President and CEO Syar Industries (2015)
Jim is President of Syar Industries, Inc., one of northern California‘s largest producers and suppliers of high quality aggregate rock products, asphaltic concrete and ready mix concrete. Headquartered in Napa, Syar serves the building and highway construction industries from strategically located facilities in Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties. Syar facilities provide from 400 to 500 jobs during the year. He graduated from Vallejo High School in 1954, from Solano Junior College in 1956, and graduated from San Jose State University in 1959. Jim served in the Military (Army) from 1960-1961, and he was in the National Guard for 8½ years from 1961-1969. He is married to Susan Syar.
Louise A Walker, President & Chief Executive Officer, First Northern Bank (2014)
Louise A. Walker has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of First Northern Community Bancorp and its subsidiary, First Northern Bank, since January 1, 2011. She joined First Northern Bank in 1979, and has been a member of the Senior Management Team since 1989. Louise is a member of the California Banker’s Association Board of Directors; Chairman of the California Bankers Association’s State Government Relations Committee; serves on the Boards of the Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization (SACTO) and the Solano Economic Development Corporation; and is a member of Dixon Rotary. Louise holds a Bachelor of Arts in Management from Saint Mary’s College of California.
2014 Alumni of the Year: John Zeltin, President, Zeltin Consulting Group (2014)
John worked in management and executive positions for major New York corporations including most recently American Express where he received the Diamond Award for Marketing Excellence. After Solano, he went on to further his education at CSUS, Columbia University and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. More than 30 deserving and outstanding Solano College students have been awarded scholarships from the John and Eleanore Zeltin Scholarship fund he set up in his parents’ memory, who resided in Vallejo for many years. John is a Board Member of the Solano CC Educational Foundation and currently serves on the Boards of two New York based not for profit organizations. He and his wife Sundie currently reside in New York City.
Dee Alarcón, Solano County Superintendent of Schools (Ret.) (2016)
During her 43-year career in education, Dee was a classroom and university teacher, and an administrator in half of the county’s school districts. She is past president of the national Association of Educational Service Agencies; a former Commissioner of the First 5 Solano Children and Families Commission; and a past president of the Association of California School Administrators. She has been on the board of directors of the Solano County Workforce Investment Board, Solano Economic Development Corporation, and currently serves on the Travis Credit Union Board.
Lisette Estrella-Henderson, Solano County Superintendent of Schools (2017)
Lisette Estrella-Henderson, has served as an Educator in Solano County for over 32 years. She attended Solano Community College and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Davis, and a Master’s degree in Education from the California State University, Sacramento. In January of 2017, Lisette became the Solano County Superintendent of Schools. Her broad knowledge, experience, and leadership abilities have earned her local, statewide, and national respect and recognition including: Woman of Distinction Award, Distinguished Educator Award, Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year and many other awards.
Andrea Garcia, Associate Vice President of Advancement, Touro University California (2014)
Andrea is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of California State University, Sacramento, with a BA in Communication Studies, and a graduate of Solano Community College, where she received her AA in Liberal Arts with highest honors. Prior to her role at Touro University California, Andrea was a reporter at the Daily Republic newspaper in Fairfield, where she garnered several prestigious writing awards for her stories covering the people of Solano County. She has served on the Solano County Library Foundation board, Solano Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board, Vallejo Education Business Alliance board, Leadership Vallejo board, Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce Board, and was selected as an Honorary Commander for Travis Air Force Base.
Michael Martin, Trustee, Solano Community College Governing Board (2014)
Mike was elected to the Solano Community College Governing Board in 2012 and prior to that served as Mayor of Winters and on the City Council. He is a life- long resident of Winters and has an AA Degree from Solano CC and BS from Sacramento State University. Mike has a long and distinguished career in Solano County having served as a Park Ranger Supervisor and then launching a career in farming and currently runs a 100 acre farm in Solano County. He formerly served as the volunteer fire Captain for the Vacaville Fire Protection District.
Dr. Karen McCord, Professor of Psychology and Ethnic Studies Coordinator, Solano Community College (Ret.) (2014)
Dr. McCord has an AA Degree from Solano, AB and MA degrees from the University of San Francisco and a Doctorate from Long Island University. She was brought up in inner city New York in the 60s, achieved her professional education through challenging circumstances and has made it her mission to help at risk students. Her work to help male African American students at Solano Community College resulted in a project called The Trailblazers Program which has received support from such organizations as AT&T and the Violence Intervention Program funded by Kaiser Permanente.
Amit Pal, Touro University California (2015)
Amit is a native of Suisun City and has served on the board of the Fairfield-Suisun City Chamber of Commerce and is active with many neighborhood and community organizations, as well as a Campaign Manager for several local elections. Notably, in 2013 The Voice and La Voz Hispana Magazines featured Pal as an up and coming local leader. Prior to joining the Touro University team, Amit served as a Government Relations Representative for Pacific Gas and Electric Company covering Solano and Yolo Counties. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing the company’s local public affairs activities. Before joining PG&E, Pal was the District Representative for State Senator, Lois Wolk.
Dr. Walter Quinn, Education Administrator (Ret.) (2015)
Following his SCC experience, Dr. Quinn earned his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is particularly proud of being a seventeen year old Vallejo Junior College Student Body President in the 1959-1960 era. Additionally, his thirty-five year career as a school administrator in such places as Vacaville, Ross and Walnut Creek is a direct result of his attempt to pass on the joy and the significance of learning to others such as he enjoyed here. Vallejo Junior College made all the difference in his life. Walter Quinn cites Vallejo (Solano) Junior College and it’s very challenging, and yet always caring staff (specifically Helen Anderson-English Professor), as being among the very best teachers he has had anywhere.
2016 Alumni of the Year: Sandi Redenbach, Educator and International Consultant
Sandi celebrates a distinguished 35 year career of classroom teaching. Her extraordinary story includes being a high school dropout and learning tough lessons living on the street. She finally obtained her GED in her late 20s. During her 3 years at Solano Community College, one of Sandi’s professors told her she would become a gifted teacher and she did. Sandi knew she wanted to teach young people who had the same struggles in life that she had, not calling them “high risk,” but “high promise.” Sandi has twice been named Outstanding Educator and has received numerous awards for her work in human rights. She has been the Chair of the California Council to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility, is Chair of the UC Davis School of Education Alumni Council, and is a member of the UC Davis Foundation board. Sandi says, “I advise everyone to come into the higher self they already possess and find their purpose in the world.”
Christine Sendlakowski-Mani, SCC Professor of Theatre Arts (2017)
Christine Sendlakowski-Mani, born and raised in Solano County, has been directing, choreographing, producing, and performing in the Bay Area for the last three decades, working with a wide variety of theatre groups. Christine got her Master of Theatre Arts degree from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, alongside the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but started her career in theatre and education at Solano Community College. Christine has been awarded over 30 local Arty awards, including awards for design, direction, choreography and performance.
Michael Silva, Solano Community College and Genentech (2015)
Michael works as a Bioprocess Manufacturing Technician at Genentech while training and mentoring students to pursue careers in industrial biotechnology and healthcare as a Microbiology and Biotechnology Professor at Solano Community College. Previous students have described him as “Inspirational” and “Always there for you”. He began Solano College at the age of 21. Beginning with Fundamental English, he eventually transferred to UC Santa Barbara where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Cell and Developmental Biology and then an MS in Biotechnology and Bioinformatics. Michael began his career at SCC as an Adjunct Professor and was trusted to oversee the 2015 Industrial Biotechnology Intensive Summer (IBIS) Boot Camp.
Sarah Sweitzer, Ph.D., Touro University California (2018)
Sarah Sweitzer was appointed Provost and Chief Academic Officer of Touro University in January, 2018. She is a native of Vallejo, having been brought up in a neighborhood close to Mare Island Shipyard where her father, grandfather and great grandmother all worked at one time. Sarah begin her medical career at the University of South Carolina, School of Medicine followed by attaining her Doctorate at Dartmouth College and completing post-graduate work at Stanford University. Prior to her appointment at Touro, Dr. Sweitzer held leadership positions in the medical, research and academic fields with a record of innovation and contributions to the field spanning over 14 years. Her most recent position was Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Concordia University where she was responsible for launching numerous innovative programs and partnerships.
Entertainment and Arts
Debbie Barlow, Piano Musician (2017)
A lifelong Vallejoan, Debbie Barlow, attended local schools, earned her Associate Degree from Solano Junior College and her Bachelor of Music Degree from San Francisco State. Many teachers at Solano and San Francisco State influenced her and played a part in her training as a musician. She played for numerous productions including Vallejo Group Theatre and Solano College theater productions, numerous singers, instrumentalists’ choruses and operas. She also played for SF Opera’s A La Carte program for 15 years. She has taught piano for over 40 years.
Stephen Brennan, Actor and Singer (2017)
At 10 years old Stephen got his start in Musical Theatre when he performed on the SCC stage as the Munchkin Mayor in the Solano Children’s Musical Theatre production of “The Wizard of Oz.” While attending Solano Community College, he performed in many productions that prepared him for a professional career in the Theatre. Stephen attended CCM, and then received his BA in psychology from UCSB. After 10 years of performing in NYC, Stephen found his way back to San Francisco and has been a principal cast member in the legendary show “Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon” since 2011.
Joe Carnahan, Movie Director and Producer (2017)
Joe is a producer and writer, known for The Grey (2011), The A-Team (2010) and Smokin’ Aces (2006). Considered a legend in the theatre and film community in his hometown of Fairfield, several plaques recognizing his work are hung in the film department of Solano Community College. Joe was named as Fade- in Magazine’s “100 People in Hollywood You Need to Know” in 2005. He has numerous film credits and well-known across the industry.
Jane Loveall, Artist and Art Educator (2015)
Jane is an artist who works with multiple media creating watercolors, colored pencil drawings, fused-glass art and two-dimensional and three dimensional mosaics of all sizes from her art studio located in Downtown Fairfield. She has been selling her watercolors and colored pencil drawings from her art studio and other venues for 24 years. Jane received an AA degree in Art from Solano Community College and a BA degree in Art with an emphasis in painting and drawing from California State University, Sacramento along with a teaching credential in Art. Jane taught art in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District for 35 years and was District Teacher of the Year for 2005-2006. Her artworks have won numerous awards at the city, county and state level.
2017 Alumni of the Year: Felton Pilot, Singer, Songwriter and Record Producer
Felton C. Pilate II is a singer, songwriter, and record producer known as a member of the 1970s and 1980s funk/R&B band Con Funk Shun, and as a collaborator with rapper MC Hammer. Pilate exploded into the national spotlight with ConFunkShun with a formidable run of ten huge records including one Platinum and four consecutive Gold albums. Felton launched Felstar Studios in hometown Vallejo, CA, as Con Funk Shun was winding down. Felton gained world-wide acclaim for production/writing with rap artist M.C. Hammer. Other landmarks in Pilate’s Capitol Record days include his film and TV soundtrack work such as his Oscar-nominated “Addams Groove” (Addams Family Movie theme).
Scott Sullens, Movie and Television Production Coordinator (2017)
As a Production Coordinator, Scott was worked on dozens of films and shows including Enchanted, Salt, the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ninja Turtles and Focus and was the Production Supervisor of the celebrated Starz TV Show “Power”. After two years at Solano Community College and attaining his BA in English from UC Davis, he moved to New York City where he started as an art department production assistant on the TV show “Ed” and worked his way up in the business.
Daniel Talbott, Writer, Director and Actor (2017)
Daniel Talbott is currently a writer for the Weinstein Company and Spike TV on The Mist, based on the Stephen King novella, and is working with That’s Wonderful Productions for a feature film, Yosemite. He is also a director, and actor and his credits include numerous plays as an actor and director. Daniel received a 2011 Theater Hall of Fame Fellowship and was also named one of the Top 15 People of the Year by nytheatre.com. He is a graduate of Juilliard, is a proud member of Lesser America and Echo Theatre, and a member of the Actors Studio.
Jon Tracy Director, Playwright, Designer, and Educator (2017)
Jon works internationally as a director, playwright, designer, and educator and has worked with major theatre companies including TheatreFIRST, Groundswell, and Shotgun Players. Directing credits include San Francisco Playhouse, Shotgun Players, Magic Theatre, Aurora Theatre Company and American Conservatory Theatre. He is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Meritorious Achievement Award, and is a grant recipient from Theatre Bay Area and the National Endowment for the Arts. Jon is a graduate of Solano College Theatre’s Actor Training Program and is deeply thankful for the craft and inspiration gathered there that has been the foundations of his career.
Dr. Luis Godoy, Cardiothoracic Surgeon at UC Davis: (2016)
The son of California farm workers, Dr. Godoy became a father during his senior year of high school. He struggled to avoid gang activity that would have set his young life off on the wrong foot. Holding onto his passion of becoming a doctor, he attended Solano Community College, transferred to Davis, and was accepted to the School of Medicine. There, he found people willing to believe in him. Now, Luis sits on panels discussing the importance of mentorship, he gives advice to other aspiring health care professionals, and helps lift them up to achieve their dreams as well.
Nestor Aliga, Colonel, US Army/Marine Corps (Ret.) (2016)
Nestor was born in the Philippines but has lived in Vallejo for the past 50 years. Married to Vallejo Councilwoman Rozzana Verder-Aliga, Nestor served our country for 33 years with the Marine Corps and Army, in Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom. Since retiring, Nestor has organized several commemorations, including the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the 60th anniversary of Armistice, the 50th anniversary of Tonkin Gulf, Purple Heart recipients, and fallen Vallejo Police and Fire.
Delphine Metcalf-Foster, U.S. Army Reserve (Retired) (2018)
A Vallejo native and retired Army veteran, Delphine Metcalf-Foster was elected National Commander of the nearly 1.3 million-member DAV (Disabled American Veterans) at the organization’s 96th National Convention. She followed in the footsteps of her father, a Buffalo soldier, by pursuing a career in the U.S. Army. A combat veteran, her military career included Desert Storm/Desert Shield and many plaudits, including the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Armed Forces Reserve Medal. Metcalf-Foster was injured in January 1991 while serving in Saudi Arabia in support of Desert Storm/Desert Shield. She retired after 21 years of service with the rank of first sergeant in 1996. Since then she has been a tireless advocate for veterans, especially disabled veterans.
Warlito Antonio Moises, US Navy and Mare Island PD (Ret.) (2015)
Warlito worked as a Naval police officer on Mare Island, a job he held for 28 years, and served 24 years in the Navy reserves. He served in Vietnam in the Navy Seabees and was recently awarded four overdue medals for his service there by congressman, Mike Thompson. Now retired, he volunteers on numerous veterans’ endeavors, including the American Legion. The medals may have signified the end of one chapter for Warlito, but he’s not done with his military work. He plans to keep crusading for veterans of all ages, he said. He and his wife of 47 years, Elicita, a retired nurse, have lived in Vallejo most of their lives. They have two daughters, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Rajan Pal, Captain, US Air Force (2016)
Commissioned after obtaining his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at CSU Sacramento, Rajan has held many positions in the Air Force which require a national security clearance. He was an engineer for the ICBM Weapons System, the Deputy Program Manager of the ICBM Cryptography Program, the Ballistic Missiles Flight Commander, and the Deputy Branch Chief of the Air Force Research Lab’s Sensors Directorate. Rajan obtained his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology.
Curt Johnston, Solano Community College Educational Foundation (2018)
Curt Johnston has served as the Executive Director of the Solano Community College Educational Foundation since 2012. The Foundation was established in 1985 to raise funds to support students and educational excellence at Solano Community College, and to develop an active Alumni Association for the College. Prior to joining the Foundation, Curt enjoyed a thirty year career in California municipal planning, redevelopment, economic development and public real estate. His career included 22 years with the City of Fairfield. He is a past member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional. Curt has been active in the community for the past twenty years, serving on numerous non-profit boards and more recently as a Chamber of Commerce Ambassador and Rotary Club member. Curt grew up in Vacaville and attended Solano Community College. He transferred to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where he received his Bachelor of Science in City and Regional Planning. He has been married to his wife Debbie since 1979 and they have four adult sons.
Mark Lillis, Executive Director, The Leaven (2016)
Seeing an opportunity to return to his hometown of Fairfield, Mark created and is the executive director of The Leaven, an award-winning program providing after school and summer tutoring for children living in underdeveloped communities. Under Mark’s leadership, The Leaven has become the fastest growing grassroots nonprofit in Fairfield, and soon will have 15 chapters throughout California. Mark serves on the board of directors for Vacaville Christian Schools, the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee, and is an Honorary Commander at Travis Air Force Base. Mark is proud to be selected as a US Air Force Thunderbirds Hometown Hero.
Osby Davis, Esq. Attorney and Mayor (2017)
Osby has a long and distinguished public service career, including serving as Mayor of the City of Vallejo beginning in November 2007 during one of the most challenging periods in the city’s history. When he took over the city was facing bankruptcy. He successfully led the city back to financial health. Osby attended Vallejo public schools, graduated from Vallejo Senior High School and Solano Community College. He graduated from Fresno State with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and earned his Juris Doctorate from Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley. He is currently has a private law practice has raised over $500,000 for youth and senior programs in his community.
Rob Henley, AIA, A2R Architects (2016)
Rob has been practicing architecture locally for over 30 years. His career portfolio is a diverse mix of civic, commercial, industrial, ecclesiastical, vocational and senior living projects. Rob has designed and planned over 300 K-12 and higher education facilities, including Solano Community College’s athletics master plan, Building 1400, the student center and dining hall, Building 1700, the gym, Building 1800, the vocational technology modernization, and administration’s Building 600. He is past assistant governor and president of the Fairfield-Suisun Rotary Club. Rob is currently working on Rockville Terrace, a 148-unit assisted living community in Green Valley, and Hyatt Place, a 140-room hotel in Vacaville.
Joseph McNeill III, Developer and Investor (2016)
Joseph was a CalPERS portfolio manager, overseeing a $6 billion global industrial real estate portfolio. Recruited to be the Deputy Commissioner for the State of Tennessee, he implemented a plan to revamp the state’s facility management program. Locally, Joseph played a key role in creating the Southport and Pony Express Business Parks, and a medical office building on Business Center Drive in Fairfield. He is on the board of the National Association of Office and Industrial Properties, and has been their Sacramento Chapter President. He is a four term president of Tri Valley Little League, and Joseph has coached many soccer, basketball, and baseball teams through Fairfield Community Services.
Andrew T. Suihkonen, CPA (2018)
Andy has been a resident of Vacaville since 1954. He attended Solano College for two years immediately after high school and in 1969 joined the United States Air Force. He served for four years and is a life-member of the Vacaville Brotherhood of Vietnam Veterans. He graduated from California State University Sacramento with an accounting degree in 1975 and received his CPA certificate in 1983. Since January 1997 Andy and his wife Denise (also a CPA) have operated Suihkonen CPAs & Consultants, LLP. Andy has a long and distinguished career in public service, including treasurer of the Solano College Educational Foundation, director of the Solano Community Foundation, president of the Vacaville Rotary Club, treasurer of the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, treasurer of the Jimmy Doolittle Air & Space Museum Education Foundation, and City Treasurer of Vacaville.
Gary T. Elliott Jr., Solano County Undersheriff (2018)
Gary Elliott began his career with the Sheriff’s Office as a correctional officer in 1989. He has served in virtually all the major fields of law enforcement in increasingly responsible roles. In November 2012, Sheriff Thomas A. Ferrara promoted him to Undersheriff. Gary has an Associate’s Degree in Business Management from Solano Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from Upper Iowa University, and a Master’s Degree in the Administration of Justice and Security from the University of Phoenix. He is a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve where he holds the rank of Colonel. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Noble Eagle. Colonel Elliott’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Iraqi Campaign Medal. Gary Elliott and his wife, Lisa, live in Vacaville. They have four adult children, and five grandchildren.
Dilenna Harris, Vice Mayor City of Vacaville and Public Affairs Manager Kaiser Permanente (2017)
Dilenna was elected to the Vacaville City Council in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 and 2016 serving also as Vice Mayor of the city. She was a founding partner in an alternative energy company before becoming CEO of the residential and light commercial corporation she formed and operated for 20 years. She continues to lead Public Affairs initiatives for a large health care provider in the counties of Napa and Solano and is a board member of the Solano Economic Development Corporation and a member of the Advocacy Committee.
Michael Ioakimedes, Solano County Fair Association (2018)
Mike Ioakimedes is a lifelong Solano County resident; attending Vallejo schools from kindergarten through graduation from St. Patrick’s High School. After high school Mike received his AA degree from Solano Community College and his BA from St. Mary’s College. He and his wife Gayle operated a popular restaurant in Benicia for over 30 years, and he now works for the Solano County Fair Association. Mike has long and distinguished service in the local community, serving on Benicia’s Planning Commission, Economic Development Board, and the Benicia City Council for 30 years, as well as Solano Transportation Authority, Solano Economic Development Board and as a founding board member of SolTrans. At the state level he has been active in the California League of Cities. Mike and his wife Gayle reside in Benicia and have three children and recently became grandparents.
Dawn LaBar, City of Fairfield (2015)
As the City of Fairfield legislative liaison, Dawn works with our federal, state, and local representatives to protect the best interests of local government. She was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. On moving to Vacaville with her mother she started classes at Solano CC and eventually achieved her BA. This was quite extraordinary considering she was raised by a single mother and the disruption of their frequent moves. Dawn has 16 years of experience working in local and state government, and 30 years working in local, regional, and state politics – both in California and Nevada. She currently serves on the boards of several significant community based organizations.
Aaron McAlister, City of Dixon Fire Chief (2014)
Aaron is a Fourth generation resident of Solano County, attended Fairfield schools until high school and has an Associate Degree in Fire Technology from Solano College and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from CSU Sacramento. He has served as Dixon Fire Chief since 2010 as well as Fire Chief for the City of Winters the past three years. John has served as Countywide Mutual Aid Coordinator for Solano County since 2011. Aaron and his wife Kim live in Dixon and have 3 children; Karli, who is a student at Solano College, Katie and Max.
John McNitt, CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (2015)
John was born and raised in Vallejo, graduated from Hogan High School in 2002 and started at Solano College the following semester, eventually earning degrees in Criminal Justice Corrections and Criminal Justice- Law Enforcement. He has served in various positions in the California Correction System as a correction officer, was promoted to Sergeant and now works at CDCR where he works training cadets to work in the California prison system. John is an expert at Judo having achieved the first degree black belt and has won medals at various international competitive events, representing the Solano College Judo Club and the CDCR. He will be competing in the 2017 world games in Montreal.
Mel Orpilla, District Representative for Congressman Mike Thompson, Vallejo District Office (2014)
Mel Orpilla was born and raised in Vallejo. He comes from a pioneer Vallejo Filipino family that has called Vallejo home since 1932. By working as a graveyard shift security guard, he was able to attend classes during the day at Solano CC. While a single father, he earned a BA at CSU Sacramento and an MA at San Francisco State University. Mel has committed his life to serving the community. He worked in the non-profit sector for many years developing and directing prevention programs for high-risk youth. He was the Executive Director of Fighting Back Partnership and formerly the Community & Government Relations Manager for Kaiser Permanente. Mel lives in Vallejo with his wife Nancy and her two children.
Simona Padilla-Scholtens, Solano County Auditor-Controller – Retired (2014)
Simona served as Auditor-Controller of Solano County. She was appointed to the position by the Board of Supervisors in January 2004 and elected to the position in January, 2007. Prior to that Simona had a long and distinguished career in Public Service. She has a BS degree in Business Administration from Cal State University Sacramento and is a CPA. Simona serves on the Accounting Standards Committee for the State Association of County Auditors and is a past President of the State Association of County Auditors. She has been a resident of Solano County for 45 years and she and her husband John have 3 children.
Judge R. Michael Smith (2018 Alumnus of the Year)
Michael Smith was born and raised in Vallejo. After graduating from Hogan High School, he attained his AA degree from Solano College in 1968, his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Chico State in 1970 and then graduated with honors from the University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law. While serving as Chief Deputy for the Solano County District Attorney, Michael was appointed by the governor as a Municipal Court Judge. He was elevated to Superior Court Judge in 1989, serving until 2007. Judge Smith had a long and distinguished legal career, and he still serves the citizens of California as a member of the Assigned Judges Program where he presides at various courts around the state. Michael was also an adjunct professor at Solano Community College in the Criminal Justice Department from 2001 to 2005. His wife, Anne, served for many years as professor of Sociology at Solano Community College and then Dean of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Department..
Annette Taylor, City of Vallejo (2018)
Annette Taylor has a long and distinguished record of public service in Solano County. She is presently Senior Community Development Analyst for the City of Vallejo, working with key city partners to develop the economy of the city. Prior to her work for the city she was Senior Legislative Assistant for Assemblyman Thomas Hannigan and Department Secretary at the California Maritime Academy. Annette obtained her AA degree from Solano College in 1985, followed by a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco in 1987. She has received numerous awards during her career including the Athena Award (Woman of the Year) from the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce, plus recognition from the NAACP, the California Assembly and other organizations.
Skip Thompson, Solano County Supervisor, District 5 – Retired (2015)
As a past District 5 supervisor, Skip represented the five largest districts in Solano County which includes Rio Vista, Elmira, and parts of Vacaville, Fairfield and Suisun City. He served the county for over 30 years in many positions including County Supervisor and Assessor. He has worked to improve the county’s fiscal health, protect local military families and Travis Air Base, and advocate for the Sacramento Delta and its residents. Skip graduated from Fairfield High School, received an AA degree from Solano CC and a BA from UC Davis. He and his wife, Gail, have two sons, Brandon and Loren.
Marc C. Tonnesen, Solano County Assessor/Recorder (2014)
Marc Tonnesen has been serving as assessor recorder since 2006. His primary responsibility is to determine the value of all taxable property in the county. Marc is president-elect of the California Assessors Association, and a member of the County Recorders’ Association of California. Marc has a bachelor of business administration degree from National University and an associate in science degree (in business) from Solano Community college. A native Solano County resident, Marc is a proud member of a pioneer family that has been part of the county for five generations.