Alumni of the Year

Alumni of the Year Recipients

The SCC Alumni Association is proud to recognize the following alumni who have distinguished themselves through their professional success, public service and support of the college and its student body.  Since 2014, one recipient is choosen from the group of Distinguished Alumni recognized at the SCC Annual Benefit Gala.

John L. Burris, Esquire (2022)

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.

Judge Michael Smith (2018)

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.

Felton Pilot, Singer, Songwriter and Record Producer (2017)

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).

Sandi Redenbach, Educator and International Consultant (2016)

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.”

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.

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.