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Since Founding UC Irvine Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich, Jr. was awarded the first UCI Medal in 1984, a plethora of recipients from the academic, business, cultural, and philanthropic world have been accorded the honor for their profound impact on the university. Having attended the stellar affair since 1993, I can honestly say it is a list of “who’s-who” from the community.

The “Celebration of Stars” 2012 UCI Medal Awards, themed “Be the Light,” were held once again on campus at the Bren Events Center (looking not at all like a sports arena with gold chiffon draping and sparkling gold chandeliers), where 550 guests gathered for a lovely dinner catered by Pelican Hill Catering and to celebrate some very special UCI supporters.

The event, hosted by the UC Irvine Foundation, was co-chaired by Ruth Ann and John Evans – the only co-chairs to ever repeat! I always love John’s comments, and he did not disappoint. Known for his mountain climbing and having just returned from Nepal and trekking the Himalayas, John said he was profoundly affected by the poverty there. “I am convinced more than ever,” he said, “that education is the most successful way out of desperation at home and abroad.”

Also contributing remarks were UC Irvine Foundation Chair Hazem Chehabi, who with his wife Salma were 2010 UCI Medal recipients, and UCI Chancellor Michael Drake, who presented the UCI Medal to Sue and Bill Gross, who were represented via video. The philanthropic couple – Bill is co-founder of the prestigious international investment firm PIMCO and Sue manages the Gross Family Foundation – were commended by Drake for their incredible support of UCI’s healthcare and stem cell advances. Drake also awarded the medal to UCI Distinguished Professor Dr. Elizabeth Loftus for her groundbreaking work on the malleability of the human mind, for which she is the highest-ranking woman out of 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century by the “Review of General Psychology” journal. 2008 medal recipient Jim Mazzo introduced DrsBetty Tu and David Tsoong, who own Pinnacle Resources International Inc., a holding company focused on international real estate and senior living. Tu, a retired obstetrics-gynecology doctor, and Tsoong, an orthopedic surgeon, were commended for their passionate involvement with the university’s healthcare entities.

Dancers from UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts and the Music Department’s Men in Blaque singing ensemble entertained throughout the evening. Their performances were stunning, especially Men in Blaque’s arrangement of “Shenandoah” and the dancers “Illumination” performance.

For the first time, the warmhearted affair segued into an intimate club atmosphere for dancing, courtesy of the GIG Band, and $572,640 in net proceeds was later announced for UCI graduate fellowships, scholarships and other student-focused projects.

Photos by Puma Images