Extraordinary Cal Lutheran community members receive Alumni Awards

Each year, the Cal Lutheran Alumni Board of Directors recognizes achievements that have brought honor and distinction to the university

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Alumni Award recipients include: Paul Hanson, Marisol Rodriguez, Asante Sefa-Boakye, Jim Overton, Lorrie Brown and Justin Meek.

Photo: Courtesy photos

Six outstanding alumni and friends of Cal Lutheran were honored for their accomplishments and impact — from career achievements and humanitarian endeavors to social reform.

This distinguished group was recognized for their professional achievements and legacy of service in three categories: Honorary Alumni, Outstanding Alumni and Outstanding Young Alumni.

“These esteemed alumni have made direct impacts in their communities, both locally and around the world,” said Steven Guetzoian, associate director for Alumni and Family Relations. “These distinguished members of the Cal Lutheran family are leaders who are confident in their identity with a deep commitment to service and justice.”

Honorary Alumni

The Honorary Alumni Award is bestowed on those who have rendered an outstanding level of service to Cal Lutheran and whose personal achievements have garnered recognition from outside individuals or organizations. They are:

Paul Hanson, PhD (Honorary Alumni 2021-2022)

Throughout his 40-year tenure as a professor of South Asian and Middle Eastern history at Cal Lutheran, Paul Hansen, PhD, has nurtured a multidisciplinary global perspective among students and colleagues alike. As a young Fulbright scholar in India, Hanson became enthralled with the tremendous diversity of languages, religions and architecture on the subcontinent.

His early travels throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe instilled in him a deep-seated passion for bringing a global lens to the human experience when he arrived at Cal Lutheran in 1978. He evolved one of the university’s core courses — Western Civilization — to World Civilizations. He later launched the Global Studies Program, connecting faculty from different disciplines to collaborate and team-teach courses centered on global content.

“My most memorable and gratifying experiences at CLU came from my interactions with students and faculty, so many of whom enriched my own life greatly,” Hanson said.

Hanson brought the world to Cal Lutheran and brought many of his students to far-reaching corners of the planet, leaving an indelible impact on the university’s collective understanding of humanity.

Jim Overton (Honorary Alumni 2022-2023)

Called to serve on the Cal Lutheran Board of Regents in 2010, Jim Overton has spent 12 years dedicated to the mission and values of the university. He has been instrumental in appointing presidents, expanding the north campus, opening the Swenson Science Center and enhancing diversity through the university’s designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

“My parents and grandfather were strong Lutherans who instilled in me the importance of supporting CLU’s higher-education goals,” Overton said. “It is an honor to continue their legacy and bring impactful change to a place that is profoundly important to me.” 

Overton’s impact on Cal Lutheran is nearly impossible to qualify: His interests are diverse, his generosity is boundless, and his passion for serving students is limitless. From Overton Hall, Overton Court and the stained-glass windows in Samuelson Chapel to the Frederickson Family Early Childhood Center, Overton has enhanced our campus beyond measure. In addition, the many scholarships created by Overton and his family — the Overton Prize in Economics, the Summer Research Scholarship and, most recently, a music scholarship for string instruments — have had a transformative effect on our community.

Outstanding Alumni

The Outstanding Alumni Award is given to Cal Lutheran graduates with distinguished records of career achievements or humanitarian endeavors dedicated to social reform. The recipients include:

Marisol Rodriguez ’94, MPA ’00, PhD (Outstanding Alumni 2021-2022)

A passion for service and a drive to continuously improve have propelled Marisol Rodriguez to an esteemed career that spans nearly three decades with the Ventura County Fire Department. Rodriguez credits her experience as a Regals volleyball player with instilling in her a strong work ethic and a commitment to teamwork and leadership values that inform her dynamic work as a fire captain today.

“It is such an honor to work where I grew up and give back to my community,” Rodriguez said. “As a CLU Regal in a helping profession, it is my passion to serve others.”

First exposed to fire services through a Cal Lutheran undergraduate internship, Marisol runs Ventura County’s Fire Academy programs, raises awareness about reducing fire hazards and serves as an instructor for the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Leadership Academy. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal Lutheran and a PhD from Capella University. An exemplary leader dedicated to service, Rodriguez maintains close ties to Cal Lutheran. She is a frequent guest speaker at university events, past panelist for the Mathews Leadership Forum and worked for a time at Cal Lutheran Fire Station 34.

Lorrie Brown ’07, MPPA ’09 (Outstanding Alumni 2022-2023)

As the first Black person to be elected to the Ventura City Council since the city’s inception 150 years ago, Lorrie Brown strives to shed light on the challenges faced by marginalized communities and builds consensus to fight injustice and solve real world problems as a single mother of three young men. Brown put herself through college at Cal Lutheran and was encouraged by a professor to apply for the university’s Master of Public Policy and Administration Program. This began a pathway toward her esteemed career in the public service.

“One of my core beliefs is rooted in an ethics class I took at Cal Lutheran,” Brown said. “Policy should bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.” 

As a councilmember, she has proposed and implemented key policies and support of people of color and other underrepresented communities including declaring racism a public health issue, denouncing police brutality and implementing the Progress Initiative to address affordable housing and economic development in the city of Ventura. Brown works tirelessly to question the status quo in favor of more inclusive policies that benefit everyone.

Outstanding Young Alumni

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award is given to graduates of the last decade for distinguished career achievements or humanitarian endeavors dedicated to social reform. Awardees are:

Asante Sefa-Boakye ’15 (Outstanding Young Alumni 2021-2022)

Since graduating from Cal Lutheran, Asante Sefa-Boakye has followed his passions around the globe, whether mentoring young people, creating and performing hip-hop music, or starting Ghana's first youth water polo team. A former team captain at Cal Lutheran, Sefa-Boakye trained in the sport throughout Europe and played professionally in Brazil. Today, he’s championing the growth of water polo in Ghana and building enthusiasm for aquatic health and wellness across Africa and among diaspora worldwide.

For Sefa-Boakye, time management is essential to success, and he credits Cal Lutheran with providing him the structure and discipline to anchor his schedule around his goals. Today, he carves out time to create music that acknowledges life’s struggles, but also uplifts his audience and gets people dancing.

“Seeing how welcoming the administration, professors and students were to me at CLU made me realize — no matter what — everyone wants to feel welcome,” Sefa-Boakye said.

His message of positivity extends to his mentoring work. Sefa-Boakye encourages others to embrace failure as a life lesson that ultimately brings growth. His advice: Keep going and never give up on your dreams. 

Justin Meek ’18 (Outstanding Young Alumni 2022-2023)

A profound sense of loss reverberated throughout the Cal Lutheran community and beyond when Justin Meek was tragically lost in the mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill in 2018. The kind of person that everyone loved to be around, Meek was known as a warm-hearted and compassionate young man who had an innate drive to protect those he loved. He studied criminal justice and planned to join the Coast Guard to make a career of protecting others; he died a hero doing just that. As an undergraduate, Meek was an integral part of the fabric of the CLU campus community.

“The banners on campus say, ‘Find Your Purpose’,” said Meek’s mother Laura Lynn Meek ’18. “CLU helped Justin discover new layers of himself and find his own unique purpose.”

Meek founded Cal Lutheran’s line-dancing club, played water polo for the Kingsmen, and sang in the choir and Kingsmen quartet. Meek’s mother and sister, Victoria Rose Meek ’20, are also Cal Lutheran alumni.

To honor the memory of this extraordinary young man, the university installed a bench in Kingsmen Park — Meek’s favorite spot on campus — creating a place of quiet reflection for generations to come.

Each of these awardees makes Cal Lutheran proud,” Guetzoian said. “Their dedication to supporting underrepresented groups, developing future leaders and sharing their passions and gifts locally and internationally is the very definition of what it means to be a Cal Lutheran alumni.”