UCR Medallion, Alumni Awards of Distinction doled out at gala fundraiser
By Omar Shamout
UCR celebrated the annual Chancellor’s Dinner on Oct. 21, an event that raises money for student scholarships and recognizes distinguished alumni and supporters of the campus and community.
Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox presented the UCR Medallion to Arthur D. Riggs ’61, in recognition of extraordinary achievement, service, and dedication to education at all levels, and for enduring support of UC Riverside and the community.
“It’s a real honor to present Art Riggs with the UCR Medallion,” Wilcox said. “His work on diabetes has saved countless lives around the world and his accomplishments exemplify what can be achieved with a UCR education.”
UCR also presented the recipients of its 2017 Alumni Awards of Distinction. Since 1986, the UCR Alumni Association has honored graduates who personify the university’s tradition of excellence and service. Through their personal and professional achievements, these individuals bring distinction to UCR, contribute to the betterment of society, and enhance their communities.
“Growing student support is one of our highest priorities, so this event not only helps us achieve that goal but also gives us a chance to honor a few of the UCR alumni who inspire us,” Wilcox said.
UCR Medallion: Dr. Arthur D. Riggs ’61
This honor is presented to an individual in recognition of pioneering scientific achievement, dedication to research and graduate education, and for enduring collaboration with the university.
A world-renowned researcher at City of Hope for almost 50 years, Riggs’ discoveries have impacted the lives of millions of diabetes, arthritis, and cancer patients worldwide.
Riggs’ interest in science began at an early age as a student in San Bernardino and blossomed at UC Riverside. He went on to do doctoral work at the California Institute of Technology on the chemistry of DNA, eventually earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry.
Riggs joined the City of Hope where, with a colleague, he conducted seminal research that led to the first successful biotech products — human insulin and growth hormone — and provided the basis for many other life-changing drugs that followed. Riggs’ achievement was critical to the success of Genentech, the founder of the biotechnology industry. His work on cancer has been equally groundbreaking and has resulted in treatments for breast, colon, and blood cancers.
Riggs has been recognized with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Research Award, the City of Hope Gallery of Achievement Award, and Distinguished Alumni Awards from both UC Riverside and Caltech. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.
The Distinguished Alumnus Award is the most prestigious of the honors bestowed by the UCR Alumni Association. The award is based on national and international distinction in one’s field and significant contribution to humankind.
Leonard graduated from UCR in 1978 with a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He is the senior vice president of development for Vaccinex Inc. in Rochester, New York, and the president and CEO of the John & Elizabeth Leonard Family Foundation in Carlsbad.
Leonard has served on the UCR Foundation Board of Trustees since July 2014. He has also served on the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS) Board of Advisors, the Technology Commercialization Committee, and he established a CNAS Undergraduate Scholarship for the Freshman Summer Research Program.
The Alumni Service Award honors superior service to the public sector or a sustained pattern of volunteer service in the community, arts, or for the benefit of UCR that has positively represented the university and fellow citizens.
Tolbert graduated from UCR with a B.A. in political science. In 1994, he suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, with doctors telling him he had six months to live. Tolbert has since adapted to his new life through a strong faith in God and the nurturing help of his committed wife of 38 years, Nina.
In 1996, he became one of Sailing Fascination Foundation’s first students. He soon became an instructor, then a director, and eventually president in 2007. Under his guidance, the foundation has grown significantly. With 40 volunteers, an alliance with the Oasis Sailing Club, the support of the city of Newport Beach and other donors, free sailing lessons are being given to Wounded Warriors, Special Olympic Athletes, United Cerebral Palsy members, and many other disabled sailors.
The Outsanding Young Alumnus Award is presented to alumni aged 35 or younger with a significant record of career and/or civic achievement and promise in their profession.
Cai graduated from UCR in 2015 with a Ph.D. in chemical and environmental engineering. He co-founded MG Fuels to commercialize a biofuels process he helped develop at UCR that reduces the amount of enzymes used to break down biomass to make ethanol. The patented method was developed as a versatile and efficient way to convert raw agricultural and forestry residues and other plant matter into both biofuels and chemicals. The project aims to bring industry closer to producing fuels and chemicals from biomass at high enough yields and low enough costs to become a viable alternative or replacement for petroleum-based fuels and chemicals.
Cai’s research has been supported by such agencies as the Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was named to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list in the energy category in January 2017.
Cai works at UCR as an assistant research engineer at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology; and as an assistant adjunct professor of chemical and environmental engineering.