On Monday, October 3, 2022, 100 years to the day since its first classes commenced, La Sierra University will celebrate a century of growth and transformation during a festive event at the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside, California, United States.
The Centennial Gala, slated to take place on the university’s Founders’ Day, will provide attendees with a historical retrospective of key moments in the institution’s history through to present day. Entertainment will be provided by creative force and dynamic classical pianist Alpin Hong along with an appearance by La Sierra alumnus and operatic tenor Anthony León. A rendition of the La Sierra school song, first introduced October 1, 1949, will also be performed.
The evening’s highlights will feature the presentation of 100 Presidential Awards by La Sierra University President Joy Fehr. These individuals hold various ties to the university and have made significant contributions in a variety of ways — to the university and its standing, to their chosen fields and the spirit of innovation and excellence, to the Seventh-day Adventist denomination of which the university is a part, and to the betterment of the Riverside community and well-being of society. Awards will include posthumous recognitions.
Presidential awardees will include Stan Morrison, renowned former college basketball coach, athletics director, and current chair of La Sierra University’s foundation and athletics advisory boards; Cindy Roth, outgoing Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce president and chief executive officer, and past recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws from La Sierra University; and La Sierra University President Emeritus Larry T. Geraty, whose tenure oversaw the creation of the foundation board and a US$100 million endowment through redevelopment of university property.
Recognitions will also include the late Art Pick, former La Sierra University trustee, Riverside community leader, and former chambers of commerce president; Brian Wright, general manager of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, a Zapara School of Business graduate, former Golden Eagles basketball player, and Riverside Sports Hall of Fame honoree; Patty Cabrera, Riverside native and Christian recording artist, La Sierra University Master of Arts in Religion program participant, Latin Grammy nominee, and Gospel Music Association Dove Awards nominee; and the late Frank Jobe, La Sierra alumnus, celebrated sports orthopaedic surgeon, and inventor of the groundbreaking ‘Tommy John’ elbow ligament reconstructive surgery.
Finally, the ceremony will recognize Seventh-day Adventist philanthropists Thaine B. Price, a La Sierra alumnus, and Tom and Vi Zapara whose respective contributions allowed the construction of the university’s newest buildings housing its sciences complex and business school.
Historical figures receiving recognition will include former La Sierra College President Erwin E. Cossentine, who worked to free La Sierra’s Japanese-American students from internment camps during World War II. Other individuals tied to the university’s beginnings will also be honored posthumously, notably Willits J. Hole, former owner of Rancho La Sierra, a Mexican land grant, a portion of which he sold for the development of university’s forerunner, La Sierra Academy, and James I. Robison, founding principal of the academy that opened during an autumn heatwave on October 3, 1922 with 84 students and two partially completed buildings.
During the gala reception, the university will also unveil a book about its 100-year history, written by current and past faculty members and administrators. Guests will have an opportunity to meet the authors.
The gala completes a series of university centennial events this year — festivities launched in February with the unveiling of a new sculpture, the third in a trilogy, and centennial-themed activities took place during alumni weekend in April capped by a fireworks show.
“We have been planning and anticipating this magnificent gala all year long and are eager to celebrate with our supporters and friends,” Fehr said. “With great excitement, we conclude our centennial celebrations for our beloved university through this capstone event and join with our community in paying tribute to the courage and immense tenacity of those who, more than 100 years ago, made certain this exceptional educational institution took root in Riverside.”
Fehr added that the school has evolved into the nationally-ranked university that it is today, serving students from around the globe, because of the profound dedication of many people past and present, and countless donors and supporters, faculty, and staff over the decades. “We are humbled to celebrate this tremendous milestone and grateful for God’s unending provision as we move forward into an even brighter future of opportunity and growth,” she said.