Former Sacramento Bee publisher and alumna Cheryl Dell to receive honorary doctorate

Cheryl Dell, former publisher and president of the Sacramento Bee, stands with Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen at an April 28 event in her honor. She will receive an honorary doctorate during the Spring Commencement ceremony on May 20.

Cheryl Dell, a Sacramento State alumna whose three-decade career in the news industry was capped by serving as publisher and president of her hometown newspaper, will receive an honorary doctorate from the CSU during Sac State’s Spring Commencement on May 20.

Dell ’82 (Communication Studies), retired in March after nine years heading the Sacramento Bee. Her 30-year career as a newspaper executive included positions at The Fresno BeeThe News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., and the Tri-City Herald in eastern Washington. She returned home in 2008 to assume the top spot at her hometown paper, where her goal was to ensure that the more-than-150-year-old Sacramento paper continued to play an essential role in informing the region. Under her leadership, the Bee received virtually every major journalism award, including a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartoons.

Throughout her career, Dell also has been heavily involved in volunteering. She has served on the board of directors for numerous organizations, including the Sacramento Tree Foundation, Valley Vision, Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization (SACTO), The Salvation Army Advisory Board, and MLK 365. She also served on the executive committee and was chairman of the board of the Inland Press Association, one of the oldest and largest newspaper membership organizations, serving more than 1,000 member newspapers in the United States.

In 2013, Dell received a Distinguished Service Award from Sacramento State, and in 2014 she was named to the Sacramento Business Journal’s list of “Women Who Mean Business.” She also has returned to her alma mater as an invited speaker and gave a presentation on the state of the newspaper industry at the launch of the Spring 2014 Sac State Magazine.

Dell will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during Commencement. Honorary doctorates recognize excellence in areas that benefit humanity, CSU campuses, the state, nation, or world. They are conferred by the CSU Board of Trustees jointly in the name of the CSU and Sacramento State. For a full list of past winners, visit csus.edu/commencement/honorarydoctorate.

For more information about Spring Commencement, visit csus.edu/commencement.

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Alumna’s nonprofit focuses on getting Latinas engaged with their community

When she was younger, Angela Rosas ’08 (Journalism) used volunteering to escape – from school, from unavoidable circumstances, and from a low-income neighborhood that was plagued by the issues that often affect impoverished communities. But as she got older, she started to notice something alarming about the organizations at which she served.

“There were a large amount of Latinos utilizing those services, but there wasn’t a lot of giving back,” she says. “Rarely did I see Latinos on staff. Rarely did I see Latinos volunteering.”

Angela-Rosas-webBelieving it was critical that the people serving the community shared a background with and understood the experiences of those they were helping, Rosas decided to take matters into her own hands. In 2009, she started her own nonprofit, Chicas Latinas de Sacramento, which is dedicated to promoting civic engagement among Latinas and increase the number of them who volunteer in the community. What began as a meet-and-greet dinner with 15 women has grown into an organization with more than 250 members that sponsors a variety of programs, events and partnerships that serve the Sacramento region.

Rosas’ day job is as a director for Mercury Public Affairs’ Sacramento office, where she serves as a consultant for some of the firm’s largest statewide clients, including The California Endowment and California Environmental Justice Alliance. But she also has nurtured her lifelong passion for volunteering, sparked in part by her belief that, as long as she has the ability, she has no choice but to pay it forward.

“It was also a way for me to be a light for the next generation in my family,” she says. “I wanted the kids in my family to see that I was getting educated, that I was going to college, that I was volunteering and being a part of my community.”

Rosas transferred to Sacramento State after attending community college locally. She worked multiple jobs – and her father picked up extra work – to pay for tuition, which allowed her to graduate debt-free. The flexibility that the University provides students – through night or online classes, for example – as well as the accessibility of her professors and counselors were essential to her success, she says.

“Sac State, for me, was an introduction to the rest of the world,” Rosas says. “It absolutely prepared me (for life after graduation). It brought me together with people from all over. The diversity of the campus was fantastic. I felt like I was part of the community.”

Knowing she was a strong writer, she studied journalism so that she could help tell the stories of her community and Latinos in general, and after graduation began work as a multimedia reporter in Tulare County. It wasn’t long, however, before her hometown beckoned her back. She returned to Sacramento to work as a grant-writer for a nonprofit organization that provided job training for displaced farmworkers. It was during that time she founded Chicas Latinas, eventually quitting her job to focus all of her energy on the nonprofit.

Just after Chicas Latinas became an officially registered nonprofit organization in 2012, Rosas began working full-time again, handling statewide marketing and business development for a Sacramento law firm before moving to Mercury in 2015.

As the founder and CEO of Chicas Latinas, she remains the public face of the organization, signing the checks, overseeing board meetings, and attending volunteer events when she can. But she says she is grateful for the dedicated team – all unpaid – that allows her to continue working full time and has helped the nonprofit she started continue to grow and thrive.

In addition to her work with Chicas Latinas, Rosas also is a member of Cien Amigos, an advocacy organization working for California and Mexico, and serves on the board of directors for Festival de la Familia. Her work has not gone unnoticed: She has received the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Rising Estrella Award; was featured in 2015 as a “Top Latino Influencer” by Vida en el Valle; was nominated in 2014 as a “Coors Light Lideres of the Year”; named in 2012 an “Inspiring Young Latina” by Latina Magazine; and was honored at the 2011 Sacramento Women of Color Day.

The recognition can be awkward, Rosas says, and when the awards come, she dedicates them to her parents, whose constant support she says has been instrumental to her success.

“My college degree, I felt, was ultimately for them,” she says. “They still have my degree. I gave it to them because they invested in me before I knew to invest in me. I felt like they earned that degree as much as I did.”

Lester Holt’s journey as a journalist started at Sac State

Lester Holt is one of the world’s most respected broadcast journalists – and it all began for him at Sacramento State. He became a better student, he says, and made the decision to become a journalist while at the University. “It set me off into the world.”

He still considers himself a student – “and my finals are every night at 6:30 Eastern time when I get in front of the camera.”

Holt, 58, anchors both NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC. As a TV journalist, he has covered some of the world’s biggest stories, including the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil leak, the lead-up to the Iraq War, and two hurricanes.

In 2016, he was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, and he became the first African American to moderate a general-election presidential debate in nearly a quarter-century. In 2015, he was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, in Sacramento.

A few months earlier, during Sacramento State’s Spring 2015 Commencement ceremonies at Sleep Train Arena, Holt’s alma mater and the California State University Board of Trustees recognized his many achievements by conferring on him an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. His wife, Carol, and his parents, June and Lester Sr., who still live in the Sacramento area, were in the audience.

“I am honored, and I certainly accept this degree with deep gratitude,” said Holt, who noted that his father also attended – and graduated from – Sacramento State. “I am so proud to be and (to) have been associated with this university.”

Holt, a graduate of Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova, was a government major and left Sacramento State during his junior year to take a job at a San Francisco radio station. Within 18 months, he landed a position at the CBS-TV affiliate in New York City and was on his way to becoming one of the nation’s most highly regarded broadcast journalists.

“I began with dreams of being a big-time disc jockey, but it was at Sac State that I was exposed to journalism, and it was there that my interest and my focus really narrowed in on becoming a news person,” Holt said in accepting his honorary degree. “There have been many times … that I wished I had completed my formal studies, but I hold my head high, and I accept that things happen for a reason.”

7-2017-01-16_lester-holt_with-pres-nelsen_01_sm_fb
President Robert S. Nelsen with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt during Holt’s Jan. 17, 2017, visit to the Sacramento State campus. (Sacramento State/Rob Neep)

Holt came “home” to Sac State again in January 2017, stopping by the campus for a quick visit, arriving in a modest rental car he drove himself. A day earlier, in Old Sacramento, he interviewed graduate students Ahlam Abdul-Rahman and Norma Mendoza as a part of a national discussion on immigration in the days leading up to the presidential inauguration. Sacramento was the first stop on his “Across America” series for NBC Nightly News.

The big news in the Holt household these days is the impending arrival of Carol and Lester’s first grandchild. Their son Stefan and his wife, Morgan, are expecting their baby in September.


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