Top electrical engineering student Tony Rodriguez is making sparks fly

Tony Rodriguez
Tony Rodriguez heads off to his final undergraduate class. (Sacramento State/Jayla Lee)

Meet Juan Antonio Rodriguez Heredia, also known as Tony. He’s rocking our world in the Engineering Department after being named its 2016 Outstanding Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) Student. And this spring, he is obtaining his dream-come-true degree from Sacramento State.

Born in Mexico but raised on California’s central coast just 20 minutes south of San Luis Obispo, Rodriguez has grown to appreciate cultural diversity in people and places. And he is not afraid to ask questions.

“If someone speaks another language, I’ll ask them to teach me a word or tell me more about how I can learn more,” Rodriguez says. Already proficient in Spanish and French, he hopes to pick up Mandarin and master Japanese after graduation.

His curiosity about people eventually led to a deeper interest in how things connect on a harder, scientific level.

“I’ve always had a fascination with learning how things work,” Rodriguez says.“I like to think I have a very logistical brain, and so I like the problem-solving aspect of engineering.”

Rodriguez has represented Sacramento State through his internships at Gallo Winery and Keysight Technologies, the former test and measurement division of Hewlett-Packard. He has been active on campus as a member of the power engineering society Tau Beta Pi and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He is a positive source of encouragement and a study buddy to his classmates, according to the EEE Department Executive Committee. To top it all off, Rodriguez has maintained a stellar GPA.

He is currently working on microelectronics for the Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA), an internship he obtained through the help of his lab instructor Jeff Siddiqui.

According to DMEA Chief Ted Schantz, a majority of its degreed engineers come from Sacramento State.

“DMEA has 99 engineering positions that are occupied by multiple disciplines such as Electrical, Mechanical, Chemical, Material, and Industrial. Of those, 43 are CSUS graduates, some with two CSUS engineering degrees,” Schantz says, “So if you do the math, 43 percentof all DMEA engineers graduated with at least one engineering degree from CSUS.”

Rodriguez is graduating with highest honors, several full-time job offers, and bright eyes about where he’ll end up next. But first, he will embark on a summer backpacking trip in Europe.

Rodriguez is one of our outstanding students for 2016. Furthermore, he is an outstanding person who was proudly Made at Sac State.




Dave Lucchetti helps build the West – and the community

Dave Lucchetti
“We’ve been very fortunate that we can help,” Dave Lucchetti says. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Related video: Honorary doctorate ceremony for Dave Lucchetti

Dave Lucchetti, a Sacramento State alumnus and president and CEO of Pacific Coast Building Products, always has believed in giving back to the community, with a particular interest in helping the younger members of society.

Lucchetti (Physical Education ’67, Certificate ’68) will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the California State University system during commencement ceremonies for the College of Health and Human Services at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 21, at Sleep Train Arena.

He and his wife, Christine, daughter of Pacific Coast Building founder Fred Anderson, are well known in the community for their philanthropic work. The Anderson-Lucchetti family has been involved in numerous campaigns for nonprofits, such as Sierra Adoption Services and Jesuit High School. In 2005, the family pledged funding to the Sutter Medical Center Foundation for construction of the Anderson-Lucchetti Women’s and Children’s Center.

“We’ve been very fortunate that we can help with these efforts,” Dave Lucchetti says. “We’re thankful for the ability to do that.”

Lucchetti came to Sacramento State via Delta College in Stockton. While at Sac State, he was a defensive back for two years under football coach Ray Clemons, although he downplays his contributions. “I didn’t play my senior year, and that team was very good,” Lucchetti says.

It also was at Sac State where Lucchetti met his future wife on a blind date. The two were married a short time later and, after serving with the Army Reserve, Lucchetti went to work at Lodi High School, where he coached various sports, and taught PE and history.

But after two years, it was time for a change.

“I had thought that was what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” Lucchetti says. “But then I realized I wasn’t sure.” So he went to work for this father-in-law in 1970.

Since then, the Rancho Cordova-based company has grown from six or seven locations to about 90, spread over several Western states. Pacific Coast Building Products not only manufactures building materials such as gypsum wall board and asphalt roofing, it also distributes roofing, drywall and masonry products; and in some areas, it contracts for roofing, insulation, and glazing work.

It’s a family-owned and -run business, and takes that designation seriously, not only in the way it treats employees but also in the way it conducts itself in the community.

When considering support for an organization, the primary focus for the Anderson-Lucchetti family is children and young people.

Lucchetti notes that there are families with serious issues and problems, and the children need to see there is another way of life. “We need to break that cycle so that these kids have a chance to be productive,” he says.

One of the organizations the family supports is Cristo Rey High School. Started by a Jesuit priest, Cristo Rey has campuses across the nation. The Sacramento school opened in 2006 and, like all Cristo Rey high schools, provides education and support for children from families living below the poverty level.

Each student takes part in a work-study program, working in office-type settings five days a month. The employer covers the costs of the student’s education, and the student not only learns skills but also sees firsthand what kind of life is available to him or her.

Pacific Coast Building Products employs many Cristo Rey students, Lucchetti says. It even reaches out to them once they graduate, offering them jobs while they attend college. “And college is one of the conditions,” Lucchetti says. “You go to school.”

Joining a company with a reputation for helping the community was an easy fit for Lucchetti. His parents, Frank and Cristina, ran a farm near Stockton. “My mom and dad were not wealthy at all, but always were active in the community and active in charitable organizations,” he says. “They were very giving people.”

The parents also instilled a sense of self-reliance in Dave and his two brothers. They gave the boys a small plot of land on the farm, and the three grew their own crops to sell at the family’s fruit stand. “That’s how we paid for high school and college,” Dave Lucchetti says. “It was a good experience.”

Lucchetti is impressed with the strides Sacramento State has made in recent years. “It’s moving into the next phase, and I think it’s doing well,” he says. “Its involvement in the community has improved over the last seven or eight years.”

He and Christine have met University President Robert S. Nelsen and his wife, Jody, and Dave observes that the new president is enthused about getting Sac State more involved in the community. “Every time I go to a function, he’s there,” Lucchetti says.

Community involvement also means the region needs to support the University, providing jobs for its students by attracting new businesses to the area and retaining those already here, Lucchetti says.

Meanwhile, Lucchetti continues his own personal involvement in helping the Sacramento area. The approach is best summed up by his description of how family members oversee one of the company’s foundations, deciding how funds are spent. “It’s with the condition that you don’t just give money out. You become involved in what the group is and get to know what they do. That works pretty well.”

Steffanie Kramer wants to make life better for foster kids

Steffanie Kramer
Steffanie Kramer before her appearance on NBC’s Today – and days before her loving foster family adopted her. (Courtesy of Steffanie Kramer)

Related video: Watch KCRA 3 report on Steffanie Kramer

Steffanie Kramer’s life has been a Cinderella story, complete with wicked foster parents (a foster mom forced her to clean floors on her hands and knees, and banished her to the garage, where she slept on sofa cushions for weeks, as punishment for having “an attitude”) – and a fairy tale ending.

She finally found her “forever family,” Ellen and Bob Kramer and their brood, in 2011. The couple adopted her four years later, just before she turned 23.

She will graduate from Sacramento State on May 21 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Dean Fred Baldini chose her from among 1,268 eligible graduates from the College of Health and Human Services to deliver the Commencement address.

She was a finalist for this year’s Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Graduates, and her outstanding academic achievements have consistently landed her on the Dean’s Honor List.

“Steffanie is an exceptional student. Her courage and tenacity exhibit all that is good at Sac State,” says President Robert S. Nelsen.

Kramer plans to attend graduate school at Sac State and earn a master’s in social work (MSW). And then she wants to change the world for foster kids.

“I hope that other kids in the system can find one person in their life who can help them strip away the labels and find who they are,” she says. “The child who is being mistreated is going to grow up to be an adult, and I just hope they’re able to know that they are loved, wanted, chosen, and that they’re good people.”

Kramer, who grew up as Steffanie Eisenga, went into the foster care system at age 9, along with her older brother and three younger siblings. Their mother was a drug addict who lost her children when Child Protective Services learned that she was using drugs while pregnant.

Separated from her brothers and sisters, Kramer was shuffled from foster home to foster home and lived a nightmare with one family for five years before being placed with the Kramers, she says.

“I’ve gone from being alone and separated from my siblings to going through sexual abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, financial abuse, to joining a family of 12,” she says. “The love is what changed my life. I will never be the same. I know I am loved, and I have a family now.”

She has reconnected with her birth mother, who is clean and working, and she has a relationship with her younger siblings. She was the sixth foster child adopted by the Kramers, who also have four biological children. The Kramer offspring range in age from 4 to 29, along with a growing number of nieces and nephews.

While at Sac State, Kramer has been active in Guardian Scholars, a support group for students who are former foster youth or homeless, and in the New Student Orientation program.

“She worked for me for four summers and was the student coordinator, the highest position you can have. She was wonderful,” says Mary Shepherd, assistant director of Academic Advising and coordinator of New Student Orientation. “I know that she’ll go out and do amazing things when she’s done with her education.”

Last December, shortly before her adoption was finalized, Kramer and other former foster youth were invited by Today host Natalie Morales to talk on national television about their experiences growing up in the foster care system. They also made a public service announcement for Children’s Rights, a national organization that advocates for abused and neglected kids.

“I hope every foster kid gets the opportunity to finally see their real selves in the mirror and say, ‘I’m good. I’m loved. I’m able.’ That’s my hope,” Kramer says. “When I get to the place that I get married and have a family of my own, I will be adopting and fostering children, and doing the hard work so many people don’t want to do and that these children deserve.”