Previous Years' Honored Alumni
A complete list of all honored alumni can be found on the Cal Poly Alumni Website.
His Excellency Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair - 2017
B.S. Industrial Engineering, 1977
CEO of Mashreqbank
His Excellency Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair is a 1977 graduate in industrial engineering. He is the CEO of Mashreqbank, the largest private sector bank in the United Arab Emirates and the Chairman of Al Ghurair Investment LLC, one of the largest and most successful business groups in the Middle East. His Excellency was appointed in 2012 Chairman of the UAE Banking Federation, representing the 49 member banks operating in the UAE. His current positions include Vice Chairman of the Higher Board of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), and the Board of Emirates Foundation, among many others. Throughout his career, His Excellency has received numerous awards and accolades. Most recently Gulf Business named him the Banking Business Leader of the Year in 2016, the Innovator of the Year in 2014 and gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He has also been recognized for his commitment to his more than 3,000 employees at Mashreqbank and was named Best CEO by Middle East Magazine in 2008. He leads the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, one of the largest privately funded philanthropic education initiatives in the Arab world. Established in 2015 with one third of the assets of the Al Ghurair group of companies, the foundation works to prepare young Emiratis and Arabs to fulfill their potential through access to higher education. At Cal Poly, His Excellency graduated with honors and was Chairman of the Cal Poly Muslim Students Association and Arab Student Association.
John Nielsen - 2017
B.S. Mechanial Engineering, 1965
Retired Automation Specialist Engineering General Mills
John K. Nielsen graduated in 1965 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He had a long career as a staff engineer for several companies and retired from General Mills after designing, building and managing the engineering functions in several of the company’s plants throughout the United States. Nielsen credits Learn by Doing for much of his success and is a dedicated supporter of hands-on learning opportunities for students in the College of Engineering. Nielsen is the founding donor of the Mustang ’60 Shop, an on-campus machine shop where students can complete the cycle of design from concept to finished product and gain confidence using manufacturing equipment. In addition to providing funding for the lab, Nielsen created an endowment to ensure a full-time shop technician would always be available to assist students. He is a longtime member of the Mechanical Engineering Industry Advisory Board, with a special interest in providing a safe environment for students working in the lab, working with staff and students to install equipment, provide safety protocols and follow up on implementation.
CPAA - Sandra Gardebring Ogren Leadership Award
Randell Iwasaki - 2017
B.S. Civil Engineering, 1982
Executive Director Contra Costa Transportation Authority
Randell H. Iwasaki graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1982 and a master’s in engineering from California State University Fresno in 1989. He began his career at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in 1983, culminating in his appointment as director in 2010. He is currently the Executive Director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA). Iwasaki is responsible for the launch of the GoMentum station, an autonomous vehicle testing station, and is partnering with tech and automotive companies toward developing the next generation of transportation solutions. He is the recipient of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Thomas H. MacDonald Memorial Award for meritorious contributions to the art and science of highway engineering; the Charles H. Purcell Award for managerial excellence at Caltrans; and is the recipient of the 2009 “Doers, Dreamers and Drivers” award given by Government Technology Magazine. Iwasaki has donated an Intelligent Transportation Systems Laboratory to the College of Engineering and serves on the advisory boards for both the college and the Civil and Environmental Engineering department. He supports the student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers at Cal Poly through visits to campus, guest lectures and mentorship.
Karen Bartleson - 2016
B.S. Engineering Science, 1980
President-elect, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Kim E. Vorrath - 2015
B.S., Computer Science, 1988
Vice President of OS Programs, Apple.
Kimberly E. Vorrath graduated in 1988 with a degree in computer science. As Vice President of OS Programs at Apple, Vorrath leads the teams responsible for program and project management, power, performance, stability and quality for iOS, OS X and watch OS releases. Vorrath joined Apple 27 years ago as a college intern and was hired full time upon graduation in 1988. She has since held a number of different roles within Apple, including being one of the first members of the iPhone software team. One of Vorrath’s passions is supporting women in technology and at Cal Poly she has championed Women Involved in Software and Hardware (WISH) and student participation in the national Grace Hopper Conference which connects, inspires and guides women in computing. Vorrath is a current member of the Computer Science Department Advisory Board.
Cal Poly Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award
Thomas F. Lebens- 2015
B.S., Electronic Engineering, 1989
Chair, Professional Development and Networking Committee
Thomas F. Lebens graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering in 1989 and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1993. He is a Past President of the Cal Poly Alumni Association and current member of the Board of Directors and the Chair of the Professional Development and Networking Committee. Lebens also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Engineering and is a member of the Student Affairs Advisory Council. He has served as a member of the Cal Poly Corporation Board of Directors and enjoys volunteering for the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. While a student, Lebens served as ASI President, Student Senator, and as a member of the ASI Executive Staff. Lebens is active in the San Luis Obispo community and serves on numerous boards and committees at the city and state level.
Carson Chen - 2014
B.S., Electronic Engineering, 1973
Co-Founder and Chairman of Innovation Quest (iQ)
Chen is co-founder and chairman of Innovation Quest (iQ), a nonprofit philanthropic corporation dedicated to giving back and enhancing innovation. iQ is managed by a group of Cal Poly alumni dedicated to fostering innovation and creating new companies and jobs. Retired from Cisco Systems, Chen was the vice president and general manager of the Cable & Wireless Platform Division. He is responsible for issuing more than 30 U.S. patents and holds six patents himself. He wrote the book, “Active Filter Design,” and serves on the boards of several technology companies.
CPAA - Sandra Gardebring Ogren Leadership Award
Jon N. Monett -2014
B.S., Industrial Engineering, 1964
Founder of Quality of Life Plus (QL+)
Monett graduated in 1964 with a degree in industrial engineering and went on, 30 years later, to earn a master’s in international transactions from George Mason University. Monett served in the U.S. Air Force and spent 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency. On his return to civilian life, Monett founded O-Tech International, which later became Telemus Solutions, a global security consulting and intelligence services provider. Monett founded the College of Engineering’s Quality of Life Plus Laboratory (QL+), a facility dedicated to the development and application of technology to improve the quality of life for wounded and disabled veterans of military, law enforcement and intelligence organizations. Monett is the recipient of the CIA’s Intelligence Medal of Merit, and was the 2009 Honored Alumnus from the College of Engineering. He is a member of the Cal Poly President’s Cabinet and the Foundation Board.