The Blaisdell Distinguished Award honors alumni for achievement in their professions or community service, particularly those who have lived up to the quotation from James A. Blaisdell which is inscribed into the gates of the College: “They only are loyal to the college who departing bear their added riches in trust for mankind.” This year brings four winners:
Irving “Sonny” Brown ’56 was honored for years of service with Rotary International—as director and vice-president, trustee, president of the Rotary Club of El Paso, Rotary district governor and in many other roles. Among the hundreds of service projects he and his wife Ann have participated in, in 45 countries, one that stands out to him is a visit to an AIDS orphanage in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“The children were well-fed and happy and were from ages 1 to 4 years old, all of whom had been abandoned. We met over 35 of them and learned that most of them would not likely live beyond age 5. They clung to each of us as we greeted them and each stole our hearts, especially [a boy named] Jonathan who in my arms said to me, ‘Thank you, Daddy!’”
Born in Parral Chihuahua, Mexico, Brown served as an officer in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corp. He and Ann have four children and 10 grandchildren. He is chairman and founder of Sonny Brown Associates, an international commercial and industrial real estate consulting firm.
In 2006, he received Rotary’s highest award, the “Service Above Self” award. His Rotary district named their new vocational service award the “Sonny Brown Business of the Year Award,” and it is given annually to companies representing the highest ethical business practices.
An economics major at Pomona, Brown says, “The College provided me an atmosphere of encouragement and commitment to explore the wonderful world of service. Trusting in Him and in my family, God gave me the opportunity to make many new best friends while working together to improve the lives of others.”
Hashim Djojohadikusumo ’76 hasn’t been content to just earn wealth—he also shares it by sponsoring more than 3,000 students with scholarship funding and providing job-search assistance to students upon graduation.
Djojohadikusumo’s father, Indonesia’s former finance minister Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, hailed from an aristocratic Central-East Javanese family, while his mother came from a Christian area of the country, heavily influenced by the Dutch.
His family was in exile for a decade after 1957 after his father led an armed insurrection against Communists in the government.
A government major, he returned to Indonesia after Pomona and a one-year traineeship at a Paris investment bank. Former Pomona Professor of Government Frank Tugwell, Djojohadikusumo’s academic advisor, had dinner with him in 1991 in Jakarta, and was taken aback when his former student remembered his textbooks by title and author and easily picked up where classroom discussions had left off. In an interview with Indonesia Business Week, Tugwell said, “It was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had a student who has had that kind of alert application of the knowledge.”
His passion for knowledge extends to providing opportunities for students to acquire the same. In 1994, he gave $1 million to a school in Bandung, Java. He is also the chairman of the Hashim Djojohadikusumo Family Foundation, which promotes social activities in education, children’s health and well-being. His other interests extend to preservation and conservation, including monuments, buildings, statues, rainforests and wildlife sanctuaries.
Carlos Guangorena ’76 has found a unique niche in commercial lending as the president andCEO of Seattle’s Plaza Bank, a no-mortgages commercial bank geared toward the under-served Latino community.
Born in Mexico and raised in East L.A., Guangorena studied economics at Pomona, earned an M.B.A. at UCLA and started his banking career as a commercial loan officer at the Bank of America. He moved from Los Angeles to Seattle after marrying Linda J. Lang ‘79, whom he started dating while a senior at Pomona, and rose through a successful career in banking, including positions as senior vice president for Wells Fargo, senior vice president for Pacific Northwest Bank and a senior corporate lender for U.S. Bank.
At the height of his career, an offer came along that he couldn’t refuse. Michael E. Sotelo, a construction-industry executive in Seattle, approached Guangorena with a plan to open a bank that would serve Washington’s growing Latino population. They saw both a business opportunity and a chance to help educate and elevate an under-served segment of society.Some 60 percent of the Latino population in Washington state was unbanked at that time.
In 2006, Plaza Bank, named for a word that means the same thing in English and Spanish, opened downtown in the 44-story U.S. Bank Centre. Today there also is a branch office in a suburb south of Seattle. With all of the progress Plaza Bank has made in the past few years,
Guangorena still doesn’t feel like his job is done. “I think this is just a work in progress, not a culmination,” says Guangorena. “I’m not done yet. It’s not like finishing a race. The race has only just begun.”
Robert E. Tranquada ’51 received his medical degree from Stanford University in 1955 and discovered he enjoyed academic medicine while working at the Los Angeles V.A .Hospital. He ended up as an associate professor at USC, which led to one of his proudest accomplishments.
After the Watts riots in 1965, during which he commanded a National Guard medical battalion treating injured troops, federal money was available to open a clinic in the city. The dean of the medical school at USC offered him the job.
“I was doing research and taking care of patients and teaching and enjoying my life as an associate professor. I had never, ever considered doing anything in the way of administration,” recalls Tranquada, who spent three years getting the Watts Health Clinic—which is still a pillar in the community— up and running. “It was an utterly and absolutely rewarding thing to do. It opened my eyes to the areas of policy and health care.”
Tranquada’s career took a further turn to the administrative and academic when he was recruited to chair USC’s department of community medicine and health care. He later became dean of the School of Medicine and continued his career in similar positions at the UCLA School of Medicine, the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and back to USC, where he is now emeritus professor of medicine and public policy.
In 1991, he was asked to chair an L.A. County taskforce on health care, which developed the Community Health Council, a board Tranquada has been on ever since. One of the Council’s accomplishments is the L.A. Care and Health Plan, an independent health authority that provides health insurance through Medi-Cal to 900,000 people in the county. Tranquada also served on the Christopher Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, which was developed after the Rodney King beating.
His service to Pomona began with the Alumni Association in 1965. He became president of the association in 1968, which also began lifetime membership on Pomona’s Board of Trustees, including as vice chair from 1987–91, chair from 1991–2000 and chairman emeritus since 2000.