Don Young

DON YOUNG (Social Science, Credential, ’59) is a US congressman in Alaska and was reelected to the US House of Representatives for a 25th term in November. Young is the longest-serving Republican ever in the House, having served since 1973. Before starting his career in politics, Young served in the US Army from 1955–57 before completing his bachelor’s degree and teaching credential at Chico State College. Shortly after graduating, he moved to Alaska, which had just become a US state. After serving as mayor of Fort Yukon, Alaska, for several years, he moved on to serve in the state and federal government. On November 7, 2020, Young was one of the first Republicans to acknowledge and congratulate Joe Biden for his victory in the 2020 presidential election, and he voted against sustaining the objections against counting Electoral College votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania on January 6, 2021.


Richard Hilton

RICHARD HILTON (Geology, ’72; MS, Geosciences, ’75) recently retired from Sierra College in Rocklin, where he taught geology and paleontology and is the former chairman of the college’s Natural History Museum. He led student field classes to Idaho, Arizona, and Montana, teaching field paleontology. Fossils collected from those trips and others were exhibited at the museum, including some he found in California. He has published numerous scientific articles in the field of vertebrate paleontology, and his book Dinosaurs and other Mesozoic Reptiles of California, was published in 2003 by the University of California Press. He has led natural history trips to parts of Africa, South America, the Galapagos Islands, Baja California, and Alaska, as well as paleontological digs throughout the western United States. He collects fossils and early California impressionist art, and is an avid nature photographer. Hilton also recently lent his support and expertise in a recent fossil excavation and identification project—one of the largest in California’s history.

CHRISTOPHER MAYER (Agriculture, ’75) was a supervisory rangeland management specialist for the Nevada Bureau of Land Management before he retired in March 2019 after 42 years of service. However, retirement hasn’t proved easy because he still works in a support position for the bureau, providing training and leadership to six districts in Nevada for public land grazing. Additionally, six days after retiring, he was asked to consult for John Uhalde and Co., the largest livestock grazing operation in East Nevada, which he also accepted. Mayer said the “opportunities provided to me as a result of my advanced education at CSU, Chico have been amazing. The quality of education . . . provided the background and foundation for me to be successful in a great and fulfilling career.”

MARK OUIMETTE (Geography, ’77) recently retired after 25 years of university teaching. He taught geology and environmental science at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas—a long way from his days as a resident of Whitney Hall and member of the Sierra Club in Chico. He has also been a licensed professional geologist for 20 years. Prior to his academic career, he was an officer in the US Marine Corps. He’s been married to Nina Ouimette for 42 years, and they have three adult children and three granddaughters.

CONLEY SMITH (English, ’77; MA, English, ’79) authored the book Tongue in Chico: A Decade of Merriment and Mayhem in a Town Near Normal, published by Tenderfoot Books in February 2021. The book tells the tale of what campus life was like for undergrads during what Smith calls Chico State’s “Golden Age”—taking readers on a trip to that crazy time between the ’60s and ’80s—the rollicking ’70s.

BARB (HEARN) DEMARTINO (Information and Communication Studies, Communication Design, ’79) retired from teaching in Southern California after 35 years, but that doesn’t mean she’s slowed down. She recently wrote a children’s book called Tooth Fairy’s Jolly Adventure, published by BookBaby in October 2020. She got the idea for her first book when her grandson, Jamo, lost a tooth on Christmas Eve. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing pickleball and spending more time with her husband on beautiful Whidbey Island. She and her husband have three adult children and six grandchildren.

Don Hoch

DON HOCH (Recreation Administration, ’79) retired as the state parks director of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission in March, after a decade at the helm. During his tenure, the agency went from relying mostly on general tax support to earning revenue to pay for the cost of operating the Washington park system and embarked on innovative initiatives to improve service. Hoch relaunched the No Child Left Inside Program, awarding $3.8 million in funding to more than 80 programs to get youths outdoors. In 2017, the National Association of State Park Directors awarded Hoch its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. In 2018, he was inducted into the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration.

Kathleen and Michael Gear

KATHLEEN O’NEAL GEAR (MA, Special Major, ’79) is an award-winning archaeologist and New York Times bestselling author, boasting over 200 nonfiction publications in the fields of archaeology, history, and bison conservation. After working her first archaeological excavation at age 10 and winning her first writing contest at age 13, Kathleen O’Neal Gear has pursued both as passions ever since. The US Department of the Interior has honored her twice with Special Achievement Awards for her management of America’s cultural resources. She and her husband, W. Michael Gear, are proud recipients of the Owen Wister Award—the highest award that a writer can receive from the Western Writers of America. They both will be inducted into the Western Writers of America Hall of Fame in June 2021.


PHIL HACKER (Physical Education, ’82) retired as the director in the painting and coatings division at Moreno & Associates, Inc. in January. After graduating from Chico State, he ventured into life with eyes wide open and ready for any challenge. “Chico will never leave my memory,” he said, “I’ve enjoyed many return trips to town and campus, especially during the Pioneer Days celebration. I enjoyed watching the town and campus grow and prosper with amazement.” He’s watched his younger brother, ERIC HACKER (Business Administration, ’89), complete his studies as a Wildcat and recently his two sons, BEN HACKER (Communication Design, Social Science, ’18) and SAM HACKER (Kinesiology, ’20), have become alums. He “can’t wait for things to get better,” so he can again visit and enjoy Chico—he thinks a fishing trip is in order.

CAROL HUSTON (MS, Nursing, ’82) received the 2020–21 Distinguished Alumni award from the University of Iowa College of Nursing. This award recognizes a University of Iowa nursing graduate who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and achievement in nursing or related fields of healthcare or has made significant contributions to their community. Huston is the former director of Chico State’s School of Nursing and professor emerita in the school. She said, “This is a tremendous honor,” and thanked her colleagues Karin Lightfoot and Margaret Rowberg for nominating her.

JULIA ORRI (Physical Education, Credential, ’82) was recently promoted to full professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of San Francisco, where she has taught for 16 years. Still an avid runner, she specializes in exercise physiology and focuses her research on cardiovascular disease risk and nutrition in postmenopausal athletes. She hopes to retire in Chico, eventually.

the cover of Deborah Osterberg's Book shows people decades ago standing at the base of giant redwoods.

DEBORAH OSTERBERG (History, ’84) authored Historic Tales of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: Big Trees Grove, published by The History Press in 2020. The history book recounts the 1846 tales of explorer John Charles Frémont and other nonindigenous visitors to the famous California redwoods, and the awe-inspiring landscape they helped preserve for future generations. Osterberg also volunteers at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where she shares the early resort-era history of Big Trees Grove. While studying at Chico State she began working for the National Park Service at Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks. After 16 years of working at national parks around the country, she moved back to the Bay Area to assist researchers at the National Archives at San Francisco.

JAMES ROUSE (Political Science, ’86) was sworn in as a district family court judge in Hawaii in March. Prior to his appointment, he served as a deputy attorney general practicing in the Family Law Division. Rouse previously served as a deputy public defender, as an associate with Coates and Frey Law Firm and the David Sereno Law Office, and as a deputy prosecuting attorney in the Maui County Department of the Prosecuting Attorney. He earned his law degree from Golden Gate University after graduating from Chico State.

TIMOTHY BRUNET (Business Administration, ’88) is an artist, filmmaker, and CEO and owner of The Visualante in Hollywood, a company specializing in visuals and visual narratives for events such as Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival, and other live performances.

SANDRA (DAVIES) HUFF (Liberal Studies, ’88; Credential, ’89) is part of the Wildcat family in more ways than one. Her father, LOUIS DAVIES (Business Administration, ’63), is an alum along with her son, JARED HUFF (Business Administration ’20). Both her father and son share a love of all things aviation and business. Louis is a pilot and a retired business owner. Jared recently started his professional job flying a cargo plane based in Abilene, Texas.

TINA (PRINCE) ELLIS (Nursing, ’88) is a certified transcultural nurse who recently earned the 2020 Florida Nurses Association Icon Mary Cash Award. In addition to teaching nursing to students and leading study abroad trips to Guatemala, she’s an expert in direct patient care to underserved populations. She has provided consultation and direct health services to migrant farmworkers in Florida, worked with residents of rural villages, and cared for individuals living in a city dump. She has also aided groups from Belize and the Dominican Republic, and worked as a migrant outreach nurse in the United States. She said, “I’m proud of my Wildcat heritage. Reflecting really helps me to see the significance of each step along the way to where I am. Thank you, CSU, Chico!”


Jennifer Flohr, Fleur Fong, Laurie Dakin and Valerie Robinson stand in their masks at a winery.

FLEUR FONG (Recreation Administration, ’93), JENNIFER FLOHR (Journalism, ’91), LAURIE DAKIN (Communication Design, ’91), and VALERIE ROBINSON (Health Science, ’92) were all roommates during their time at Chico State. From time to time, they reunite and reminisce about their days together as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Wildcats. Not letting the COVID-19 pandemic ruin their fun, they recently went wine tasting, responsibly—hittin’ casks and rockin’ masks! They always look forward to catching up and know they will continue to do so for years to come.

SHOAIB “ABE” MOHAMMED (Attended, 1993–95) left Pakistan at age 19 to attend college and pursue his American dream of owning his own business. In 1998, that dream came true when he opened his first Pizza Guys franchise in Stockton. The following year he opened a second Stockton location, and in November 2020 he opened his third. In 22 years with the company, he has opened several other Pizza Guys in the Bay Area and Central Valley. He recently sold three stores in the Bay Area to cut down on his extensive travel from store to store and to focus on the three locations in his adopted hometown of Stockton—and a fourth location in Brentwood. Helping him at every turn are his wife, Saima, and their children, Sauman and Sonia.

THORA (WHEELER ELLIOTT) TRUMBO (Liberal Studies, ’94; Credential, ’95) taught kindergarten and first grade in Yuba City then at Marysville’s Cedar Lane Elementary for six years before moving to Kennewick, Washington, with her husband, JOHN TRUMBO (Attended, 1967–68). Thora is a full-time care provider to a severely disabled adult daughter, housewife, and community and church volunteer. She also sits on various boards all while proudly homeschooling students, including another daughter from pre-K to college entrance who just completed her master’s degree. John worked as a journalist and investigative writer for 38 years and is an elected city councilman and avid Ford Model A enthusiast.


Jennifer Rogers Markwell

JENNIFER ROGERS MARKWELL (Communications Design, ’01) is the president and financial consultant at Platinum Wealth Management and had “an interesting professional run and a solid 2020.” Her wealth management company increased 40 percent, and she was appointed by the governor of Nevada as a state commissioner to the Commission for Women. An Emmy-nominated TV host and journalist, she changed gears in her television career when she realized the need to help women and their finances. It started at home, after her grandfather passed away, when she wanted to help her grandmother make sense of investing. Now she regularly hosts educational workshops to empower women to take charge of their investments. Markwell was also voted Sierra Nevada’s Top 20 Most Powerful Women by Northern Nevada Business View in 2018 and 2019. She said, “I am so grateful for my experiences at Chico that gave me a solid foundation to grow.”

Chris Neighbor

CHRIS NEIGHBOR (Construction Management, ’01) has been promoted to president of SummerHill Homes. An experienced business leader of more than 20 years, Neighbor will oversee all aspects of the business including land acquisition, finance, construction, purchasing, sales, marketing and customer service. He joined the development company in 2008 and most recently served as the chief operating officer and executive vice president for SummerHill Housing Group. Prior to joining SummerHill Homes, Neighbor served as vice president of investment management for MacFarlane Partners in San Francisco. There, he was responsible for oversight of the firm’s single-family residential, land, and housing developments.

MICHAEL HOLT (Anthropology, ’02) was selected as manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s King Range National Conservation Area on California’s North Coast in December 2020. Holt, a resource management professional with broad experience, moved to the King Range from Clarksville, Tennessee, where he was providing archaeological and historic preservation consulting services part time while caring for his 2-year-old toddler. He has held leadership positions with the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and US Forest Service in California, Nevada, Idaho, and Alaska.

Kristin Capritto

KRISTIN CAPRITTO (Political Science, Philosophy, ’04) works as a senior associate lawyer for Downey Brand LLP and was recognized as a 2020 Top Lawyer by Sacramento Magazine in the area of estate and probate law. Capritto assists clients with all aspects of estate planning, trust administration, probate, business entities, and real estate transactions.

SARAH KESTY (Liberal Studies, ’04; Credential, ’05) is in year 16 of her teaching career, and she recently started a podcast about executive function, aptly named The Executive Function Podcast. She shares easy-to-implement strategies to improve executive function skills, like planning, organizing, and flexible thinking to name a few. The podcast supports families, teachers, and older students with ADHD, learning disabilities, or other situations impacting executive functioning. “I know this journey of being a lifelong learner started at Chico State! Thank you for that!” she said.

CODY HOLLIDAY (Social Science, ’05) works for the Roseville Joint Union High School District as a special education teacher. Cody and his wife, Justy Holliday, have been married since September 2012.

Anna Straus

ANNA STRAUS (Business Administration, ’05) is the CEO and co-founder of Sparck, an employee engagement improvement app, which was launched in 2018. Her background includes starting a sales and leadership coaching company and serving as a growth and strategy consultant for the Greater Sacramento Economic Council. In November, Straus was honored as one of the Sacramento Business Journal’s list of 40 Under 40 business professionals. At Sparck, she oversees organizational strategy, finances, fundraising, and sales. Straus is also launching Culture Labx, a nonprofit with the goal to equip leaders with the tools necessary to attract and retain top talent. She and her husband recently became foster parents to a baby girl and says the “process is the most challenging yet rewarding accomplishment of my life.”

Greg Connolly

GREG CONNOLLY (Business Administration, ’06) is the CEO of Trifecta Inc., an organic meal delivery service—which ranked No. 2 on the Sacramento Business Journal’s list of Fastest Growing Companies for 2020. Connolly founded Trifecta in 2015, which had approximately $41 million in revenue in 2019 and now employs about 70 people. In November 2020, Connolly was honored as one of the Sacramento Business Journal’s list of 40 Under 40 business professionals. He told the journal that with Trifecta Inc., he “wants to help tackle the country’s escalating health care costs due in part to chronic diseases like Type II diabetes.” Connolly and his wife, Kiah, whom he calls his rock, welcomed their first child in March 2021.

Portrait of Chue Vang

CHUE VANG (Applied Computer Graphics, ’17) is the new CFO of the nonprofit organization WellSpace Health, where she manages an operating budget of about $100 million, payroll for nearly 900 employees, and facilities with 31 health centers. Outside her work, Vang volunteers for a peace collaborative called CHAN-BOF for Peace, which aims to educate the Hmong community about domestic violence and other abuses. In November, she was named on the Sacramento Business Journal’s list of 40 Under 40 business professionals. Vang, a first-generation college student, told the journal that her biggest accomplishment was graduating from college. “My parents immigrated to the United State in the early ’80s as refugees with no education. Education became very important to my parents, and I’m proud to be the first in my family to graduate from college,” she said.

Kourtney Jason

KOURTNEY JASON (Journalism, ’07) launched Pacific & Court PR, a Brooklyn-based publicity and digital marketing company specializing in promoting independent authors and book publishers in January 2021. In the last 10 years, she has worked with several high-profile and celebrity authors, including country music icon Martina McBride, actor Valerie Bertinelli, and New York Times bestselling authors Syd and Shea McGee (of Studio McGee) and she regularly books author appearances on the TODAY Show.


Octavio Valencia looks through a photo lens.

OCTAVIO VALENCIA (Business Information Systems, ’10) is essentially living two lives: financial analyst for UC Davis by day, and a family and high-fashion freelance photographer by night. He has worked at UC Davis since November 2018, but it’s his passion for photography that drives him. In 2012, the woman he was dating at the time suggested that he try his hand at professional photography, helping him land his first paying gig photographing portraits of a newborn. The rest is a rich history that includes travel to New York City, London, and Paris, taking photos during the bustling fashion weeks in each dream-chic location in addition to staying grounded in his home base of California.

Four masked women pose with a Chico Sate Wildcats flag at Shriners Hospital

Shriners Hospitals for Children in Northern California knows where the ’Cats are at—they employ four! OLIVIA JACKSON (Psychology, ’13) works as a switchboard operator and receptionist, SAMANTHA MAAS (Nutrition and Food Sciences, ’08) is a registered dietitian, ERIN SACHS (Nursing, ’09) is a registered nurse in the Intensive Care Unit, and KELSEY MORGADO (Communication Studies, ’13; MA, Communication Studies, ’16) is the marketing and communications manager. Dedicated to helping children and their families through difficult times, these four have been working diligently through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the hospital’s safe, comfortable environment endures.

ERIK STRAUME (Mathematics, ’15) has worked for SolarEdge Technologies, Inc. as a technical support engineer since December 2018.

KAEL HEATH (English Studies, ’16) accepted the position of management assistant for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and recently relocated to the Kansas City area. Previously, he was a contact representative for the IRS in Des Moines, Iowa.

Juniper Prete and Quinn LeMelle
Juniper Prete, left, and Quinn LeMelle

QUINN (WESTERN) LEMELLE (Journalism ’15) and best friend JUNIPER (ROSE) PRETE (Journalism ’14) went on a lot of adventures while at Chico State. They met on The Orion, interned at The Sacramento Bee together, and ran a lot of miles through Bidwell Park. Juniper went on to travel the world. She worked as a raft guide and freelance writer from California to West Virginia to South Africa. Quinn went the corporate route, talking to Juniper on the phone during her commutes, and is currently a communications senior lead with Dish Network. They got in one last bike ride in July 2020 when Quinn visited her during Juniper’s battle with cancer. Juniper passed away in September 2020 at 28 years old. Now Quinn is keeping her friend’s spirit alive by inspiring the next generation of writers and adventurers by establishing the Juniper Rose Prete Memorial Scholarship. To contribute to the scholarship, visit www.csuchico. edu/giving.

Desiree Makowski

DESIREE MAKOWSKI (Applied Computer Graphics, ’17) recently reached a big milestone in her career with Zynga, a mobile games developer she has worked for since February 2018. Not only was she promoted from associate producer to producer and is on track to a senior producership, she launched her very first game in fall 2020. Her game, Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells, has been highly rated, is loved by fans, and was nominated as Google Play’s User’s Choice Game for 2020. While her game didn’t win the honor, she said, “the nomination is amazing regardless!” She was also featured on various news outlets for the game’s launch, and “it’s been a huge contribution to the Wizarding World universe—talk about a dream come true for a Harry Potter fan!” she said.

TAYLOR TEASLEY (Music, ’19) was awarded the 2020 Female Artist of the Year by The Wood Music, a music promotion agency. Teasley, a country music singer-songwriter, said that music has been a part of her life “as far back as I can remember” and “music always had a special place in my heart.” Piano was her first and only instrument for many years, until she hit 13 and decided to teach herself guitar—and she “hasn’t stopped since,” she said. Due to her in-person performances being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she found the courage to do her first-ever livestream performances and virtual Q&A sessions. She looks forward to releasing new music in 2021.

Have you recently changed jobs, been promoted, or started your own business? Perhaps you’ve gotten married, crossed something off your personal bucket list, or achieved a lifelong dream. Send an email to classnotes@csuchico.edu to share where life has taken you since your days at Chico State.

Fond Farewells

The University and Alumni Association note with sorrow the passing of our alumni, students, and colleagues.


Erin Combs (Biochemistry, ’12)

Carl Currie (Attended, 1978–80)

John “Jim” Dunne (MA, Education, ’66)

Patrick Ellsberg (Business Administration, ’71; MBA, ’73)

Tre Ford (Social Science, ’67)

Adam Gilzean (Computer Science, ’14)

Joe High (Business Education, ’58; MA, Business Education, ’66)

Kent Lang (Attended, 1962–66)

Michael “Casey” McComish (History, ’73)

Francis “Mugs” McNamara (Education, ’59; MA, Education, ’68)

Steven Moitoza (Industrial Arts, ’73)

Gerald Pflugrad (MA, English, ’65)

Delores Smith (Spanish, ’71)

Karen (Johnson) Swanson (English Literature, ’78)

Bill “BT” Thomas (Business Administration, ’71)

Glen Toney (Philosophy, ’66; Honorary Doctorate, ’04)

Darren Trueblood (Social Science, ’92)


Camille Bent, Child Development

Charlotte Beyke, Computer Animation and Game Development

Riley Christiansen, Business Administration

Kevin Gallegos Lopez, Health Science

Audrey Perez, Psychology and Biology

Faculty and Staff*

Linda Boone (Speech Pathology and Audiology, ’80; MA, Speech Pathology and Audiology, ’82), Communication Sciences and Disorders, 1973–91

Fred Boos, Jr., Physics, 1957–89

Judy Boschi (Chemistry, ’70; MS, Physical Science, ’86), Chemistry, 1975–92

June (Brown) Cole, College of Business, 1970–82

William “Bill” Derr, Biological Sciences, 1964–2005

Claire “Ginger” Farrer, Anthropology, 1985–2004

Ralph Hilzer, Computer Science, 1985–2008

Karin Hoover (Geology, ’83), Geological and Environmental Sciences

Jim Jessee (Speech, ’70; Credential, ’72; MPA, ’74), Academic Facilities,
Publications, and Databases, 1975–2008

David Kistner, Biological Sciences, 1959–92

Ladd Johnson (Social Sciences, ’55), Geography and Planning, 1966–87

José Mas, Foreign Languages and Literature, 1972–92

Lynne Milano, Nutrition and Food Science, 1973–91

Aldrich “Pat” Patterson, Counseling Center, 1983–2014

Michael Perelman, Economics, 1971–2018

G. Robert “Bob” Standing, Advising and Orientation, 1965–96

John Sutthoff, College of Communication and Education, 1960–90

*Years of service