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David Nelson / Society

A Trip from Box Boy to Top Alumnus

May 29, 1986|David Nelson

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego State University Alumni & Associates convened Saturday at the U.S. Grant Hotel, on the eve of commencement exercises for the Class of 1986, for its ninth annual alumni awards gala.

It proved to be a pleasantly casual and light-hearted evening; perhaps some of those present who would be called upon to participate in the graduation ceremonies, including Ambassador-at-Large Philip Habib and university President Thomas Day, were saving their stores of pomp and circumstance for the following day. In any case, a leisurely cocktail hour in the hotel's main lobby was followed by a cheerful promenade up the grand staircase to the ballroom, where the 475 guests--a record number for this event--tucked into a dinner of poached salmon, tournedos of beef, and berries in custard sauce. Later, after the formal addresses and presentations, the guests retired to the dance floor for a whirl or two to disco sounds provided by The Music Machine.

Master of ceremonies Robert Arnhym, an SDSU alumnus who serves as vice president for external affairs of the alumni association, guided the guests through the formal moments of the evening. After Morton Jorgenson, the current alumni president, read the annual report, Arnhym introduced Day, who rose warmly to the task of presenting the Alumnus of the Year and Distinguished Alumni awards.

S. Donley Ritchey garnered the Alumnus of the Year award. Ritchey, chairman of the board of Lucky Stores, began his career as a box boy at the Food Basket (a Lucky subsidiary) in Pacific Beach while working for his college degree. After earning that degree in 1955, Ritchey continued to rise in the company while pursuing a master's degree in business administration, also at SDSU, which was awarded in 1963. The day after the awards gala, Ritchey saw the graduation of his youngest child, Shawn.

Eight other SDSU graduates, chosen for the honor by the university's seven undergraduate schools and the Imperial County campus, received Distinguished Alumni Awards. The College of Arts and Letters honored community activist Leon Parma.

Entrepreneur James Sweeney captured the award given by the College of Business Administration; the College of Education honored La Mesa educator Charmon Lehew, and local Red Cross director Donita Rotherham was the selection of the College of Human Sciences.

Also honored were Charles L. Zinn, recipient of the Imperial Valley campus award; space program participant Larry Grant, a graduate of the College of Engineering; psychologist H. Carl Haywood, honored by the College of Sciences, and movie producer Kathleen Kennedy, honored by the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts. Kennedy, a member of the Class of '76, was the youngest honoree; an associate of producer Steven Spielberg, she was co-producer of the blockbuster movie "E.T." and executive producer of the recent "Back to the Future."

SDSU Alumni & Associates gave the honorees "Monty" statuettes, small replicas of the Donal Hord statue of Montezuma that dominates the entrance to the university's main campus and serves as the school's mascot.

Sue Williams and Kay North co-chaired the event; their committee included Maxine Hosaka, Yvonne and Dan Larsen, Annette Hubbell, Dick Manning, Dave DeVol, Charlotte Hayes, Al Reynolds, Bernie Rhinerson, Kathie Ross and Betty Hubbard.

Betsy Manchester may have felt rather like a female Janus at the May 21 cocktail reception given in honor of the underwriters and major patrons of the 1986 Jewel Ball, which is just two months away.

Manchester found herself in the ticklish position of having to look backward and forward--to the past and to the future--simultaneously. As ball chairman, she has chosen the theme "Vintage" for this year's version of the annual classic, because 1986 marks the 40th anniversary of the Jewel Ball. Yet there was nothing old-fashioned about the premises chosen for the underwriters' reception--the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center.

The symbolism of this juxtaposition of theme and premises was probably unintentional, although there is no doubt that Las Patronas, the La Jolla philanthropical group that hosts the Jewel Ball, is looking to the future even as it focuses on its past. Building on the model of the original ball, the Las Patronas have turned a fund-raiser that started with a net measured in the hundreds of dollars into a powerhouse party that ranks among the 10 most profitable in the country and last year earned more than $340,000 for its various beneficiaries. Many see the $500,000 mark as a not-too-distant goal.

Manchester and her co-chairs, Judy Lessard and Bonnie Stewart, promised that "Vintage" will be a classic Jewel Ball. This means that it will be held, as always, in the open air at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, that fireworks will herald the beginning of the dinner, and that the evening will be devoted to dancing and frivolity.

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