UCSD alumni, faculty awarded



UCSD, celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall, presented its annual Awards for Excellence on Saturday as part of the Alumni Association’s second annual Alumni Weekend.

The four-day event included a special evening with faculty discussing their research, a surfing contest, celebrations in various departments, the annual Triton Athletics Banquet, alumni and family night at the Birch Aquarium, and a brunch.

The Awards for Excellence honor outstanding alumni and faculty who exemplify the commitment to leadership, advocacy, philanthropy and service to the university. The honorees include the following people:

  • Outstanding Alumna, Bun-Ching Lam, Ph.D., ‘81: Her orchestral compositions have been performed by the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Holland, among others. She’s the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, National Endowment of the Arts funding, and countless international prizes and commissions. Lam received a Ph.D. in music from UCSD.
  • Professional Achievement, LaVerne Ragster, Ph.D., ‘80: As a conservationist, research scientist and education administrator, Ragster has not only transformed the Caribbean region, but has earned national and worldwide respect from leading climate change scientists and environmental leaders. The immediate past president of the University of the Virgin Islands, Ragster has pioneered sustainable development, and her work with Caribbean universities and nongovernmental organizations has intensified interest in natural resource management. She received a Ph.D. in biology from UCSD.
  • Distinguished Service, Thom Sherman, ‘88: An executive vice president at The CW network, Thom Sherman started his career in drama as a student actor. Following graduation, he moved to Los Angeles and struggled as an actor before accepting a job in production. An early organizer of the UCSD Alumni Association’s Entertainment Alliance, he is passionate about helping young people find jobs and mentors in the entertainment industry. Sherman received a bachelor of arts degree in theater from UCSD’s Warren College.
  • Distinguished Teaching, Sam Popkin: A professor of political science at UCSD since 1975, Popkin is a nationally recognized political analyst, public opinion expert and prolific author. An adviser to five presidential campaigns, his experiences have ranged from polling and strategy for the Clinton campaign, to playing Ronald Reagan during debate rehearsals for President Carter. A beloved mentor and faculty adviser, he has inspired legions of students and is one of the most frequently requested speakers for the Alumni Association’s regional lecture series.