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UC Irvine recognizes recipients of university’s highest honor

“A Celebration of Stars” fetes individuals for their profound contributions to UCI

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: October 30, 2012 03:05 PM

Five new names have joined the ranks of Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, scientists and humanitarians recognized as recipients of UC Irvine’s highest honor, the UCI Medal. On Saturday, more than 500 noted supporters and guests of the university gathered to fete the 2012 honorees: Sue and Bill Gross, a private couple from Laguna Beach; UCI Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Loftus; and Dr. Betty Tu and Dr. David Tsoong.

The UC Irvine Medal and its annual gala, “A Celebration of Stars,” is the university’s signature event honoring individuals for their profound impact on the institution. The award was first conferred on the university’s founding Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich by his successor, Chancellor Jack W. Peltason, in 1984. The Medal represents the university’s ultimate recognition of those who have made profound contributions to the school’s mission of research, teaching and public service.

The gala, hosted by the UC Irvine Foundation, was chaired by Ruth-Ann and John Evans, a foundation trustee and executive committee member. A senior vice president and regional manager at Wells Fargo Bank, John Evans also sits on the Dean’s Advisory Board for UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.

“John and his wife, Ruth Ann, committed time, energy and generous support to make this year’s UCI Medal ceremony more engaging than ever before,” said Gregory Leet, vice chancellor of University Advancement. “I applaud all members of the Medal leadership committee and the UC Irvine Foundation trustees for their vital support. This could not happen without them.”

The Grosses are a private Laguna Beach family and longtime supporters of UC Irvine. Bill Gross, cofounder of Newport Beach-based PIMCO, one of the nation’s largest international investment firms, manages a portfolio of nearly $3 trillion in assets, which includes the world’s largest mutual fund. Sue Gross is president of the Gross Family Foundation.

The couple became involved with UCI after seeing a documentary of UCI professor of anatomy and neurobiology Hans Kierstead, and his research into embryonic stem cells, on the program “60 Minutes.” The Grosses toured Dr. Kierstead’s lab, and subsequently made a $10 million gift to the university to support the founding of what has become the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center.

Elizabeth Loftus, a Distinguished Professor at UCI, holds faculty positions in the three departments: psychology & social behavior; cognitive sciences; and criminology, law & society.

Among the most prolific of UCI’s faculty, Loftus has published 22 books and 500 scientific articles during her 30 years of research. An expert in the area of misinformation, eyewitness fallibility, and the creation and nature of false memories, Loftus has contributed expert testimony and perspective to hundreds of criminal cases, including those of Scooter Libby, the Hillside Strangler and the Michael Jackson molestation case. A former president of the Association for Psychological Science, Loftus holds six honorary doctorates and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Betty Tu and Dr. David Tsoong, owners of the international real estate and senior living company Pinnacle Resources International, have been involved with UCI for more than ten years. Tu held a private obstetrics and gynecology practice in Anaheim while serving as a clinical professor at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, before retiring in 2005. She earned her MBA from the UCI Paul Merage School of Business in 1999 and received the Lauds & Laurels Distinguished Alumni Award from the school in 2007.

Tu’s husband Tsoong began at UCI Medical Center as a surgical intern. After further training as an orthopedic surgeon in New York, he returned to Orange County for private practice. Tsoong is the founder and manager of Gateway Medical Group, StarCare Medical Group and Pinnacle Health Resources, as well as a former member of the UCI Irvine Medical Center’s Executive Council.

Both Tu and Tsoong serve on the Paul Merage School of Business’ Center for Health Care Management and Policy Advisory Board, the Humanities Dean's Advisory Council, UC Irvine Medical Center's CEO Advisory Board and the UCI Medal Steering Committee.

“I am thankful to our friends and community partners for joining me to honor this stellar group of individuals,” said Chancellor Michael Drake. “Our UCI Medal recipients have given extraordinary contributions of time, talent and support to UC Irvine, and they exemplify the campus’s mission and values.”

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