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Sofia Panuelos/New University

UC Irvine’s Alumni Association held their 41st annual Lauds and Laurels awards ceremony this past Thursday, May 12 at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine.

According to executive director of the UCI Alumni Association Jorge E. Ancona, the Lauds and Laurels awards are given to UC Irvine’s most outstanding alumni and current students.

“[Their stories] are nothing short of inspiring,” he wrote in a press release.

This year, winners included Michael Quang Nguyen for Outstanding Undergraduate Student, Daisy Verduzco Reyes for Outstanding Graduate Student and Tanya Taylor for Outstanding Student Athlete, among many other distinctions.

The reception buzzed with conversation peppered by the names of professors, regents, and other respective UC glitterati. Attendees drank, conversed and waited for the event to begin.

About 200 were seated by 7 p.m. for the dinner and ceremony. While folks filed into the Grand Ballroom, UC Irvine’s Circle of Fifths crooned welcoming tunes.

Acona spoke first, presenting the winners and giving background information on the awards ceremony itself.

“This is my 9th Lauds and Laurels ceremony,” he said, citing the event as UCI’s longest standing awards commemoration.

Attendants engaged in lively conversation at their respective tables while presenters continued to make speeches. UCImpact Student Director Curtis Brown received wild applause as he made his way to the stage.

“The one thing that unites us in this room is our unification of excellence and education,” he said.

The first award presented was given to fourth-year public health major, Russian, conflict resolution, political science, educational studies, and civic and community engagement minors Michael Quang Nguyen for outstanding undergraduate student. Nguyen helped generate $250,000 for the funding of the Santa Ana Library where he is the youngest City Commissioner on the Library Board of Trustees. After humbly tiptoeing on stage and getting a few photos snapped of him, Nguyen slinked back to his table at the edge of the room.

Next, fifth-year sociology doctoral candidate Daisy Reyes received the award for outstanding graduate student. Reyes’ work primarily focuses on Latino student organizations in California colleges and transitions into higher education. She has worked with low-income students in organizations such as Project Upward Bound. At UCI, Reyes’ outstanding work gained her the UC/ACCORD dissertation fellowship as well as support from the Center for the Study of Democracy and the Center for Research on Latinos in Global Society.

Outstanding student athlete was given to criminology major Tanya Taylor. When Taylor joined the UCI women’s soccer team, they had scored six goals in the entire season. By the time Taylor became captain in her senior season, the team scored 49. Not only has Taylor shown exemplary sportsmanship, she has also been named Big West Scholar-Athlete and received Dean’s Honors for three years. Teetering on stage in high heels, Taylor accepted her award with true grace.

The award for Extradordinarius was given to Brian Skyrms, Ph.D. As a world-renowned philosopher and Distinguished Professor of logic and philosophy of science, Skyrms has won the 1999 Lakatos Award, and the ’05-’06 Paul H. Silverman Award Since Skyrms was out of town, his department chair Jeff Barrett accepted his award for him.

Other winners included Bill Maurer for Faculty Achievement, Helen Morgan for Staff Achievement, Richard and Cheryll Ruszat for Outstanding University Service, Teal Wicks, Katherine Hills, Shelley Hoss, Judi Conroy, Paramesh Gopi, Hector Tobar, Jon Teichrow, Richard Kammerman, David MacMillan, Joan Kelly and Scott Steiner for Distinguished Alumnus.

The impressive turnout was satisfactory for Allison Dolan Wilson, associate executive director for the UCI Alumni Association.

“There was a 15 percent increase in attendance this year,” Wilson said. “The event was a great success.”

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