Three community members, one student and one Board of Trustees member have been chosen as this year’s Cuesta College Volunteer Award recipients. The five will be honored for their invaluable service and commitment to the college at a luncheon on April 30 from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m., in the Associated Students Auditorium, Room 5401. To attend the luncheon for a $20 fee, please contact the Cuesta College Foundation Office at (805) 546-3279.

Dr. Frank Martinez Superintendent/President’s Award: Jim Merzon

First awarded in 2001, this award is given in recognition of the accomplishments of a community volunteer who has contributed time and talent generously, working in partnership with Cuesta faculty or staff resulting in an achievement that might not have happened otherwise.

Through the years, Merzon has been instrumental in facilitating various gifts Cuesta College has received via estate planning and his community networking. In 2013, Merzon facilitated the Leeta Dovica Trust, which resulted in Cuesta College receiving a more than $8 million donation. The gift is now being used to fund the Promise Scholarship Program, providing all newly graduated SLO County high school seniors a free fall semester at Cuesta. “It is extremely nice to be honored by Cuesta,” said Merzon. “I really enjoy being able to help bring people’s gifts to the college. Cuesta is so deserving and I am just delighted that people choose to give to the college.”

J. Vard Loomis Award for Distinguished Board Service: Pat Mullen

First awarded in 1998, this award is given in memory of J. Vard Loomis, Founding President of the San Luis Obispo County District Board of Trustees. The award recognizes the distinguished service and exceptional representation of Cuesta College to the public by a member of either the Cuesta College Foundation Board of Directors or the Cuesta College District Board of Trustees.

Mullen has served on the Cuesta College Board of Trustees for nine years, seven of which he has served as Board president. According to his nominator, Bob Wacker, “Mullen has provided exceptional leadership over the years, especially during the difficult budget times. He is a great representative of the college and sets a great example with his preparation and diligence for college issues.” Mullen is also the region director of customer service for PG&E. In that role, he has helped facilitate ongoing gifts from PG&E to Cuesta College, providing updated technology in the classroom, instructional support, and program funding.

John Schaub Student Volunteer Award: Sabrina Brussell

First awarded in 2001, this award is given to a student whose community volunteer work best exemplifies the high standards established by the college’s first dean of students whose trailblazing work in creating programs for student success has helped thousands of students achieve their goals. 

As the Associated Students of Cuesta College (ASCC) Activities Director, Brussell coordinates the social and educational activities sponsored by the ASCC on all Cuesta College campus locations. She has held this role since August 2013 and volunteers up to 15 hours a week at Cuesta. Brussell also volunteers outside the college in a variety of ways, including as the supervisor of infant nursery at Agape Church in San Luis Obispo, as president of the local Head Start Policy Council and at San Luis Obispo’s Kennedy Club Fitness to assist with ‘Kids Night Out.’ “I just really like helping people and I feel empowered by making a difference in the community,” said Brussell. “It’s all from the heart.”

Dr. Merlin E. Eisenbise Service in the Classroom Award: Vera Wallen

First awarded in 2002, this award recognizes direct service in the classroom which extends our ability to help students. It is given in honor of the District’s first Superintendent/President, Dr. Merlin E. Eisenbise. 

Dr. Vera Wallen is a retired superintendent of the Coast Union School District, former principal and superintendent of various other schools, and former special education teacher. For the past seven years, Dr. Wallen has volunteered with the Cuesta College Astronomy Research Seminar, which is held every fall at the college’s South County Center.  The seminar, attended primarily by advanced placement science and mathematics students from Arroyo Grande High School, features observations of double stars, data analysis, and writing papers that are published in the Journal of Double Star Observations. Additionally, Dr. Wallen has spent hundreds of hours working with Cuesta College students co-editing three astronomy books and dozens of student papers. “When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the idea of going to space but my career ended up being in education,” said Dr. Wallen. “When I retired, I registered for Cuesta’s astronomy class just for fun, but soon found myself helping out in the classroom. Ever since then, I have absolutely loved pairing my passion for helping students with my childhood interest in space.”

Betty Nielsen Volunteer of the Year Award: Pat Renshaw

First awarded in 1995, this award is given in memory of College Trustee Betty Nielsen, considered the epitome of volunteerism.  She served the community and the college unselfishly for many years as an exemplary volunteer in several capacities. 

Renshaw serves as a media technician at the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education (COE) and manages the public access education Channel 19 (a Charter Cable channel). In April of 2011, the Cuesta College Marketing and Communications Department entered into a partnership with the COE to jointly own a video switching computer that has made it possible for the college to broadcast events on Channel 19. Since 2011, Renshaw has assisted with training the marketing department staff and with the set-up and filming of nearly 100 events. According to her nominator Jay Thompson, Cuesta College marketing coordinator, “She has gone the extra mile so many times that some Cuesta workers actually think she is on staff.” Renshaw says the partnership between Cuesta and the COE is a natural one. “I volunteer because I believe it is the right thing to do,” said Renshaw. “When I became involved with educational television and saw the need for Cuesta to achieve a media presence in the community, it was an easy choice to make.”


Lauren Milbourne / (805) 546-3108 / Lauren_milbourne@cuesta.edu / Posted: 4/17/14