Cuesta College honored nine individuals on March 24 at the 2017 Awards Luncheon. Three Cuesta College alumni were recognized, along with six volunteers who have served the college and community selflessly in various ways. The event took place from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m., on the college’s San Luis Obispo Campus in building 5400, room 5401.

In case you missed the event, check out a full length video here.


2017 Honored Alumni

Now in its 29th year, the Honored Alumni awards were established in 1989 to recognize outstanding professional achievements and service of former Cuesta College students. For more information, visit the Cuesta College Honored Alumni program webpage.

2017 Honored Alum Ted Emrick

Ted Emrick: Attended Cuesta College: 1981-1984, 1987, 1992, 1993

A well-known contemporary multi-media painter and sculptor, Ted Emrick holds three associate degrees from Cuesta College (general studies, two-dimensional art, and three-dimensional art) as well as a Bachelor’s in Fine Art Degree from San Francisco’s Art Institute. Today, Emrick resides in Los Osos and runs his own art studio, Emrick Studios. He also spends time giving back to the local community through Surfing for Hope, AmpSurf, and the Art Legacy Project.

2017 Honored Alum Jim Gregory

Jim Gregory: Attended Cuesta College: 1971-1973

An Arroyo Grande native who studied journalism and history at Cuesta College, Jim Gregory received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and earned a teaching credential from Cal Poly. Gregory taught American literature, modern world literature, cultural anthropology, U.S. history, and European history for 30 years at Mission College Preparatory and Arroyo Grande High School. Since his retirement, Gregory has written two books on local south county history: World War II Arroyo Grande and Patriot Graves: Discovering a California Town’s Civil War Heritage.

2017 Honored Alum Frank Mecham

Frank Mecham: Attended Cuesta College: 1965, 1990

A native of San Luis Obispo County, Frank Mecham played on Cuesta College’s first football team and continued to attend Cuesta over the years. Mecham began working in the public sector in 1996 as a Planning Commissioner for the City of Paso Robles, was elected to the City of Paso Robles as a council member in 1998, and then as the first elected mayor for the City of Paso Robles in 2000 where he served for eight years. Mecham then represented District One on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors from 2009 to 2016.


2017 Volunteer Awards

2017 Volunteer Award recipient Dee Lacey

Dr. Frank Martinez Superintendent/President’s Award: Dee Lacey

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.

Dee Lacey is currently a member of the Cuesta College Foundation Board of Directors and serves as the vice president of membership. Lacey is on the board of directors for CAPSLO Community Action Partnership, has served as president of ACORN to raise funds for the Paso Robles Library and Recreation Center, as past president of the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce, and for 20 years as a member of the Paso Robles School District Board of Trustees. She has served on many boards throughout the north county, and actively fundraised to build the college’s North County Campus in Paso Robles. Lacey has served as SLO County Cattlewomen's President and was named Cattlewoman of the Year in 1992, and awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in Education in 2000.


John Schaub Student Volunteer Award: Mia Alexander & Gabriela Perez

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. This year two students are receiving the award.

2017 Volunteer Award recipients Gabriela Perez

Gabriela Perez is a first generation college student from Paso Robles studying Sociology at Cuesta College. Aspiring to be a social worker, Perez gives back to the college by volunteering at student service oriented events and assisting students in the CaFE Center (CALWORKs, foster youth, and EOPS/CARE). In addition, she volunteers with Coats for Kids, Miracle Miles for Kids, Walk for Arthritis, and the Food Bank. Her nominator states: “Gabby is selfless with her time and a great example of what it means to be a volunteer for your community.”

2017 Volunteer Award recipient Mia Alexander

Mia Alexander is a second-year Cuesta College student who aspires to open her own residential program in San Luis Obispo County and service women who suffer from addiction. The Alpha Gamma Sigma member volunteers 50 hours a week as the house manager for the non-profit organization Gryphon Society Gatehelp, Inc., a sober-living home for men and women. Additionally, Alexander volunteers at the Food Bank, for Hunger Awareness Day activities, and at the Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival. Her nominator states: “Mia’s service distinguishes itself as beyond normal service due to her passion for helping others, diversity in services and those served, and the impressive quantity of volunteer hours selflessly donated to the campus and community.”

2017 Volunteer Award recipient Marcus Ziedses des Plantes

Dr. Merlin E. Eisenbise Service in the Classroom Award: Marcus Ziedses des Plantes

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

A self-employed practicing architect and Cal Poly graduate, Marcus Ziedses des Plantes’s true passion is coaching sports teams. Currently in his eighth year as head coach for the Associated Students of Cuesta College (ASCC) men’s club soccer team, Ziedses des Plantes will also coach the Cuesta College women’s divisional soccer team this fall. In total, Ziedses des Plantes has been coaching for the past 30 years, the majority at the high school and college level. He states, “I have had the opportunity to mentor and support young adult sports team players. I find this experience humbling, challenging, and very rewarding.”

2017 Volunteer Award recipients the Kellett's

Betty Nielsen Volunteer of the Year Award: Ken & Darlene Kellett

First awarded in 1995, this award is given in memory of Cuesta 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. 

Ken and Darlene Kellett have been supporting the Cuesta College Athletic Booster Club for many years. Darlene began serving on the Booster Club Board in the 1970s and has been volunteering to support the college’s 15 intercollegiate teams and student athletes since. Ken joined the Booster Club more recently since the couple retired as owners of D&K Packaging. According to their nominator: “the Kellett’s genuine love and support of Cuesta College Athletics is evident through their dedication and commitment to serving on the Booster Club Board.”