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February 12, 2024

Legendary actor, alumni, and philanthropic leaders to be honored at first UCR Gala

Cheech Marin to receive the UCR Medallion

Author: UCR News
February 12, 2024

Cheech Marin, the popular actor, cultural icon, and arts advocate, will receive UC Riverside’s highest honor at the university’s new annual gala event.  

Marin will receive the UCR Medallion in recognition of his contributions that led to the creation of The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside. 

Cheech Marin (Photo by David Fouts)

He and several other UCR alumni and friends will be celebrated at UCR Honors: A Gala Celebration on Saturday, April 6. The first-of-its-kind gala event will pay tribute to alumni, philanthropic, and humanitarian leaders. 

Tickets for the black-tie event, which takes place at the SRC Arena, are now available at

Donations from the gala will go toward student support initiatives at UCR. 


Distinguished Philanthropist Award

The inaugural Distinguished Philanthropist Award will be presented to Byron and Teresa Pollitt, UCR alumni and members of the UCR Foundation Board of Trustees who have supported university causes for decades. Their support includes an endowed gift that funds scholarships for students who are pursuing international education experiences, a gift to establish the School of Medicine Mission Award Scholarship Endowed Fund, and an endowed faculty chair in support of interdisciplinary research and learning in the UCR College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

Alumni Awards of Distinction 

Distinguished Alumni Award

Christy Lopez '90

Lopez, a professor of law at Georgetown University, also served as deputy chief in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. She received the Department of Justice’s highest employee honor for her work leading the Ferguson Police Department pattern-or-practice investigation.

Alumni Service Award

Manav Sachdeva '99

Sachdeva is a senior policy advisor and emergency expert for the United Nations Development Programme. He has supported humanitarian and emergency response missions in several countries including Afghanistan, Lebanon, Ukraine, Kosovo, and Liberia.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Jesse Melgar, MPP '17

Melgar is senior advisor for strategy and public affairs at the University of California Possibility Lab and a former communications director for California Governor Gavin Newsom. He founded and now chairs the CIELO Fund at the Inland Empire Community Foundation.

Tickets, table purchases, and sponsorship opportunities for UCR Honors: A Gala Celebration are now available. Information and registration forms can be found on the Gala website

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