UCR Honors: A Gala Celebration
“UCR Honors: A Gala Celebration” was held the evening of April 6 on campus at the Student Recreation Center.


A Blue Carpet Affair

UCR’s first gala celebration paid tribute to alumni, philanthropic, and humanitarian leaders



UCR rolled out the blue carpet for more than 200 guests who attended “UCR Honors: A Gala Celebration,” a first-of-its-kind event honoring alumni, philanthropic, and humanitarian leaders. Even Scotty turned out in his topcoat, waistcoat, and tartan bowtie.

Speaking at the April 6 event, Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox noted how the university has evolved from being one of the “fastest rising universities” to becoming a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.

“We’re now one of the best universities in America,” Wilcox said. “We long have been one of the best universities in America. But now, we’re one of the best by nearly every measure you can come up with.”

Those recognized at the event included actor Cheech Marin for his support of the arts in Riverside and beyond; alumni Byron and Teresa Pollitt for their support of university causes over the decades; and 2023 Alumni Awards of Distinction honorees Christy Lopez, Manav Sachdeva, and Jesse Melgar.


Thank you to this year’s sponsors: Show Imaging, UC Riverside Recreation, and Brian and Vickie Hawley. Save the date for UCR’s next gala celebration on April 5, 2025.



Meet the 2024 Honorees

Cheech Marin in front of artwork by Cande Aguilar
Cheech Marin in front of artwork by Cande Aguilar. (Carlos Puma/Courtesy of Riverside Art Museum)

Cheech Marin

UCR Medallion

The UCR Medallion is awarded by the Chancellor and honors friends and distinguished visitors who have rendered distinguished service to UCR and/or to society.

Cheech Marin is an actor, cultural icon, and arts advocate who gained recognition as part of the comedy duo Cheech & Chong. He has also voiced characters in several Disney productions, including “The Lion King” and “Cars.” An art collector and advocate for Chicano art, Marin was recognized with the UCR Medallion for his contributions that led to the creation of The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside.


Byron Pollitt ’73 and Teresa Pollitt ’74

Distinguished Philanthropist Award

The Distinguished Philanthropist Award honors those who have demonstrated exemplary service and philanthropic generosity in support of UC Riverside. In addition to a personal commitment to philanthropy, recipients act as role models and encourage philanthropy in others to support the university.

Byron and Teresa Pollitt are 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 three endowed faculty chairs in support of interdisciplinary research and learning in the UCR College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Now retired, Byron Pollitt served as CFO for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Gap, and Visa. Teresa Pollitt served for 15 years as a security analyst with the investment counseling firm Scudder, Stevens & Clark, rising to the level of vice president.


Christy Lopez ’90

Distinguished Alumni Award

The most prestigious honor bestowed by the UCR Alumni Association, this award is based on national and international distinction in one’s field and significant contribution to humankind.

Christy Lopez is a professor from practice at Georgetown University Law Center, where she teaches Georgetown’s required criminal justice course as well as seminars and experiential courses related to policing and the criminal legal system. Before joining the Georgetown Law faculty in 2017, she served as a 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.


Manav Sachdeva ’99

Alumni Service Award

This award honors superior service in the public sector or a sustained pattern of volunteer service in the community, arts, or for the benefit of UCR.

Manav Sachdeva is a senior policy advisor and emergency expert for the United Nations Development Programme (UNPD). He has worked for the UN and UNDP in several capacities since 2007 and has supported humanitarian and emergency response missions in countries including Afghanistan, Lebanon, Ukraine, Kosovo, and Liberia. Sachdeva is a poet who writes under the pen name Maasoom Shah Aliyarr and is the author of “The Sufi’s Garland.”


Jesse Melgar, MPP ’17

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

This award recognizes alumni aged 40 or younger with a significant record of career and/or civic achievement and promise in their profession.

Jesse Melgar is the senior advisor for strategy and public affairs at the University of California Possibility Lab, where he works with government and community partners on data-driven solutions for the public good. Previously, he served as communications director, press secretary and deputy director of public affairs for California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Melgar founded and now chairs the CIELO Fund at the Inland Empire Community Foundation and co-founded the Inland Empire LGBTQ Resource Center.