2020 Distinguished Alumni Awards
Each year Saint Mary's College of California's Alumni Association honors deserving Gaels and friends by bestowing awards for outstanding service to the SMC community. Congratulations to our 2020 recipients and honorees!
Matthew Dellavedova '13
Alumnus of the Year
Matthew Dellavedova is an Australian professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association. Following four years at Saint Mary’s College, Matthew graduated with a degree in Psychology in 2013. During his Saint Mary’s career, the Gaels made the NCAA tournament three times and in his freshman year, all the way to the Sweet 16. He finished his college career as Saint Mary's all-time leader in points, assists, games played, free throw percentage, and three pointers made and the 2012 WCC Player of the Year. Saint Mary's retired his No. 4 jersey in 2014, at the time, the second ever retired by the program.
After going undrafted in 2013, Matthew joined the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA Summer League. A strong showing in the Summer League and then at the Cavs training camp earned him a place on their roster. Matthew continued his success in the NBA ending the 2015-16 season as an NBA Champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Dellavedova was acquired by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2016 where he played for two-plus seasons before a mid-season trade took him back to the Cleveland.
He is a member of the Australian National Team, representing the Boomers in 2009 and 2011–14. This included the 2012 London Olympics and most recently he was a key member of the team at the World Cup in Spain and member of the 2016 Rio Olympic basketball team.
While most of his accolades can be seen on the court, it is what Matthew Dellavedova does off the court that shines brightest. In 2017 while with the Bucks, Dellavedova started “Delly’s Deer” reading program, which seeks to increase student interest in reading with middle and elementary school youth. Through this program, he and his wife Anna ’13 provided vision screening and reading glasses to children in need.
Now back in Cleveland, they continued the program and in 2019 through their Vision Day hosted 150 kids at University Settlement, an organization that helps families overcome poverty. Every child participating received a free vision screening, and if it was determined they needed glasses, they were able to meet with a doctor on-site to determine their prescriptions. With education being an important area of focus for Matthew and Anna, they continue their community outreach around literacy and vision in the Cleveland area, knowing an important part of reading is being able to see properly.
In September of 2019, Matthew released his first in a series of children’s books titled, Daring Delly #1: Team Tryouts, where young readers can follow alongside a young version of Delly as he takes on the challenges, adventures, and fun of playing for his hometown team the Maryborough Blazers.
Beyond Matthews literacy and vision work, he has participated in the Akron Children's Hospital's "A Prom to Remember" event, and spends time in the off-season with youth hoops clinic in both Australia and the states.
He has also partnered with his fellow Australian NBA players to fundraise for the fire relief effort to combat the fires currently ravaging Australia.
Mary Ann Gomez Orta MBA '02
Mary Ann Gomez Orta MBA ’02 has been leading the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) since 2011. The non-profit organization, founded by members of Congress, fosters a broad awareness of the diversity of thought, heritage, interests and views of Americans of Hispanic and Portuguese descent. She has doubled CHLI’s income, created new programs to support the vision of advancing the Hispanic community’s diversity of thought, and works with members of Congress, White House officials, Fortune 500 executives and non-profit leaders to develop a pipeline of tomorrow’s leaders. Gomez Orta, the daughter of farmworkers, has served on boards for various organizations that focus on education and support diverse communities. Gomez Orta served on the Board of Directors of the California Affiliate for the American Heart Association, was President of the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Conference, and now serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility and the Latino Jewish Leadership Council.
John '84 and Carrie Matsuo '87
Signum Fidei Award
Carrie and John Matsuo have dedicated their lives to the Lasallian mission of education and support of underserved communities. John has worked in education since his graduation from Saint Mary’s in 1984 and been a school administrator for more than 20 years in the Bay Area and Hillsboro, Oregon, empowering students and colleagues alike. He is currently at Hillsboro High School, one of two high schools in Oregon with more than 50 percent of its students living in poverty, and has 95 percent of the ninth grade class on track to graduate, one of only 18 schools in the state to hit that mark. This 12 percent increase is the largest in the state. Carrie has always been a community activist. She served as president of the Parent Teacher Club and SunCreek Little League, where she amplified the engagement of underrepresented youth and families, spent a decade as a Special Education aide in the Beaverton School District, and is now a Graduation Mentor at Beaverton High School, providing guidance to underserved students to stay on track toward a diploma, with emphasis on career exploration and college preparation. Their passion was passed on to their son, who is now works in special education at Hillsboro High School.
Suzy Thomas MA '97, PhD
Saint John Baptist De La Salle Award
In her essay, Reflections on Being a Lasallian Educator, Suzy Thomas wrote, “Being student-centered means meeting students where they are, encouraging them to grow and develop internally and interpersonally, spending time together, listening to them, and getting to know them.” Professor Suzy Thomas, PhD, has taught at Saint Mary’s since 1998 and has lived this principle of Lasallian education. In addition to teaching, she has mentored and impacted hundred of students, inspiring them to be the best versions of themselves. Thomas challenges students to consider the multidimensional aspects involved with supporting the academic, career, and personal/social development of K-12 students and to recognize issues of privilege, power, and institutionalized oppression that perpetuate and maintain inequities in education. She presents regularly at school counseling and counselor educator conferences and has various publications in the areas of mentoring, collaboration, LGBTQ youth, legal and ethical issues in counseling, group counseling, action research, and school counseling reform. She was inducted into the H.B. McDaniel Hall of Fame, which recognizes great accomplishments in counseling, in 2013 and recognized in 2017 as the School Counselor Educator of the Year by the California Association of School Counselors.
Jessica Binzoni '10
Emerging Leader Award
Jessica Binzoni took her undergraduate studies from Saint Mary’s to the University of Notre Dame, where she earned her JD in 2015. Upon graduation from law school, Jessica worked as an attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) in Chicago. At NIJC, Jessica represented refugees and asylum seekers both in affirmative administrative proceedings and before the Immigration Court. In 2018 Jessica founded HOPE + FUTURE International, an organization based in Northern Iraq and aimed at advancing hope in conflict zones by empowering displaced people to build a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities. She currently serves as the organization’s Executive Director and lives in Northern Iraq.
Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee
From 1999 to 2017, Lisa Alipaz served as the head women's tennis coach at Saint Mary's, leading the Gaels to a tremendous run of success that has netted her five West Coast Conference Coach of the Year awards. She guided the Gaels to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and, after a one-year break, she took them back to the postseason with an at-large berth in 2015. The four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is a first in Saint Mary's athletics history. Under Alipaz's guidance, the Gaels claimed the program's first ever WCC Championship title in 2010 to earn their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. In 2013, the Gaels finished conference play 7-1 to claim their first WCC Championship regular season title. The Gaels were ranked highly between 2010 and 2015 six-year span, including a program-best No. 20 ranking in 2012.
2009-10 Men's Basketball Team
Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee
Led by West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year Omar Samhan and future WCC Players of the Year Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova, the 2009-10 men’s basketball team put together arguably the most exciting run in program history when it reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen. They ran the table in the WCC Tournament, becoming champions when they knocked off 14th-ranked Gonzaga by 19 for the championship. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. The Gaels entered into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed and beat No. 7 seeded Richmond 80-71 for their first tournament win since 1959. They then stunned the country when they defeated No. 2 seeded Villanova 75-69 to advance to their first-ever appearance in the Sweet 16. The team finished with a then-program record 28 wins and ranked 19th in the nation.