Honoring Saint Mary's Excellence and Values at the Alumni Awards
Five alumni and an honorary alumnus received the prestigious recognition for excellence in their respective fields. And SMC welcomed new members to the Athletics Hall of Fame. Read their stories, watch video tributes, and see photos from the event.
Saint Mary’s College proudly honors the recipients of the 2024 Distinguished Alumni Awards, a prestigious recognition bestowed upon outstanding individuals who have exemplified excellence in their respective fields and made significant contributions to society.
The awardees include five graduates and an honorary alumnus:
- Troy Nunley ’86, Alumnus of the Year
- Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega ’96, Signum Fidei Award
- Holly Joshi MA ’16, EdD ’22, Meritorious Service Award
- Nishant Joshi MA ’16, Meritorious Service Award
- María Luisa Ruiz ’96, Saint John Baptist De La Salle Award
- Matt Maiocco, Honorary Alumnus
Chosen from a pool of highly accomplished nominees, the awardees stand as shining examples of the transformative power of education and the enduring impact of Saint Mary’s College.
“These exceptional individuals embody the spirit of excellence, community, and service that defines Saint Mary’s College’s legacy,” said Courtney Carmignani Andrews ’05, MA ’07, Associate Vice President for Alumni Engagement & Events.
“Their remarkable achievements serve as an inspiration to current and future generations of alumni, showcasing the profound impact that Gaels can have on the world. We are not only celebrating their individual accomplishments but also recognizing the collective success of our alumni family.”
The Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony, held Saturday, January 27, provided a grand opportunity for the Saint Mary’s community to celebrate their accomplishments and to recognize the continued influence of our institution on the global stage. The newest class of inductees into the Athletics Hall of Fame, the 2011 Men’s Soccer team, Omar Samhan ’10, and Jock Landale ’18, were also honored at this ceremony.
View the full photo album.
Alumnus of the Year: Troy Nunley ’86
The Honorable Troy Nunley has dedicated his professional career to public service, working in the justice system. Judge Nunley currently sits on United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, after being appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013. Nunley, a former prosecutor for the Alameda County and Sacramento County district attorney’s offices and a former deputy attorney general, also served as a Sacramento Superior Court judge from 2002 until his appointment to the federal bench. Judge Nunley was honored in May 2023 as Judge of the Year by the Sacramento County Bar Association. Moreover, Judge Nunley has been mentoring, supporting, guiding, and developing attorneys and law students for years. In addition to being a law school professor at UC Davis, he serves as a mentor for law students at several universities, including Saint Mary’s.
The Alumnus of the Year Award recognizes an alumna/us who has made a significant contribution to their professional field or has demonstrated consistent service to the College, exemplifying the spirit and dedication of the Saint Mary's College graduate.
Signum Fidei: Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega ’96
Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega was named Teacher of the Year by the Contra Costa County Department of Education in 2023. Gonzalez-Ortega has taught Spanish at Freedom High School in Oakley, California for 24 years. Beyond the traditional classroom instruction, she mentors and guides students, especially first-generation students, towards college and higher career aspirations. Gonzalez-Ortega organizes evening workshops for students and families to help them apply to college and for financial aid and takes them on college tours.
Gonzalez-Ortega is a first-generation Mexican American who was raised by parents who always emphasized the importance of education. As a high school student, she was turned away by her school’s counselor when she asked for help with her college applications. Soon after that she came in contact with Lou (Balestriera) Lett ’72, a Saint Mary’s alumna and teacher, who helped her apply to college and recommended she attend Saint Mary’s.
The Signum Fidei Award, meaning “sign of faith,” recognizes the alumna/us for outstanding participation in the goals of higher education, in the spirit of the founder of the Christian Brothers, patron of all teachers, Saint John Baptist De La Salle.
Meritorious Service: Holly Joshi MA ’16, EdD ’22 and Nishant Joshi MA ’16
Holly and Nishant Joshi have dedicated their professional careers to improving the public good and working in solidarity with those most in need of support. Grounded in the east Bay Area, the husband and wife couple have decades of history in making a difference in their communities.
Holly Joshi has enacted deep and expanding service to the Bay Area, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, social justice, and building equity. She has led roles in law enforcement and nonprofit, social justice organizations, including Glide SF and the MISSEY organization, designed to support commercially sexually exploited youth. She was recently named the City of Oakland's Chief of Department of Violence Prevention, which addresses root causes of violence. And in 2021 she was featured in the documentary Still I Rise for her pioneering work in the anti-trafficking movement. Holly's focus areas include criminal justice systems change, community-based and alternative solutions, gender based violence prevention and intervention, and youth development.
Nishant Joshi was named Alameda Police Chief in 2021, a role in which he has implemented a data-driven approach to crime reporting and personnel assignments, allowing for smarter and more targeted policing efforts. He has also overseen the department's recovery from a drastic staffing shortage. Before taking on this role Joshi rose through the ranks at the Oakland Police Department, which he joined in 1998. Joshi served OPD in many capacities including a Crime Reduction Officer, Gang and Gun Task Force Sergeant, Human Resources and Training Division Captain, and most recently as Deputy Chief.
The Meritorious Service award is presented to an alumna/us who has exemplified the mission of the College by commitment to service in their own community or the College.
Saint John Baptist De La Salle: María Luisa Ruiz ’96
María Luisa Ruiz is more than a compassionate professor and student organization advisor; she is an inspiration, a mentor, a big sister who helps students navigate complex student and campus politics. A professor of World Languages and Cultures, she is also director of the Institute for Latino and Latin American Studies, and she has served as Interim Senior Diversity Officer. Ruiz has a reputation for collaboration, cooperation, and forging intentional partnerships for the benefit not only of the whole student body, but also of faculty and staff. She models the ideals of being in service to others, with a firm commitment to inclusion in all aspects of her work and her life on campus. First-generation college students in general and Latinx students who are first-gen in particular can depend on her to translate what it means to go to college and what they need to do to succeed; Ruiz also includes their parents in the process of learning in a wholly new and often intimidating environment. Her service to the College and commitment to inclusivity and diversity earned her the Saint Mary’s College Faculty Service Award in 2018.
The Saint John Baptist De La Salle award is presented to a member of the faculty or staff who has, over a period of years, demonstrated a personal commitment to the students of Saint Mary's College above and beyond their employee responsibilities.
Honorary Alumnus: Matt Maiocco
Matt Maiocco has been a committed and consistent supporter of and ambassador for Saint Mary’s Athletics for the past 15 years. Known to Bay Area sports fans as a trustworthy and insightful reporter and NBC Sports Bay Area's 49ers Insider, Maiocco is also a proud and loyal Gael fan. In addition to being a season ticket holder, Maiocco has frequently volunteered as host at athletics banquets each year, including the Men’s Basketball Tip Off Dinner and end-of-season team banquet. His participation lends a professional and elevated stature to any event. He has attended NCAA Basketball Tournaments as a member of the official travel party. Additionally, Maiocco is an outspoken and ardent champion of Saint Mary’s men’s basketball and College on broadcast mediums like KNBR and social media. Maiocco has raised the profile of Saint Mary’s College among the many Bay Area sports fans.
The Honorary Alumnus award recognizes outstanding service and dedication to the mission of Saint Mary's College.
If you have a story about these alumni that you'd like to share, please contact Bryan Navarro.