Alumni Awards

Natalie Orfalea’s Philanthropic Work Honored

In a small ceremony at Chancellor Henry Yang’s University House, Santa Barbara philanthropist Natalie Orfalea received the Alumni Association’s Honorary Alumni Award.

Orfalea was only the 53rd person in UC Santa Barbara’s history to receive the honorary award. Under UC Regents rules the University of California cannot present honorary degrees but does present honorary alumni awards.

Chancellor Yang cited Orfalea’s support for higher education and specifically her and Paul Orfalea’s funding for the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies. Their support also has made possible the Orfalea Family Children’s Center, a day care facility on the UC Santa Barbara campus.

Most recently the Orfalea Foundation has focused on nutrition education programs for children, including their program S’Cool Food. Natalie Orfalea is involved in a number of non-profits in the Santa Barbara area.

The World’s Greatest Anchor

On Nov. 9 in front of a UC Santa Barbara soccer crowd of more than 12,000 Olympic Gold Medalist Jason Lezak ‘ 99 received the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Lezak swam what many believe was the most exciting swim race in history when he came from behind as the relay anchor to win the gold medal in the 4x100 men’s freestyle relay in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He entered the water one full body length behind world record holder Alain Bernard, of France, but swam the fastest freestyle split in history and touched a fraction of second ahead of Bernard, ensuring that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps would win his eight gold medals

In all, Lezak collected 8 Olympic medals over four Olympics. At a midfield halftime ceremony during the UC Santa Barbara vs. Cal Poly men’s soccer game, Lezak spoke of the importance of his time at UC Santa Barbara.

That Olympics, he recalled, was a result of years of hard work. I never would have gotten to that point in my career if it wasn’t for my time and experiences here at UC Santa Barbara.

“Some of the greatest memories of my whole life came from here. A lot of the things I learned here in the pool and out of the pool carried over to help me get to that point [in 2008].”"This is one of the greatest institutions,” he said, “not only in athletics and academics but as a place for a great education. I’m still pursuing my dreams and goals past my swimming career. From what I got out of UCSB I know I can accomplish anything I set out to do.”

Prior to the men’s soccer game, the Association hosted a reception for Lezak at the Mosher Alumni House where more than $1,500 was raised for men’s and women’s swimming scholarships at UC Santa Barbara.