Saddleback College Alumnus of the Year

Heather C. Allen, Alumna of the Year 2017

Professor Heather C. Allen, a native of Southern California, attended Saddleback College from 1989-1992, completing much of her undergraduate science and general education coursework before transferring to the University of California, Irvine in 1992. After her second year at Saddleback, she focused on the science, targeting chemistry as her major, winning a Saddleback College Science Scholarship Award to continue advancement toward her chemistry degree.  She credits her professors, and the time she spent at Saddleback, as the foundation for her success as a scientist.

She received her B.S. degree in Chemistry in 1993, and Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1997 at the University of California Irvine working with Nobel Laureate F. S. Rowland, and Professors D. Blake, J. Hemminger, and B. Finlayson-Pitts. She continued her postdoctoral studies in 1997 at the University of Oregon advised by Professor G. L. Richmond. Following the Saddleback Science Scholarship, as a student and postdoctoral researcher, she was also recognized with other scholarships and fellowships: Fannie and John Hertz Fellowship, EPA, NSF Traineeship, and a NOAA Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Climate and Global Change.

She began her Professorial career at Ohio State in 2000, and has since been recognized for many research accomplishments: Research Innovation Award from Research Corp., NSF CAREER Award, Beckman Young Investigator Award, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow Award, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Ohio State Distinguished Scholar Award, and the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award from Germany.

In addition, Dr. Allen has been recognized for several mentoring awards over the years including the Ohio State Office of Minority Affairs Mentor Award, an Empowered Woman Award from the City of Columbus, and the American Chemical Society National Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. She is a Full Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and in the Department of Pathology.  Her research specialization is in molecular organization, ion pairing, and hydration at aqueous interfaces.

Michelle Desilets, Alumna of the Year 2016

The first course Michelle Desilets took at Saddleback College was Physical Anthropology with professor Bill Holston. Michelle recalls that she was so taken with the subject that she sat front row center for every class. She was especially interested in the study of the Great Apes, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.
Michelle studied a variety of subjects at Saddleback College throughout 1984 and 1985, focusing mostly on the Liberal Arts, and transferred to Dominican University in San Rafael, California in Fall 1985, where she ultimately earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in English Literature. She then earned her teaching certificate at California State University, Long Beach. During these years, she traveled extensively in many parts of the world, including Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. In 1994 in Borneo, she met her first orangutan, who stole her heart and changed her life. In late 1997, she and a fellow volunteer decided to open a rescue center in Central Borneo which is now the world’s largest primate rescue facility.
In 2002, Michelle founded the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK. As Executive Director, Michelle initiated campaigns to stem the illegal trade of orangutans and to repatriate known smuggled orangutans, as well as the campaign for sustainable palm oil. She now sits on several working groups in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and is an advisor to zoos and institutions around the world on the issue.  In 2005, Michelle gave up her career in education to devote herself full time to these campaigns, as well as the never-ending search for the funds needed to continue the efforts in the field. 
In 2009, Michelle founded the Orangutan Land Trust, whose mission is to provide sustainable solutions for the long-term survival of the orangutan in the wild, by ensuring safe areas of forest for its continued survival. The focus is on protecting critical areas of orangutan habitat as well as securing secure forests for the release of the hundreds of rescued orangutans currently in rescue centers. 
In addition to her charity work, Michelle has served as a consultant to international film crews, including those from BBC, PBS and Animal Planet, for such series as Orangutan Island and Orangutan Diary. She is currently advising on a new film project undertaken for ITV (UK) and PBS.
In recent years, Michelle has been invited to the British Prime Minister’s residence in London--10 Downing Street -- to be honored among others for achieving good via social networking. She has also been invited to Clarence House at St James’s Palace, the home of Prince Charles, where her work was commended by the Prince. While Michelle was Executive Director of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, that organization was honored by the BBC Wildlife Trust as one of the top ten UK charities working to save wildlife globally, and was featured in a series called Saving Planet Earth.



Jason Schmid, Alumnus of the Year 2015

At the Saddleback Foundation Gala in March 2015, Jason Schmid was announced as the 2015 Alumnus of the Year. John Quinlan introduced Jason to the room with a clip of John calling Jason’s crucial touchdown at the 1985 National Junior College Championship football game. 
John Quinlan began his career in radio broadcasting at Saddleback College’s KSBR FM in the mid 1980’s and revived the play-by-play broadcasts of Gaucho’s football. He is now a Senior Vice President of Sales for Total Traffic and Weather Network (TTWN), an iHeart Media company, and also sits on the Foundation board of governors. 
Jason attended Saddleback College in the mid-80’s.  He came to Saddleback to play football and still uses the skills he learned both on and off the field in his daily life. Through personal relationships, by joining the Gaucho Football Alumni Club, and by recently playing in the Saddleback golf tournament, Jason stays connected to Saddleback College. After graduating from Saddleback, he continued his education at the University of Southern California and then San Jose State.  Upon completing his studies, Jason entered the field of real estate. More recently, he became an entrepreneur when he opened JT Schmid’s Restaurant and Brewery.  
In the course of opening these restaurants Jason discovered he had a flair for good food. While he does not have a background in culinary arts, all of the food served at JT Schmid’s restaurants are his own recipes. The way he describes it, he gets similar satisfaction in running a restaurant that he did playing football.  There is a lot of planning and preparation and everyone needs to do their part to ensure that everything runs smoothly, especially on busy nights.  He loves watching all of the practice pays off when it all comes together, much like a play in football.
While he no longer plays on a team, Jason still enjoys exercising, especially skiing. He also loves spending time with his wife Lisa and three children Regan, John Todd and Cassidy.  From football player, to real estate broker, to entrepreneur and family man, Jason achieved great success in his life.  


Anthony Ferry, Alumnus of the Year 2014

Anthony Ferry grew up in Mission Viejo, graduated from Capistrano Valley High School and, like so many young adults in south Orange County, headed straight to Saddleback College to map out his next move. It didn’t take him very long. On his first day in C++ Computer Programming, the freshman discovered a passion for technology that would guide his life’s journey. Anthony couldn’t get enough of computers during his two years at Saddleback. And he took as many programming classes as his schedule would allow. With a full complement of general education courses on his transcript, Anthony transferred to California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) well prepared for the demands of a four-year school.

Passion for Technology..

After graduating from CSUF with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Anthony applied his passion for technology at Macro Educational Systems, Taco Bell, QuickStart Technologies and Global Resource Corp., where he attained the title of vice president of consulting services. During his tenure at Taco Bell, Anthony worked in close partnership with Microsoft, where he met future business partners Parsa Rohani and Tim Marshall. Seeing opportunity in the advent of the Microsoft.NET platform, the three got together to form Neudesic in 2001.  One of Neudesic’s first significant contracts was with South Orange County Community College District (SOCCCD), with Anthony instrumental to the initiative. Neudesic partnered with SOCCCD to develop a Student Information System that earned the district a Student Systems and Services Innovators Award from Campus Technology Magazine. The success of that project increased momentum to the already thriving business; Anthony and his partners will be forever grateful to SOCCCD for this boost to company growth.

Growing partnerships..

In 2012, the growing partnership between Neudesic and SOCCCD again bore award-winning fruit, when the district’s Sherpa project was named the winner of Campus Technology Magazine’s Model of Technology Innovation on Campus Award.  At the time, Dr. Robert Bramucci, vice chancellor of technology and learning services at SOCCCD, said, “Our goal is to develop real-time technology tools to guide students on an efficient, successful path toward completion. This award is an honor and a validation of our team’s efforts.” In addition to his key role at Neudesic, Anthony recently took the reins of PriceSpider, a company incubated at Neudesic. PriceSpider’s development team initially launched the online property as a shopping engine. They soon realized that its real value was in helping electronics manufacturers deliver timely and accurate information to consumers. PriceSpider now powers the Where-to-Buy engines for 10 of the world’s top consumer electronics brands.

Giving back to Saddleback..

Throughout the years, Anthony has given back to the school that ignited his passion for technology. Not only does he strive to improve his alma mater through generous donations of both his time and money, this committed gadget geek also has served on the board of Saddleback College Foundation since 2009, enacting a number of internship and scholarship programs to help technology students gain real world experience.

Hands on Support..

Anthony and his business partners also extended the spirit of giving to Neudesic employees through the sponsorship of charitable donations. From natural disaster relief to hands-on support of organizations including the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program, St. Jude’s Hospital, American Red Cross, Mayo Clinic, and American Cancer Society, Neudesic sets an example for making the world a better place. Near and dear to Anthony’s own heart is the Make-A-Wish Foundation for which he serves on the Orange and Inland Empire chapter’s advisory council, working diligently to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.