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Pomona College Honors Service and Innovation With Its Annual Alumni Awards

As part of Pomona College’s annual awards program, the College is honoring six alumni for their inspirational work, innovation in their professions and for their community service. Please clikc on their names for full profiles of each award winner.

Jane Chen '00 was honored with the Inspirational Young Alumni Award for 2011 for Embrace, an innovative infant warmer designed to save the lives of vulnerable premature and low-birth babies born worldwide who don’t have access to incubators.  Each year more than 20 million premature babies are born. Four million die in the first month of life because their internal organs are underdeveloped and the babies don’t have enough fat to regulate their body temperature.

Co-founded with her classmates at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the $200 Embrace infant warmer is a fraction of the $20,000 cost of a traditional incubator. Resembling a tiny sleeping bag, the device uses a pouch of a wax-like substance that can be heated to keep the babies warm for four to six hours at normal human body temperature. The ingenious product has attracted widespread attention for Chen, who has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and a segment on ABC News. She was selected as a fellow at TEDIndia--the influential conference of global movers and shakers. Chen is based in Bangalore, India and plans to expand distribution of Embrace across Asia and Africa.

Irving “Sonny” Brown '56 was named Blaisdell Distinguished Alumni for his many years of service with Rotary International. Chairman and founder of Sonny Brown Associates, an international commercial and industrial real estate consulting firm now operated by his two sons, Brown’s volunteer and community efforts are extensive.

He has served Rotary International in numerous capacities, including as director and vice-president, a trustee, and is the recipient of the Rotary Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service and the Distinguished Service Awards and received Rotary’s highest award in 2006, the “Service Above Self” award. His Rotary District named their new vocational service award the “Sonny Brown Business of the Year Award,” an award given annually to companies representing the highest ethical business practices. He and his wife Ann have traveled to more than 45 countries in their Rotary service; Among their hundreds of service projects, one that stands out to him is a visit to an AIDS orphanage in Johannesburg, South Africa, during which they fully stocked the library with books and toys and provided food service equipment to complete the kitchen.

For his commitment to higher education and other charitable endeavors, Hashim Djojohadikusumo '76 was honored with the Blaisell Distinguished Alumni Award, having sponsored more than 3,000 students with scholarship funding and providing job-search assistance to students upon graduation. His passion for knowledge extends to providing opportunities for students to acquire the same. In 1994, he gave $1 million to a school in Bandung, Java. His other passions extend to preservation and conservation, including monuments, buildings, statues, rainforests and wildlife sanctuaries. In 1992, he reintroduced polo in Indonesia by building Jakarta Polo and Equestrian Club.

A successful Indonesian businessman and currently chairman and president of Nations Petroleum, a 1993 article World Executive’s Digest called him “Indonesia’s most go-getting young tycoon.”

Carlos Guangorena '76 received the Blaisdell Distinguished Alumni Award for his community banking efforts. Guangorena was named a top 25 Business Innovator by Seattle Business Magazine after making a name for himself as the president and CEO of Seattle’s Plaza Bank, a no-mortgages commercial bank geared toward the under-served Latino community.

Guangorena rose through a successful career in banking, including positions as senior vice president for Wells Fargo, senior vice president for Pacific Northwest Bank and a senior corporate lender for U.S. Bank. At the height of his career, an offer came along that he couldn’t refuse. Michael E. Sotelo, a construction-industry executive in Seattle, approached Guangorena with a plan to open a bank that would serve Washington's growing Latino population. In 2006, Plaza Bank opened downtown in the 44-story U.S. Bank Centre. A branch office in a suburb south of Seattle provides retail-banking services. Five years later, Plaza Bank is still afloat, despite recent economic downturns. The greatest impact the bank can have on the Seattle area's Latino population, Guangorena says, is through access to capital.

For his long career in medicine and health administration—including the founding of the Watts Health Clinic—and for his service to Pomona College on the alumni association and the board of trustees and beyond, Dr. Robert Tranquada '51 is a Blaisdell Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.

Tranquada has led an accomplished career that has included teaching and administrative positions at USC, UCLA and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. One of his proudest accomplishments was the founding of the Watts Health Clinic after the 1965 Watts riots. He has sat on the boards of almost too many organizations to count, including the Claremont University Consortium, Keck Graduate University, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the Community Health Council of Los Angeles, and Huntington Medical Research Institutes. He was a member of the Christopher Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, which was developed after the Rodney King beating.

The decade that Tranquada was chair of the Pomona College Board of Trustees included an ambitious $150 million capital campaign, the construction of three new buildings, and institution of a major cycle of policy reviews.

Pat Newton ’51 was honored with the College’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award, which is bestowed annually in recognition of an alum’s selfless commitment and ongoing service to the College.

Newton began her service with the Alumni Relations Office during her five-year reunion and hasn’t quit since. In addition to her involvement with every reunion in some manner, she’s participated in countless phone-a-thons and made many calls in between—especially during reunion years. She chaired the Annual Fund Alumni Network, a committee that coordinated ways to get alumni involved on campus both financially and as volunteers, and is currently finishing a three-year term on the Pomona College Alumni Board.

She has also been heavily involved in Girls Scouts her entire life and is actively involved with the boards of United Way— recognized with a Gold Key Award in the 1970s — the Jaycees, Mt. San Antonio Gardens and Fairplex Friends, which supports the L.A. County Fair.