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Meet the 2022 ASU Founders' Day honorees

Event honors individuals who exemplify the spirit of the university founders

Exterior view of ASU's Old Main building on the Tempe campus
February 09, 2022

Each spring, the ASU Alumni Association hosts a Founders’ Day celebration honoring individuals who exemplify the spirit of the founders of the university’s predecessor, the Tempe Normal School. The award ceremony began in the 1960’s and is celebrated annually to commemorate the March 7, 1885 anniversary of when the institution received its charter from the Thirteenth Territorial Legislature.

On Thursday, March 17, ASU President Michael M. Crow and the Alumni Association will be at the Arizona Biltmore to recognize the legacy and innovation of distinguished ASU faculty, alumni and philanthropists. 

“It is an honor to recognize the accomplishments of this group of visionaries,” said Christine K. Wilkinson, president and CEO of the Alumni Association. “Arizona State University is a leader in innovation, sustainability and student success with the help of our devoted faculty, philanthropists and alumni. The 2022 honorees are exemplars of the ASU Charter and have made a global impact.”

Meet the 2022 Founders’ Day honorees:

Faculty Achievement Awards:

Mark Jacobs

Faculty Teaching Achievement Award

For 19 years, Mark Jacobs has been the dean of Barrett, The Honors College, and a professor in the School of Life Sciences, where he leaves a legacy of vision, optimism and humble dedication to the student experience. He will retire from his position at the end of this academic year.

Jacobs has conceptualized and developed the honors college into what is widely recognized as the most evolved and best resourced honors college in the nation and in the world.

His most significant accomplishments include having the vision to see Barrett as a residential college that competes with the top private schools in the country and offers so much more because of the diversity and choices of research and educational resources at a large public research university — truly a “public college of scholars.”

Ramon Arrowsmith

Faculty Service Achievement Award

Ramon Arrowsmith has more than 30 years’ experience studying the earthquake geology, paleoseismology and geomorphology of fault zones, and publishing about their history of activity and hazards.

As the associate director of operations for the School of Earth and Space Exploration and a professor of field geology, structural geology, geomorphology and computers in earth and space exploration, Arrowsmith has led many short courses, workshops and visioning activities emphasizing high-resolution topographic data and tectonic geomorphology.

From 2011–15, the EarthScope National Office was located at ASU, and Arrowsmith served as the chair of the EarthScope Steering Committee and director of the EarthScope National Office. The EarthScope project is a large-scale geoscience investigation of the structural and evolution of the North American Continent.

Efrem Lim

Faculty Research Achievement Award

At ASU, Efrem Lim is a virologist and assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences and the Biodesign Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics. He is also the principal investigator of the Center for Viral Genomics at ASU, where his team investigates the human virome in health and disease.  

In early 2020, Lim and his team identified a SARS-CoV-2 mutation that had never been found before, using a new technology at ASU’s Genomics Facility called next-generation sequencing to rapidly read through the 30,000 chemical letters of the SARS-CoV-2 genetic code.

Shortly after the data was published in the Journal of Virology, the research attracted worldwide interest from the scientific community and World Health Organization.

Alumni Achievement Awards:


Michelle Tom

Alumni Achievement Award

Dr. Michelle Tom, ’99 BS, grew up on the Navajo reservation playing “rezball” which propelled her toward a Division I spot on the Arizona State team. Upon being recruited to the team, Tom expressed her ambition to return to her people as a doctor. She earned her bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine and microbiology with an emphasis in infectious diseases from Arizona State University.

A year after completing her medical residency training, Tom entered the COVID-19 frontline as the only Diné (Navajo) doctor in her area and one of only a handful on the entire Navajo reservation in her hometown of Winslow, Arizona. 

Throughout the pandemic, Tom has been an activist in raising awareness for the fundamental lack of quality health care within the Navajo Nation on NBC, CBS, PBS and NPR, and in-live discussions alongside celebrities. 

Philip Oro

Young Alumni Achievement Award

Dr. Philip Oro, ’10 BS, earned a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University before attending medical school to become a family medicine physician.

Oro serves as the medical director of the Warrior Medicine Clinic at Ramstein Air Base, Germany’s 86th Medical Group, guiding care for more than 8,000 active-duty service members. He is also a founder and the current medical director of all COVID-19 operations and vaccination efforts, leading the largest military community outside the U.S. through the pandemic.

During Operation Allies Welcome, Oro served as the first point of contact and medical provider for more than 34,000 Afghan refugees brought through Ramstein Air Base as part of one of the largest humanitarian airlift evacuations in history.

Philanthropists of the Year Award

Kelly and Brian Swette

Kelly and Brian Swette, ’76 BS, are longtime supporters of ASU, providing key leadership and philanthropic investment. Brian is an ASU trustee and a board director for the ASU Global Institute for Sustainability and Innovation. In 2012, the Swettes combined their interest in cooking healthy food and sustainability when they started Sweet Earth Natural Foods. 

The Swettes have made major contributions to sustainability solutions at ASU. The Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology in the Biodesign Institute conducts research on the significance of microbial communities. The Swette Family Scholarship Program provides financial support to students from agricultural farm-working and food-working families. The Kelly and Brian Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems is driving social progress, economic productivity and ecosystem resilience through food systems transformation.

James W. Creasman Award of Excellence

Barbara Barrett

As the 25th secretary of the Air Force, Barbara M. Barrett, ’72 BS, ’75 MPA, ’78 JD, stood-up the United States Space Force, the first new military service in 70 years. Barrett is a pilot, diplomat, mentor, space authority, global leader and ASU champion with six honorary degrees. 

Heading the Department of the Air Force, Barrett organized, trained and equipped both the Air Force and Space Force. In service to her country, she was ambassador to Finland, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and vice chairman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board. She advised presidents and secretaries of state, commerce and defense on diplomacy, commerce, human rights and management practices. 

Barrett, The Honors College, at ASU is named for Ambassador Barrett and her husband, Craig. Longtime advocates of ASU, the Barretts mentor, hire and support ASU students and alumni. ASU Local’s flagship facility in Washington, D.C., the ASU Barbara Barrett and Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center, also bears her name.  

She has been a strategic leader of companies and organizations focused on space, aeronautics, science, defense and diplomacy.

Top photo of Old Main on the Tempe campus by Charlie Leight/ASU News.

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