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Founders' Day: A celebration of ASU’s past, present and future

Annual event honors ASU faculty, alumni and philanthropists

Group of five award winners holding trophies onstage.

From left: Ferran Garcia-Pichel, Gina Woodall, John F. Goodman, Wendy Oakes and Kentaro Kawamori were honored at the 2024 Founders' Day event, held at the Omni Hotel in Tempe on Feb. 21. Photo by Tim Trumble

February 22, 2024

A Marine, a leader in carbon emissions technology and a disability advocate had one thing in common on Wednesday night. 

They were all part of an inspiring group of Arizona State University alumni, faculty and philanthropists honored at the 60th annual ASU Founders’ Day awards celebration.  

The signature event, put on by the ASU Alumni Association, drew more than 800 community leaders, business executives and ASU alumni to the Omni Tempe Hotel. 

In 1964, the inaugural Founders’ Day celebration was held to commemorate the anniversary of when the Territorial Normal School, the predecessor of ASU, received its charter from the 13th Territorial Legislature.

The event celebrates those who have contributed to the institution’s growth as a New American University and leading institute for innovation.  

“Over the past 60 years, Founders’ Day has honored the achievements of 358 faculty, staff and alumni that have helped transformed ASU into the enterprise it is today,” said Ted Simons, host of the PBS public affairs show "Arizona Horizon" and emcee for the evening.  

ASU, the nation’s fastest growing public enterprise, stands firmly on its foundation as a former teachers college — a four-classroom building that opened in 1885 to 33 students. 

Today, ASU has four campuses in Arizona, locations in California and Washington, D.C., and more than 170,000 students enrolled annually. 

“The result is that we have literally birthed a new kind of public university that we call the New American University and ASU is the prototype," ASU President Michael Crow said. "We're rising to the national challenges. ... The progress we've made is unbelievable.”

Simons said the school’s journey “from a simple schoolhouse to a world-class institute” was a testament to the vision, tenacity and hard work of its founders through the years. 

“Founders’ Day is a celebration of this spirit,” Simons said. 

Founders' Day honorees

Faculty awards

The Faculty Research Achievement Award went to Ferran Garcia-Pichel, a Regents Professor who leads the ASU Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics in the Biodesign Institute. The esteemed scientist studies the function of microbes in their natural environment to help solve societal problems. 

For making it her life’s mission to improve the lives of students with disabilities throughout the country, Wendy Oakes received the ASU Faculty Service Achievement Award. Oakes is an associate professor in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Her recent work centers around creating personal and flexible new pathways for educators who are focused on serving children, youth and family. 

“All of my work is about serving students who then serve other students and families,” Oakes said in her video profile. 

The third faculty member to receive an award was Gina Woodall. The Teaching Achievement Award honoree is a professor at ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies and a strong proponent of real-world exposure through programs like the Capital Scholars internship program. Woodall also leads SPGS’s Early Start program.

Philanthropist of the Year

The ASU President’s Club received the Philanthropist of the Year Award, which celebrates those whose generosity helps further the institute’s mission.

The organization of supporters was created in 1984, and over the past 40 years has raised $1.1 billion dollars in funds that provide unrestricted support for university initiatives. The funds are used on everything from student scholarships to helping to create Dreamscape Learn, which provides an immersive learning experience for ASU students.

Extraordinary alumni

Kentaro Kawamori received the Young Alumni Achievement Award. He graduated in 2015 with an MBA from ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business.

The entrepreneur is co-founder of Persefoni, a leading climate technology company that Fast Company ranked No. 2 in its list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in energy and sustainability in 2023. 

Kawamori was also featured in the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 issue.

The final honor went to Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman, who received the prestigious Alumni Achievement Award. Goodman has been a part of the ASU community for nearly 60 years. 

Goodman started his ASU adventure in the 1960s as the starting quarterback for Sun Devil Football. He was recruited to the New Orleans Saints before being drafted by the United States Army to serve in Vietnam.

Goodman returned to ASU and graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the W. P. Carey School of Business. He later served the country through the Marine Corps. Over the course of his 42-year military career, the TOPGUN graduate received a Soldier’s Medal, the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. 

Goodman thanked many in the audience and touched on the importance of commitment and duty. 

He described his former ASU football coach, Frank Kush, as “a hell of a teacher” and said Kush taught him the importance of preparation.  

“He taught us that if you have an opponent coming up or a job to do, there's no amount of effort you can't make to prepare yourself and take care of your responsibilities,” Goodman said during the event.

Goodman now teaches a master’s program course in leadership, planning and decision-making in ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies. 

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