More than 500 guests turned out Saturday, Oct. 29, for “A Celebration of Stars – the 2011 Medal Awards.” Net charitable proceeds from the $1.1M raised for the gala will benefit graduate fellowships, scholarships and other student-focused projects through the Shaping the Future campaign:

UCI’s signature event honors recipients of the UCI Medal for their profound impact on the university. The 2011 winners are Barbara Davidson, Manuel Gómez, Michael Mussallem and Larry Overman.

“One of our most significant traditions is awarding the UCI Medal to highlight the accomplishments of those outstanding individuals whose time, talent and support help UC Irvine make a difference in people’s daily lives,” Chancellor Michael Drake said. “Our 2011 recipients join an elite cadre, and although the specific nature of their contributions may vary from year to year, the consistent truth is that each of them has elevated our campus and community in a meaningful way.”

Hosted by the UC Irvine Foundation, “A Celebration of Stars” this year was co-chaired by Ruth Ann and John Evans. A senior vice president and manager at Wells Fargo Bank, he is a foundation trustee and sits on its executive committee, as well as the Dean’s Advisory Board for UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business.

“John and his wife, Ruth Ann, were steadfastly committed to the success of this event, inspiring our hardworking volunteer committee to surpass expectations in every way,” said Gregory Leet, vice chancellor for university advancement. “Not only did they raise vital funds to support graduate and undergraduate students, but they delivered an evening befitting the achievements of those it honored.”

The vintage Hollywood-themed soiree at the UC Irvine Bren Events Center featured a reception and formal dinner, three classic cars, big-band music and dancing, Medalist tributes, and entertainment by students from UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, who performed a musical montage from ’30s and ’40s Hollywood. Past Medalists – who include Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and industry leaders – were also highlighted.

The 2011 UCI Medalists are:

Barbara Davidson
A Regents Scholar and member of UCI’s inaugural class of 1965, Barbara Davidson raised the flag during the campus’s opening ceremony and then devoted herself to the university for more than four decades. She performed in exemplary fashion in a series of staff positions with increasing responsibility as the campus grew, including directing a nationally recognized professional performing arts and lecture series. She retired as associate chancellor in 2007. Davidson’s exceptional knowledge of the campus, along with her outstanding work ethic, enabled her to offer sage advice on a wide variety of issues – from campus housing to human resources to athletics – for countless administrators and two chancellors. Her lasting impact on UCI is felt in many ways, including the Phineas Banning Alumni House and the Qureshey Research Laboratory, for which she played a major role in fundraising. A former chair of the Council for the Advancement & Support of Education, District VII, she is a recipient of the CASE Lifetime Achievement Award. She and her husband, Douglas Davidson ’68, met on campus and maintain close ties with the UCI community.

Manuel Gómez
Few individuals have had greater impact on the University of California than Manuel Gómez. In a career spanning 38 years, he helped create and support programs that have benefited tens of thousands of Californians – many from disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition to his work for the university, Gómez has also consulted for the U.S. Department of Education, advised the California Postsecondary Education Commission and testified before numerous legislative committees. His expertise led him to being tapped by the UC Office of the President as interim vice president of educational outreach in 2001. Ultimately, Gómez returned to UCI and his first love: serving students. His legacy includes founding the UCI Center for Educational Partnerships; initiating the development of the celebrated CAMP, COSMOS and SAGE programs; co-founding the Silk Road to the Future, an educational and cultural experience in China for UC students; and establishing UCI’s XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship. A published poet, Gómez served as a counselor and, later, director for UCI’s Educational Opportunity Program, then as assistant and associate vice chancellor for enrollment services before retiring in 2010 as vice chancellor for student affairs.

Michael Mussallem
Involved with UCI at many levels, Mike Mussallem is a trustee of the UC Irvine Foundation; has chaired the Chief Executive Roundtable; co-chaired the UCI Medal Awards with his wife, Linda; and served on the Engineering Leadership Council and the Health Affairs Strategic Advisory Board. As chairman and CEO of Irvine-based Edwards Lifesciences – the global leader in the science of heart valves and hemodynamic monitoring – Mussallem has worked tirelessly to build an outstanding private-public partnership with the university. The Edwards Lifesciences Fund granted a major gift to UCI, establishing The Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology to support the next generation of leading-edge research and discoveries related to heart and vascular diseases. The center will also host training for prominent experts in the field of cardiovascular technology. In addition, Mussallem has been a national advocate for innovative, cost-effective policies to make novel medical technologies more widely available. The Orange County Business Journal’s 2010 Businessperson of the Year, he has contributed to UCI men’s volleyball, the UCI Medal Awards and the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, among other campus entities.

Larry Overman
One of the world’s pre-eminent organic chemists, Larry Overman joined the UCI faculty in 1971 and has since blazed a research trail that helped create new treatments for cancer and other medical disorders, benefiting people around the world. His heavily cited work on the synthesis of natural products of biological relevance led to his election to the National Academy of Sciences and more than 25 other illustrious national and international awards and fellowships. A former Department of Chemistry chair who holds the rank of Distinguished Professor – UCI’s highest academic title – Overman has mentored and trained hundreds of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduates, with at least 45 holding faculty positions here and abroad. His work has appeared in more than 340 peer-reviewed publications, and he has brought ongoing prestige to the campus while leveraging significant financial support from governmental agencies and industrial partners to help build one of the nation’s best graduate programs in the field.