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A Tribute to President Albert Karnig Celebrating 15 Years of Excellence

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By Lea Michelle Cash

This past Saturday, the James & Aerianthi Coussoulis Arena, California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) never looked better. Over seven hundred people filled the arena floor, elegantly dressed, to dine on five star cuisine and salute a President and First Lady for the years that they have given to a grateful university and community.

The ending results of President Karnig’s tenure as the 3rd President of CSUSB are significantly amazing—and perhaps more so—down right impressive. Hence, in celebrating President Karnig’s presidency, it is difficult knowing just where to begin. He and his wife are a living testament to the saying, which has been their guiding light: “In the last analysis, the university exists for the students and the region we serve.” President Karnig disdains the hero worship that often accompanies amazing and unbelievable success. Fifteen years ago, he set his sights on the future of CSUSB and developing a strategic plan that San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris and CSUSB magazine writer Koren Wetmore titled him “The Sculptor.”

Wetmore writes, “…that innate ability to assess the reality, dream the potential and achieve the impossible. Under his leadership, CSUSB grew, despite the economic forces that challenged it.” In serving a community, CSUSB’s mission went well beyond providing a top education. The accolades, honors, awards, achievements and successes are seemingly countless bringing a diverse community together raising the hopes and expectations of an entire region to incredible heights—for that he is a hero. Literally, months ago after President Karnig’s retirement announcement, I continued to think, how do you thank an amazing human being who has taken you from crayons to perfume? Someone must have felt as I did. Because continually along with his favorite song, “What A Wonderful World” played as background music, was the legendary tune, “To Sir, With Love.” Therefore, for 15 years of stellar excellence, if the Karnigs wanted the sky, a grateful university and community tried to write across the sky in letters, that soar a thousand feet high, “To Sir With Love”. It was a beautiful and extraordinary evening. The standing ovations kept coming as the tributes rolled in from multiple distinguishing speakers on the program, which included Jack Brown, Chief Executive Officer, Stater Bros to Herb Fischer, Retired San Bernardino County Schools Superintendent of Schools. ValLimar Jansen provided a music tribute, and award winning fine artist Berni E. unveiled the Karnigs gift sculpture.

In addition, so did the money. President Karnig’s retirement tribute rose over $400,000 for the President Academic Excellence Scholarship (PAES) Fund. This Scholarship is the first of its kind in the Inland Empire to attract many of the best and brightest students from local high schools, who could attend virtually any school they desire, but chose USUSB.

Currently there are 150 PAES scholars at CSUSB—more than at any other University in the nation.

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