MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES — Honorary doctorates are awarded on behalf of the California State University system and Fresno State in recognition of excellence and extraordinary achievement in significant areas of human endeavor that embody the objectives and ideals of the CSU system.
Holly Blossom Wyatt will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters and will be recognized during the College of Arts and Humanities commencement ceremony, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Friday, May 19, at the Save Mart Center. See map below.
Claude C. Laval III will receive an honorary doctor of science and will be recognized during the commencement ceremony for the Lyles College of Engineering, scheduled for 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, at the Save Mart Center.
Holly Blossom Wyatt
Wyatt is one of the last native speakers of the Yokuts language and has worked tirelessly to help document and revitalize the language, working with the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians for decades, and with the Department of Linguistics at Fresno State since 2008.
Born December 6, 1941, Wyatt was raised by her grandmother at the Picayune Rancheria, near Coarsegold. Her grandmother, Nancy Wyatt, taught her Chukchansi, which ensured Wyatt’s deep connection to her people’s language and culture. Wyatt graduated from Sierra High School in 1960 and worked as a nursing assistant at Valley Medical Center in Fresno until 1996.
Wyatt helped the Chukchansi Rancheria by teaching the Chukchansi language in classes offered to tribal members. She also worked for years with children at the Chukchansi Preschool and Coarsegold Elementary School.
Since 2008, Wyatt has invested countless hours with Dr. Niken Adisasmito-Smith, Dr. Brian Agbayani, and Dr. Chris Golston of Fresno State’s Linguistics Department to research, document and prepare teaching materials for the language. She co-authored the first and only dictionary of Chukchansi (see below) and translated more than 30 traditional stories into Chukchansi, both with Dr. Adisasmito-Smith. Before this work, there were only three traditional stories available in Chukchansi.
Wyatt has had an untold effect on the preservation and dissemination of her native Chukchansi. Her decades of hard work have produced a dictionary, a collection of native myths in Chukchansi, grammar, and extensive teaching and learning materials.
Wyatt stands as the “Mother of Chukchansi Language. Her legacy is immeasurable. She is a vital link to preserving the language, and thanks to her, generations from now will hear her voice, be influenced by her words and have a way of speaking and thinking in Chukchansi,” Fresno State President Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said.
Chukchansi-English Bilingual Dictionary – 5th Edition (PDF)
Claude C. Laval III
Laval’s storied life began in Fresno, where he was born and attended public schools. He graduated from Fresno High School, where he served as student body president. Laval went on to Stanford University, earning a degree in public administration in 1957.
Laval returned to Fresno after graduation and embarked on an entrepreneurial path. He built successful companies in such diverse fields as teaching machines, borehole inspection devices, public works/pipelining, educational hardware and software, water treatment and a liquid filtration business (Lakos).
After 40-plus years of growing Lakos into an international success, Laval sold Lakos in 2013. Laval’s business involvement stretched from the Central Valley to span the globe. In addition to operating his own companies, Laval served as a director for several public companies: International Forest Products and Waterman Industries, as well as president of the International Irrigation Association.
As a visionary industry leader, Laval knew how critical a well-trained workforce along with water accessibility would be to the ongoing success of the San Joaquin Valley. Laval turned his focus to Fresno State and championed the establishment of the Laval Water and Energy Technology laboratory located on campus. In 2003, Laval established the Entrepreneurship Mentor Program, connecting business leaders with Fresno State students to expose scholars to the “entrepreneurial mindset.”
Though not a graduate of Fresno State, Laval has made significant contributions to the university. He celebrates Fresno State’s positive impact on the region, as well as Fresno State’s potential to transform the lives of its talented graduates, Dr. Jiménez-Sandoval said.
Laval has served on the Fresno State Board of Governors since 1996, holding key leadership positions. Additionally, Laval has served on the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship board and supports six Fresno State scholarships. Laval is a founding member of the Fresno State Pinnacle Society, a President’s Circle for Excellence annual contributor and recipient of the Fresno State Service Award (2004).
Over the years, Laval has received numerous honors, including the United States Commerce Department Export Executive of the Year, the Leon S. Peters Award, the 1997 Excellence in Business Award from McClatchy Newspapers and the San Joaquin Valley Outstanding Philanthropist Award. Laval has been a member of the Rotary Club of Fresno for 61 years.
Save Mart Center
2650 East Shaw Avenue
Fresno, CA 93710
By Lisa Bell.