A 1960 Kauai High School graduate was recently honored at California State University Northridge.
Milton Valera, a director with the KHS Foundation, was one of three to receive CSUN’s Distinguished Alumni Awards.
Event emcee and financial journalist Bill Griffeth remarked after hearing speeches from Valera, Andrew Anagnost and Michelle Vicary that each honoree could be the subject of a Hallmark Channel movie.
The three alumni “personify the university’s tradition of excellence and who bring distinction to themselves and to CSUN through their outstanding achievements,” said an article by Cary Osborne.
Each honoree spoke of humble beginnings and a deep appreciation of their time at CSUN, which ultimately launched each into the stratosphere of their respective industries.
Valera, (‘68, Journalism) in his presentation, spoke of living on Kauai in a sugar plantation community as a child and longing for the opportunities away from the island.
He was a husband and father while at CSUN, then known as San Fernando Valley State College. He described the university as a nurturing, family environment, where professors cared deeply about the success of their students.
That environment helped build a can-do attitude in Valera. After starting a public relations agency, he ended up working for one of his clients — the National Notary Association, where he has now worked for 50 years, transforming it into one of the world’s most influential notary organizations.
“Our university taught me also to learn from others and to trust your instincts and your experiences,” Valera said. “That I did, and today I am so much richer for many reasons.”
Valera is largely responsible for shaping the notary industry’s education, standards and best practices.
Valera has also been a beacon among volunteer leaders at CSUN. He and his wife Debbie are President’s Associates and Heritage Society members who support journalism, the arts, student scholarships and numerous other causes.
Valera has served on boards for the CSUN Foundation, The Soraya, the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, the Nazarian College, and the Alumni Association.
“I’ve been privileged to serve this university in many volunteer capacities, all because I was asked,” Valera said, following up with a joke. “One of the wonderful compliments I received came from a couple of faculty members when they thought I was a professor or administrator because they saw so much of me on campus.”
Though their time in the classroom was separated by decades, the evening’s three honorees all shared common experiences that highlighted the power of mentorship, hands-on learning and leadership opportunities as undergraduate students at CSUN.
Vicary ’08 (Cinema and Television Arts) has shaped Hallmark Channel’s content as executive vice president of programming and network program publicity for Crown Media Family Networks.
“Andrew, I loved the story of your life. Milt, I loved the story about your life,” Vicary said during her speech.
“In their own way, each has pushed the envelope, showing extraordinary vision and foresight to innovate in their careers and transform industries in the process,” said CSUN President Dianne Harrison. “Our honorees tonight have led remarkable lives and all possess extraordinary intelligence, resilience and drive. But it is their giving spirit that moves me and inspires me.”