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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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The recipients will be recognized at SDSU Commencement ceremonies. The recipients will be recognized at SDSU Commencement ceremonies.

SDSU Announces 2016 Honorary Doctorates

San Diegans Susan Salka and Irwin Zahn are this year’s honorary degree recipients.
By Jill Esterbrooks

San Diego State University announced it will award honorary doctorate degrees to two distinguished San Diegans. Health care executive Susan Salka and engineering entrepreneur Irwin Zahn will be honored during commencement events on May 13 and 14.

“We are extremely pleased to confer honorary doctorates on two San Diegans, Susan Salka and Irwin Zahn, who have been extraordinary contributors to our university and dedicated to the betterment of the entire San Diego region,” said SDSU President Elliot Hirshman. “We are grateful for Susan’s and Irwin’s support of San Diego State University, their vision, innovation, generosity and their selfless dedication to San Diego. They are both an inspiration to our entire campus community."

Susan Salka

Salka, president and CEO of AMN Healthcare, is known among her corporate peers and fellow Aztec alumni as an energetic, innovative and forward-thinking leader.

Susan Salka
Susan Salka

Under her leadership, AMN Healthcare has become the largest and most comprehensive healthcare staffing and workforce solutions company in the country.  During her 26-year tenure, Salka has guided AMN Healthcare’s expansion through the acquisition of more than 20 companies and led the industry into a new era of technology-based services for workforce management.

She also serves as a role model to public companies that are leveraging people and resources to impact local and global communities. With her direction, San Diego-based AMN Healthcare has supported such nonprofit organizations as the Ronald McDonald House, Father Joe’s Villages, Make-A-Wish Foundation and HELPS international.

Salka, MBA '89, maintains strong ties to her Aztec heritage and has a long history of service to SDSU. A member of SDSU’s Campanile Foundation Executive Committee, she received the Monty Award for Distinguished Alumni in 2010 and is a former member of the College of Business Administration Dean’s Advisory Board.

Salka’s executive leadership and philanthropic contributions to SDSU and the greater community will be recognized with an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from SDSU’s College of Business Administration during a private reception on Friday, May 13.

Irwin Zahn

Zahn is celebrated in the SDSU community for his endless support of entrepreneurship and tireless efforts fostering innovation.

Irwin Zahn
Irwin Zahn

In 2012, Zahn gave the SDSU College of Engineering $700,000 to create an on-campus business incubator for SDSU students to nurture and hatch their fledgling ideas into revenue-generating endeavors.

Three years later, SDSU received a $5.1 million gift from Zahn’s private foundation to further strengthen the university’s capacity to inspire and support students, staff and faculty to find bold and innovative solutions to global challenges in the 21st century.

The local businessman and international philanthropist believes strongly that the combination of hard work and entrepreneurship is a great model for success.  Few personify that spirit more than Zahn.  He founded General Staple Company in 1954 in the garment district of New York City. His initial jean-zipper concept grew into a global electronic interconnect company, later named Autosplice, Inc., that eventually relocated to San Diego.

In recognition of his accomplishments as a visionary businessman and champion of higher education, SDSU’s College of Engineering will confer upon Zahn the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters during commencement ceremonies at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 14.

Honorary Degrees

Since John F. Kennedy was awarded SDSU’s first honorary degree in 1963, the university has conferred 42 honorary doctorates to local, national and international figures. The list includes Israeli president Shimon Peres, former California governor Pete Wilson, College Hall of Fame football coach Don Coryell and former San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders. A complete list of honorary doctorate recipients can be found online.

SDSU Commencement

Approximately 9,800 degree candidates will participate in one of seven SDSU Commencement ceremonies May 13-15 at Viejas Arena. SDSU Imperial Valley Campus also will host a commencement ceremony on May 12 on the Rollie Carrillo Quad.

Schedules and additional information about SDSU’s Commencement Ceremonies can be found online.