Pitzer College Names Susan Feniger ’76 and Adrian Brandon ’15 its 2021 Alumni Award Recipients

Claremont, Calif. (March 31, 2021)—Each year, Pitzer College recognizes individuals who exemplify the College’s core values in their profession and in their community. 

For 2021, Susan Feniger ’76 is the College’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, and Adrian Brandon ’15 is the Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient. They will both be honored, along with last year’s award recipients, Romarilyn Ralston ’14 and Steven Liang ’10, in a virtual ceremony on May 1, at 4 p.m. Pacific Time, during Pitzer College’s Reunion Celebration 2021

2021 Distinguished Alumni Award: Susan Feniger ’76

Susan Feniger ’76; photo by Josh Kaplan

Pitzer’s Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes a graduate who boldly puts the spirit of a Pitzer education into action and demonstrates a commitment to making meaningful changes in their community.

Susan Feniger, a chef and entrepreneur, is best known for founding the successful Border Grill restaurant with her business partner, Mary Sue Milliken. In 1985, the year they opened Border Grill, they won a James Beard Award. Since then, the two women have expanded their food empire to include a network of restaurants stretching from Downtown LA to Las Vegas, as well as catering services and food trucks. Most recently, they opened Socalo, a California canteen and Mexican pub in Santa Monica.

Feniger and Milliken have co-authored numerous cookbooks, including City Cuisine and Mesa Mexicana, and starred on The Food Network series “Too Hot Tamales” and “Tamales World Tour.” In 2018, Feniger and Milliken became the first women (and first duo) to win the Julia Child Award.

Feniger gives back to her community by working closely with Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, Share Our Strength, and the Human Rights Campaign. A co-founder of Chefs Collaborative, she also serves on the boards of the Scleroderma Research Foundation, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. Feniger graduated from Pitzer with a degree in economics.

2021 Young Alumni Achievement Award: Adrian Brandon ’15

Adrian Brandon ’15

Pitzer’s Young Alumni Achievement Award recognizes graduates of the last 10 years who apply Pitzer’s unique educational experience to their professional life and find creative and innovative ways to make impactful changes in the community.

Adrian Brandon is an artist whose work reflects the full spectrum of the Black experience. He captures what he describes as “the unique joy, swagger, and love” shared in the Black community and raises awareness about racial injustice and violence. In February 2019, Brandon started “Stolen”—a portrait series dedicated to Black Americans who have been killed by police. He begins each work with an outline, then colors in the portrait for an amount of time that correlates with how long the person lived: 1 year of life = 1 minute of color. The series was on view at his first solo exhibition, in Brooklyn, NY, in November 2019. His current series, “Brooklyn Windows,” reflects the isolation and complexity of life during COVID-19.

An environmental analysis and studio art major at Pitzer, Brandon helped organize and exhibited in the 2015 senior art show, Nine. He studied abroad at Pitzer’s Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology in Costa Rica and played on the Sagehens Men’s Basketball team. His senior year, he was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Taiwan. Brandon’s artwork lives on where he has lived: his powerful murals in Costa Rica, Taiwan, and on the Pitzer campus speak to art’s ability to communicate across divides of culture and time.  

2020 Award Recipients Romarilyn Ralston ’14 and Steven Liang ’10

Romarilyn Ralston ’14

Romarilyn Ralston received the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award for her work as program director of Project Rebound at California State University, Fullerton, which helps formerly incarcerated students pursue higher education. Ralston, who was herself incarcerated at the age of 24 and served 23 years in prison, went on to receive her bachelor’s degree at Pitzer as a New Resources student and a master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis. She was awarded a 2014-15 Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, was a 2017 Leadership Fellow with the JustLeadershipUSA Leading with Conviction program, and a 2018 Fellow of the Women’s Policy Institute.

Steven Liang ’10

Steven Liang, last year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient, is a film director and storyteller known for his short films Afuera, Coming Home, and Falling for Angels. In those films, as well as in his documentaries A Better Life and Trans Lives Matter National Day of Action, his focus has been on resilience, the American dream, and the underdogs of society. In 2017, he received both a Film Independent Directing Lab Fellowship and an Armed with a Camera Fellowship. His work has been shown at festivals around the world, from the Q! Film Festival in Indonesia to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Liang earned his BA at Pitzer in Asian American studies and self-designed communication studies and an MFA in film directing from UCLA.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

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