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4 outstanding ASU alumni honored as The College Leaders of 2020

By

Emily Balli

When Arizona State University alumni reflect on their Sun Devil stories, they often remember the influential courses they took from The College of Liberal Arts of Sciences.

From biology and psychology to English, history and anthropology, ASU students explore a wide array of topics through The College’s 23 diverse academic units. It’s at The College where many students discover their passions, setting them on a trajectory toward personal and professional success. On Nov. 20, four outstanding alumni will be recognized and celebrated for their accomplishments with an induction into The College Leaders.

Since 1997, The College Leaders program has recognized over 70 outstanding alumni from across The College’s natural science, social science and humanities divisions. The College will also be recognizing 149 of its current students from across the divisions. 

This year’s leaders, Laura BushGeorge “Sonny” CaveLisa Fernandez and Neil Giuliano, demonstrate the ways in which a degree in liberal arts and sciences can lead to a successful career in a number of fields. Each alumni will be recognized for their achievements in business, research and community service. They join a distinguished group of individuals who showcase extraordinary leadership skills while driving positive change locally and internationally.

Bush earned a PhD in English in 2000, and went on to work at ASU for 12 years in a variety of roles including as an instructional professional, lecturer, and manager of curriculum design and innovation. Throughout her career, she has published a number of articles in scholarly and nonscholarly publications, as well as her own book in 2004, “Faithful Transgressions in the American West: Six Twentieth-Century Mormon Women’s Autobiographical Acts.”

After becoming a published author and building a successful career in academia, Bush forged a new path as an entrepreneur. In 2012, she founded Peacock Proud Press, a company that offers resources to writers and authors including coaching, editing, publishing and e-courses. She said it was her degree from ASU that helped set her apart from others in her field.

“My degree from ASU gave me all the skills and credibility and authority needed to attract clients who want to write quality books. I see myself distinguished in that way,” Bush said. “There are very few people who have a PhD in English who are doing what I am in the book publishing industry.”

Cave earned a master’s degree in botany and plant ecology from ASU in 1982. During his time at ASU, he conducted research on desert fire ecology, a topic that had been virtually unexplored at the time. He said it was at ASU that he discovered the importance of having a spirit of innovation in everything you do.

“Prior to the work I did on desert fire ecology hardly anybody had researched it. So kind of being in that pioneering spirit and doing something new — having to find resources that people didn't have readily available at the time,” Cave said. “For example, I had to work with the U.S. Forest Service to find a study site and get permission to do a controlled burn. Also just learning from other graduate students and getting involved in the diversity of work they were doing. Harvesting the whole scientific discipline and doing something new and different really set me up for my career.”

Upon the completion of his degree, he became interested in environmental law, going on to earn his Juris Doctor in 1985. Over the next several years he practiced law in a variety of roles including as a judicial law clerk for the Arizona Court of Appeals, as an environmental lawyer in Colorado and as an environmental, health and safety lawyer in Phoenix.

From 1992 on, Cave built his career at Motorola, transitioning with the company as a portion of its semiconductor business spun-off into ON Semiconductor in 1999 and leading trailblazing work by assembling a worldwide law department focusing on environmental health and safety. Today, Cave continues to oversee ON Semiconductor’s growing law department, serving as executive vice president, chief compliance officer, chief risk officer and board secretary.

“My favorite part is I never stop learning,” he said. “Just when I think I've got it all figured out and you can't throw anything at me that I haven't already seen, sure enough stuff comes into the door that I would've never even thought of. That's one thing that I really like about this work. Especially right now with all the challenges we have — I had a lot of plans for this year and now everything is turned upside down.”

Fernandez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2009, became interested in politics early. Her mom, Charlene Fernandez, is well known in the world of Arizona politics, having worked for Congressman Ed Pastor, former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and now serving as the Democratic leader of the Arizona House of Representatives. She said it was her upbringing that initially sparked her interest in politics, but her time at ASU that motivated her to pursue a lifelong career in the field.

“When I got into college, I assumed in political science you mostly just learn about campaigns. But you really get to see all aspects of the political process from doing campaigns and elections, to statistics, global politics, the origins of political systems and the history of it all. Although we're in a challenging and difficult time, there's always something that we can look back on that helps give us an idea of how we can move forward,” Fernandez said. “The experiences I had and the relationships I built at ASU gave me the outlet to get to know the candidates, volunteers and people who helped me elevate myself in the political world.”

After graduating from The College, Fernandez went straight into the campaign world. She spent a year in Washington, D.C., working as a staff assistant for her hometown congressman, Raúl Grijalva. Over the years she served in a variety of roles for a number of organizations and campaigns including the Maricopa County Democratic Party, Arizona Democratic Party, Andrei Cherny for Congress and Cheri Bustos for Congress. After a brief departure from politics, she returned in 2019, becoming chief of staff for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

Giuliano graduated from ASU in 1979, earning a bachelor’s degree in communication and in 1983 with a master’s degree in higher education. After graduation, he stayed at ASU for more than 20 years, working in several roles including as director of federal and community relations, faculty associate, interim executive director and associate executive director of the ASU Alumni Association, and program coordinator and director of student leadership programs. 

In his last 14 years at ASU, he simultaneously served as the mayor of Tempe, where the creation of Tempe Town Lake, the Tempe Performing Arts Center and the implementation of the regional light rail system were advanced under his leadership. He was the youngest person ever elected mayor of Tempe. He said it was his beginnings in The College that set him on a path to success.

“My whole ASU experience, both in the classroom and outside of the classroom, was transformative for me because it gave me, a skinny little kid from New Jersey, the opportunity to be exposed to people, ideas, information and knowledge that I just don't think I would have been exposed to had I not come to a big institution,” Giuliano said. “There was such tremendous opportunity.” 

Throughout his career he also served as CEO of several well-known nonprofit organizations including GLAAD and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Today, he is the president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership, a nonprofit organization with the mission to improve the greater Phoenix area and the state of Arizona by bringing together talent, resources and leadership to create action on priority issues. In his role, Giuliano works with 127 leaders of the largest organizations in Arizona to push forward initiatives, public policy and projects that will strengthen the state’s future.