El Camino College to Celebrate Distinguished Alumni and Community Supporters

January 17, 2024 Torrance, CA

El Camino College will honor four exceptional alumni at the 2024 Distinguished Alumni & Gratitude Awards dinner scheduled for February 23, 2024 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Torrance. In addition, one area philanthropist, one regional corporate partner, and one community donor will be recognized with the Gratitude Award. The El Camino College Foundation chairs the selection committee and sponsors the biennial awards ceremony.

El Camino College Distinguished Alumni have furthered their educational and career goals and have shown outstanding achievements in their chosen field in addition to philanthropic and volunteer work. Through the years, honorees have gained local, state, and national recognition for their involvement in their respective professional fields.

“We look forward to recognizing the accomplishments of former El Camino College students at the 2024 Distinguished Alumni & Gratitude Awards event,” said El Camino College President Brenda Thames, PhD. “Our outstanding alumni have made a positive impact on their communities and beyond, and continue to inspire current students to succeed. We are also pleased to recognize our supporters with the Gratitude Awards, honoring their invaluable community support.”

This year’s honorees include Chief David Dumais, Torrance Fire Department; Chris Mortensen, retired ESPN sports commentator; Sabrina Steele, Executive Director at The Aerospace Cooperation; and Jennifer Taylor-Mendoza, President, West Valley College in Saratoga, CA.

Chief David Dumais started his career in 1987 as a Paramedic with LA City Fire Department and was selected as the permanent Fire Chief for the City of Torrance on December 2, 2022.  He grew up in Torrance, attended Torrance Schools and is a graduate of Torrance High School.  He received an Associate of Science Degree from El Camino College and his Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Chief Dumais has completed many in-service courses in Emergency Management / Disaster preparedness and completed the Los Angeles City Fire Department Leadership Academy. He has been involved in myriad of programs focusing on fire safety, emergency preparation, hazard mitigation, refinery safety and more.

Chris Mortensen is an Award-winning journalist and accomplished NFL reporter for ESPN for over thirty years until his retirement in fall 2023.  He is an American journalist notable for formerly providing reports for ESPN's Sunday NFL CountdownMonday Night CountdownSportsCenterESPN Radio, and ESPN.com. Since starting his career in 1969 with the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, Mortensen has received 18 awards in journalism.  Mortensen attended North Torrance High School and El Camino College before serving two years in the Army during the Vietnam War.

Jennifer Taylor-Mendoza, Ph.D., has over twenty years of experience in the California Community College system, serving in a variety of roles including vice president of instruction, dean of academic support and learning technologies, director, tenured faculty member, and classified professional.  She currently serves as President of West Valley College in Saratoga, CA. She holds a A.A. from El Camino College, a B.A. in Psychology, California State University, Los Angeles, an M.S. in Counseling, California State University, Northridge, and a Ph.D. in Education, Claremont Graduate University. President Taylor-Mendoza is also an Aspen Institute Presidential Fellow.

Sabrina Steele is executive director of the Corporate Affairs and Communications Division at The Aerospace Corporation, responsible for leading an integrated, national team of professionals to promote the company as a thought leader across the space enterprise. Before joining The Aerospace Corporation, Steele was director of communications at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in El Segundo. After receiving her A.A.in Journalism from El Camino College, Steele earned a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in journalism from California State University, Long Beach, where she was named Outstanding Journalism and Humanities Graduate, a Scripps Howard Scholarship Honoree, and a Knight-Ridder Scholarship Honoree.

Chevron | Corporate Gratitude Award

Since 2001, Chevron has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to El Camino College to benefit students and programs, primarily in the area of STEM education including scholarships and support for programs. Chevron El Segundo represents Human Energy©. They believe investing in basic human needs, education and training, and local business development is vitally important to strengthening communities and promoting greater economic and social stability. Chevron’s community engagement initiatives aim to contribute to economic growth and the well-being of the communities where they operate, as well as educate the community about their operations through contributions, sponsorships, in-kind donations, partnerships, and volunteerism,

Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation | Community Gratitude Award

The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation is a leader in philanthropic giving in Southern California. Since 1963, they have created partnerships with many different organizations that they still collaborate with today, counting those long-standing relationships as one of their most valued assets. Their focus began with medicine and education, now also encompasses community and youth programs, science and the arts. Their backing of El Camino’s South Bay Promise, allowing first-time, full-time students to attend ECC for free, has been paramount in providing support for these students to graduate in a timely manner and transfer to a four-year university or go into the workforce.


The McKellop Wager Family | Individual Gratitude Award

Harry McKellop, Ph.D., graduated from El Camino College in 1969 with an A.A. in Engineering. He transferred to UCLA where he received a B.S. in 1970 and a M.S. in 1973, both in Mechanical Engineering. In 1988, he was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mechanical Engineering by USC. Dr. McKellop is a professor emeritus of Orthopedics and Biomedical Engineering at UCLA, and formerly was Vice President for Research and Director of the J. Vernon Luck, Sr., MD Orthopedic Research Center at the Luskin Orthopedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles. His research focused on the development of improved orthopedic implants for stabilizing fractures and replacing joints, which resulted in numerous U.S. and international patents. He has received numerous awards and accolades for his innovations.  Tovya Wager earned a B.S. in Art Education at the University of Oregon, and an M.S. in Psychology at California Lutheran College. She taught Art in middle and high schools. Tashi McKellop lives in Colorado and are a senior at Naropa University in Colorado, majoring in Environmental Science and Psychology. The family has established a generous two-year scholarship that supports students transferring to four-year universities.

Dr. Wanda Austin, retired president and chief executive officer of The Aerospace Corporation, and currently a member of the Board of Directors of Chevron, will be the keynote speaker at the 2024 Distinguished Alumni & Gratitude Awards dinner. The dinner will be held at 6:00 p.m. February 23, 2024 at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 21333 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA 90503. Tickets are $125 per person and may be purchased online or by contacting the El Camino College Foundation office at foundation@elcamino.edu or 310-660-6040.


Photos for each winner can be downloaded here.