Sonoma State University announced that philanthropist and arts education champions Anne and Dante “Dan” Benedetti of Petaluma, and social justice advocate Herman J. Hernandez of Guerneville, will receive honorary degrees in recognition of their collective contributions of exemplary impact toward the university as well as the Sonoma County community, spanning nearly five decades.
All three extraordinary Sonoma County citizens will be recognized with honorary degrees as part of Sonoma State’s Spring commencement weekend next month. Anne and Dan Benedetti will be recognized on Saturday, May 20, during the School of Arts and Humanities ceremony; Herman Hernandez will be recognized on Sunday, May 21, during the School of Social Science ceremony.
“We are grateful to Anne and Dan Benedetti and Herman J. Hernandez for their leadership and service to a shared social good. Whether it be through robust contributions to the arts or laying a blueprint for social justice leadership, each of this year’s recipients has a vision of a more robust and humanely focused community, and they have each worked hard to realize these values for the benefit of all,” said Interim President Mike Lee, who met with the honorees to deliver the news personally.
About Anne and Dan Benedetti
Anne and Dan Benedetti, who are being jointly recognized as a couple, have deep roots with the Sonoma State campus.
“This is quite an incredible honor. I feel very pleased, and am so very humbled and grateful,” said Anne, who graduated from Sonoma State in 1993 with a BA in music. “I've had a relationship with the university for quite a few years in different capacities – working on the Green Music Center and also when I went back to school late in life, she said, fondly recalling her days “carpooling when my youngest child had just started kindergarten, and being a mom and a student and such.”
In 2010, Anne earned a Distinguished Alumni Award for her years of championing arts and education in the Sonoma County community. Anne played an instrumental role in supporting the strategic planning for the Green Music Center (GMC), where she served as a board member, including a term as GMC board chair. Anne also served as a community member on the strategic planning committee for the university.
Anne was among the first to experience the testing and tuning of the GMC before the venue’s first-ever concert. “After one measure and the first crescendo you could feel the music vibrating in your bones,” she recalls.
In addition to Anne’s longstanding support for Sonoma State, she is also an Emeritus Board Member for the Santa Rosa Symphony, having served as a board member with the arts organization for 12 years, including a term as board president.
Born and raised in Petaluma, Dan Benedetti pitched for the Sonoma State baseball team in the early 1970s under legendary coach Bill Trumbo. Dan studied by day while working the graveyard shift at the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery that has since grown into the iconic Clover Sonoma. While part owner of Clover, Dan ensured that the company reinvested a percentage of the company’s profits back into the community through what is now called the Clover Cares program.
Among Dan’s many humanities-rooted community engagement roles over the years, he has served as an advisory board member for both Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University, strategizing on issues pertaining to the campus community at the behest of those respective school presidents. Dan has also served as a board member for Community Foundation Sonoma County, Hanna Boys Center, and the Culinary Institute of America. He is also a past board president for what is now United Way of the Wine Country and a founding member of an ad hoc committee for what is now Sonoma County Food Bank.
“We are so very humbled and honored to be recognized by Sonoma State for Anne’s contributions to the arts and my contributions to the humanities,” said Dan. “It’s been a long walk from the baseball diamond to where we find ourselves now. And after 52 years of marriage, we’re looking forward to sharing this public stage together in accepting these honorary degrees as a couple and with the true doctors of academia.”
About Herman J. Hernandez
Born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission District, Herman J. Hernandez has been a resident of Guernville since 1970. With an upbringing of community integrity instilled by his immigrant parents, Herman has become one of the most visible and influential social justice leaders in Sonoma County. In addition to a successful career as a values-conscious real estate broker, Herman founded Los Cien – the largest Latino advocacy group in the North Bay. Since its founding in 2008, Los Cien has created and advanced opportunities for the Latino community in Sonoma County through education, civic engagement with Latinx purpose, pride and power.
“I was street-taught. I learned in the street and wasn't academically inclined to higher education. So, when Mike Lee called to let me know about the honorary degree, I was truly speechless. I realized, this is going to be the closest I’d ever get to a college experience, said Hernandez, who is bouncing back strong from a recent major heart attack.
After graduating from Sacred Heart High School in 1970, a school counselor took a look at Herman’s below average grades and encouraged him to look forward to a future being drafted into the Vietnam War. He narrowly escaped that route and never took for granted a need to create his own opportunities.
With Sonoma State designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, Herman views the university as a pillar of opportunity for the Latino community that was out of reach for his generation. Hernandez hopes to see more generations of Latino students graduate from our local university and stay within our own community.
“Everything I do is for the benefit of my community,” he said. “My reward has always been looking at the successes of what we’re able to accomplish together as a community. To receive this honorary degree from Sonoma State… I have to say, I’m truly humbled.”
About the honorary degree program
Each year, the California State University Chancellor’s Office issues a call for campus recommendations for the awarding of honorary doctoral degrees to distinguished individuals who have demonstrated excellence in areas that benefit CSU campuses; the state, nation, and/or world; and/or humanity.
Each campus may submit up to two nominations to the Chancellor’s Office. Campus nominations are vetted and sent to the Board of Trustees Subcommittee on Honorary Degrees for review. Honorary degrees awarded to couples (as individuals) shall count as only one of the two nominations allowed for each campus.