CSUN president Jolene Koester was honored on Valentine’s Day with the Tree of Life Award for her commitment to the San Fernando Valley and the university over the last eight years.
The award was presented by the Encino-Tarzana Hospital Charitable Foundation at their Annual Tree of Life Gala, where at least 250 people filled the Valley Beth Shalom temple to raise funds for nursing scholarships. Three other non-profit organizations were also being honored at the event.
Koester said that she was accepting the award on behalf of the 40,000 people who work and attend classes on campus.
“I accept this award in recognition of the commitment of your university, CSUN, to be the economic, cultural, and intellectual heart of the San Fernando Valley,” she said. “We care about this region. This is the region that we serve.”
Marlene Bane, president of the foundation, said that the hospital board was impressed by what Koester did for the area.
“She came to us from a small town and I wasn’t really sure when she first came to us that she was going to be suitable for this rather sophisticated and continually growing and changing community,” Bane said prior to the event. “And what she has done is she has spearheaded the change and the growth.”
“She has brought in professors who publish,” said Bane. “She has raised funds?and she’s out in the community at every opportunity.”
Bane said that Koester also has made the possibility of a new Performing Arts Center at CSUN into a reality, which will allow the arts to be accessible to those who don’t have the chance to go downtown.
Stephanie Carter, the community advocate of the foundation, said that while this event recognizes people who are making a difference in the community, it is used as a way for them to help the horrible shortage of nurses in the state. Through events like this and donations, the foundation was able to give over $80,000 in scholarships last year for both nursing students and other students in the healthcare field.
Silent and live auctions took place throughout the night at the in an effort to raise more funds. Items such as a Budweiser beer basket and a Bichon Frise puppy were bid on. The puppy sold for $850 during the live auction and was the highest bid of the night.
Pacoima Beautiful, Tobinworld, and the Valley Trauma Center were also honored at the event for their work in the community. The foundation will share the proceeds from the gala with these organizations.
The Valley Trauma Center, an affiliate of CSUN’s Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, provides services to sexual assault victims and counseling for families in need. Jennifer Graves, the director of the program, said that being honored shows that people care and want to help others in society who are affected by the kind of crimes that are not to be talked about.
“It’s sometimes hard to get the word out (about us) because people want to think those things don’t happen in their community,” said Graves.
The proceeds from the event will help the organization continue to provide such services as their 24-hour crisis hotline that is run by volunteers, including undergraduate students from CSUN.