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University honors Turlock couple at graduation

John and Jeani Ferrari have received numerous awards for their activism and philanthropic work in support of the town of Turlock and the greater Central Valley. On Thursday, the couple added another distinction to their list: an honorary doctorate.

At the Stanislaus State Launching Ceremony for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the University and California State University awarded the Ferraris an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

“It has been my deepest honor to know and work with John and Jeani Ferrari,” said President Ellen Junn. “Their decades-long service and support demonstrates and upholds essential elements of the mission of CSU and the State of Stanislaus in advocating for a deeper understanding and stewardship of our natural environment. Their deep and sustained philanthropy and volunteerism has continued to enrich our community and the University.

The Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters is the highest honor bestowed by the University and the CSU Board of Trustees. To be considered, recipients must have achieved excellence in areas that embody the ideals and goals of CSU, rendered meritorious and exceptional service, or life achievements exemplify CSU’s aspirations.

Second-generation farmers who grew up in the area, Ferrari’s service and support has diverted attention and increased impact on important issues such as homelessness, the arts, preserving farmland and sustaining public libraries.
During her address to the class of 2022, Jeani Ferrari, herself a Stan State alumnus, praised the Central Valley and the university for their impact on residents and the region.

“The ‘places’ of our lives have an incredible influence on the prospects of our lives,” said Jeani Ferrari. “If you have spent most of your life in this ‘place’, or if you have recently come to this ‘place’, this university and this community have influenced you.

“I am grateful that there was a university in my community; it allowed me to advance my education and my interest in the arts. The small campus I attended had a library building and a classroom building. Today Stan State is a highly ranked university with over 10,000 students and this rural community is a college town.

The Ferraris are known for their community fundraising and volunteerism. They were instrumental in rebuilding the Carnegie Arts Center between 2009 and 2011 after the art gallery was destroyed by fire in 2005.

In 2015, the couple co-chaired a $2.5 million campaign to build an emergency homeless center in Turlock. They also took the lead in the campaign to rebuild the Turlock Public Library, surpassing the $1 million goal that funded furnishings and architectural improvements.

The Ferraris’ passion for libraries, galleries and the agriculture-rich Central Valley culminated in 2020 with their first transformational gift to Stan State to name the lobby of the newly renovated J. Burton Vasché Library. A multi-story mural inspired by the region’s landscape and agricultural roots greets visitors at the entrance.

The couple also served as co-chairs with Stan State alumna Marlene Stante for “The Next Chapter,” a campaign to support and improve technology, innovation and furniture at the Vasché Library.

In a brief statement he made at the ceremony, John Ferrari praised the graduates for coming through unusual and difficult times and leaving Stan State with a bright future. “Like this land, Stan State gave you an opportunity,” he said. “I wish you every success in the endeavors of your life.”

Jeani Ferrari said the students, faculty, administration and staff at Stan State have changed the community for the better.

“It’s a better place because you’ve shared your ideas, your customs and your energy with the people of Turlock,” she said. “The diversity you bring makes our community more vibrant, more equitable, and a better place to live.”