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Best-selling author, Internet pioneer, philanthropist to receive honorary doctorates


The honorary doctoral recipients are (l-r): Khaled Hosseini, Scott Kriens and Leo Fontana.

  • May 27, 2009

Three men who have distinguished themselves – one as a best-selling author, one as an Internet pioneer, and another who has supported the educational dreams of East Bay youngsters for six decades – will be presented with honorary doctorates by Cal State East Bay and the California State University system at CSUEB commencement ceremonies June 13 and 14.

  • Khaled Hosseini, author of the international best-selling novel “The Kite Runner,” will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree during commencement ceremonies for the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences at 3 p.m. June 14.
  • Scott Kriens, chairman of the board for high-performance networking leader Juniper Networks, will receive an honorary doctorate degree of Humane Letters at ceremonies for the College of Business and Economics at 10 a.m. June 14.
  • Leo Fontana, longtime Contra Costa County businessman and philanthropist, will be presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during commencement ceremonies on the Concord Campus of CSUEB at 9 a.m. June 13.

The 44-year-old Hosseini, a native of Afghanistan, began writing “The Kite Runner” – his first novel – while practicing medicine in Northern California in 2001.  It was published two years later to international acclaim, having sold more than 10 million copies in 48 countries.  The story, assigned reading for all CSUEB freshmen in 2006, was adapted into a major motion picture in 2007. Also in 2007, Hosseini’s second novel, “A Thousand Splendid Suns, met with international success in 25 countries. Hosseini’s novels continue to enjoy strong sales around the world.

“As a writer, Khaled Hosseini has a special insight and talent for humanizing the people and events that have taken place in Afghanistan,” said Mohammad H. Qayoumi, president of Cal State East Bay and himself a native of Afghanistan. “Mr. Hosseini is highly accomplished in a variety of areas and is an inspiration to all he encounters.”

Hosseini is the son of a former diplomat for Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry. His mother taught Farsi and history at a large school in Kabul. He and his family were granted political asylum in the United States and became residents of San Jose, where he attended high school. Hosseini earned a bachelor’s degree in biology frm Santa Clara University in 1988 and a medical degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1993. He completed his medical residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and was a practicing internist between 1996 and 2004.

The 51-year-old Kriens, who earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Cal State East Bay in 1979, had served from its inception in 1996 until last September as chief executive officer of the Sunnyvale-based Juniper Networks.  As CEO, Kriens grew Juniper into a multi-billion dollar corporation which does business in more than 100 countries and has more than 7,000 employees.

“Not only has he been a great innovator and visionary, Mr. Kriens has been a great supporter – financially and otherwise – of Cal State East Bay and higher education,” Qayoumi said.

Kriens has been a member of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, appointed by the President of the United States, and has been called to testify before Congress for his insight on the networking and telecommunications industry. In 2000 he was recognized by Ernst & Young as its “Entrepreneur of the Year” and was named by BusinessWeek Magazine as one of its top 25 managers in the United States. He also was recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of its top executives of 1996, and by Network World as one of the “25 Most Powerful People in Networking in 2006.

Fontana, 85, has been a force in the community growth of Antioch and surrounding Eastern Contra Costa County for more than 60 years, and was instrumental in transforming the city with development of the County East Mall, East County Bank, Delta Memorial Hospital, and the Antioch Senior Center. As a philanthropist, Fontana has helped hundreds of young Antioch residents with his guidance, mentoring, and financial support.

“As a native of Antioch, I, among many others, would never have been able to attend college if not for the encouragement, employment, and mentoring provided by Leo Fontana,” said Bob Linscheid, a trustee of the CSU system who also is president/CEO of The Linscheid Company, Inc. of Chico.

Fontana established Antioch Stationers in 1946 and later founded LaFontana Office Products. In addition to contributing to the region’s growth, Fontana co-founded the Antioch Historical Society Museum’s Sports Legends Program in 2007 to honor excellence in athletics and to preserve the historical achievements of male and female athletes in the community. Last year he was honored by the museum for his five decades of service in organizing sports programs in the community. He created the Fontana Family Foundation to continue his philanthropic pursuits, while also supporting other community organizations during his retirement.

A complete Cal State East Bay commencement schedule is available online.

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