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UCR honors three graduates with 2020 Alumni Awards of Distinction

October 20, 2020
Author: University Communications
October 20, 2020

Three UC Riverside graduates were presented with the 2020 Alumni Awards of Distinction in an online ceremony Saturday, Oct. 17.

Anthea Hartig M.A. ’89, Ph.D. ’01, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award; Dr. Pedram Salimpour ’90, CEO and co-founder of Pierce Health Solutions, received the Alumni Service Award; and Fatima Farheen Mirza ’13, a best-selling novelist, received the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award.

The celebration was presented by Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, the UC Riverside Foundation, and the UCR Alumni Association. Proceeds from the event benefit scholarship and fellowship initiatives at UCR.

This was the 34th year the alumni association has honored graduates who personify the university’s tradition of excellence and service through personal and professional achievements.

Learn more about the honorees below.

Anthea Hartig M.A. ’89, Ph.D. ’01

The most prestigious honor bestowed by the UCR Alumni Association, the Distinguished Alumnus Award is based on national and international distinction in one’s field and significant contribution to humankind.

An award-winning public historian and cultural heritage expert, Hartig became the first woman to hold the position of National Museum of American History when she was appointed in February 2019.
She oversees 257 employees, a budget of more than $40 million, and a collection that includes 1.8 million objects covering more than three miles of shelves.

Before joining the Smithsonian, Hartig served as the executive director and CEO of the California Historical Society, or CHS, in San Francisco. During her tenure, Hartig raised over $20 million to quadruple the CHS’ annual budget, doubled its staff, created over 30 exhibitions, created its digital library, and created the Teaching California initiative — a free online history portal for K–12 students that brings the archive into the classroom. 

Hartig also served as director of the Western Region for the National Trust for Historic Preservation from 2005 to 2011 and has been involved in historic preservation and public history projects since the 1990s.

She earned her doctorate and master’s degrees in history at UCR, her bachelor’s degree at UCLA, and studied as an undergraduate and graduate student at the College of William and Mary. 


Dr. Pedram Salimpour ’90

The Alumni Service Award honors superior service in the public sector or a sustained pattern of volunteer service in the community, arts, or for the benefit of UCR that has positively represented the university and fellow citizens.

Salimpour serves as Chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Pierce Health Solutions, a California-based company focused on the creation of novel health delivery systems for large employers throughout the United States. He also serves as a three-time appointed commissioner of the Los Angeles Fire & Police Pensions Board, managing over $25 billion in assets.

Prior to Pierce Health Solutions, Salimpour co-founded multiple companies including CareNex Health Services, a health care technology organization specializing in neonatal disease management; Plymouth Health; and Boss Surgical Group, an ambulatory surgery center organization with locations throughout the U.S. 

Salimpour has co-authored major grant awards from the National Institutes of Health as well as dozens of peer-reviewed scientific publications. He serves on multiple boards and has been published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, GQ, Newsweek, Der Spiegel, the London Daily Telegraph, and more.

Salimpour earned his bachelor's degree in biology at UCR, attended the Boston University School of Medicine, and completed his residency training at USC Medical Center.


Fatima Farheen Mirza ’13

The Outstanding Young Alumnus Award recognizes alumni aged 40 or younger with a significant record of career and/or civic achievement and promise in their profession.

Mirza grew up in the Bay Area and started writing her first book in novelist Charmaine Craig's creative writing class at UCR. Initially a pre-med major, she changed to creative writing, following her passion for writing full time. As a student, she received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research/Creative Achievement. 

She went on to become a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she also was a teaching-writing fellow. She taught creative writing and fiction courses at the University of Iowa and the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. 

Mirza’s debut novel, “A Place for Us,” was the first book to be released by actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s publishing imprint, SJP for Hogarth. It became an instant New York Times bestseller and was named one of the best books of 2018 by The Washington Post, NPR, and People magazine.

Mirza was awarded the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship in 2016 and has also received residencies from the Marble House Project and the MacDowell artists’ colony.