National Award Recognizes Decades of Leadership

A senior administrator at Cal State Fullerton has received a national award for leadership in government relations and institutional advocacy. 

Owen Holmes of Cal State Fullerton is this year's recipient of the Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Achievement Award.

Owen Holmes of Cal State Fullerton is this year's recipient of the Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Achievement Award.

Owen Holmes, associate vice president for government and community relations, is the recipient of the Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Achievement Award.

The annual honor is one of only two national awards in higher education state relations, a field that encompasses advocacy and outreach efforts on behalf of colleges and universities to governors, state legislators and other key policymakers.

Holmes was honored Dec. 10 during an awards luncheon at the 2015 Higher Education Government Relations Conference in Austin. The awards are administered by the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

In nomination materials, Lucy Dunn, president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, noted that Holmes has become a "leader in both issues of higher education and the needs to connect institutions beyond their own walls and directly with the local communities. These connections, built through his purposeful direction of efforts with our business community, nonprofit community and regional leadership bodies, have created the opportunities for Cal State Fullerton to be impactful with local, state and federal officials."

The Placentia resident has worked in external relations at Cal State Fullerton for the past 25 years and has been responsible for directing the university's relations with all levels of government, including community, state and federal.

Since 2003, he has served as associate vice president for government and community relations, working collaboratively with campus leaders, faculty, staff, students and alumni to build and develop a government relations and advocacy structure for the university.

This program has garnered more than $9 million in federal funding for campus programs and projects. State and local officials point out his leadership in the area of external relations and his tireless efforts to build strategic relationships, involving multiple stakeholders, for Cal State Fullerton. Recent key initiatives include:

• The California State Legislature voted this year to fully fund the budget request of the 23-campus CSU system for the first time in more than a decade. Holmes and his team at CSUF helped solidify support from the Orange County state legislative delegation that contributed to this very successful outcome.

• Holmes was the driving force behind the creation of the Orange County Public Education Partnership (OCPEP), a group that offers a coordinated voice of support from alumni associations, foundations, and community and business leader advocates. The partnership had its beginnings in 1994 when Holmes approached Orange County Community Colleges and UC Irvine about working together on behalf of public education. The OCPEP model, formalized in 2002, has received national attention for its success.

• An agreement with Orange County Board of Supervisors, finalized in 2009, brings $300,000 to the campus each year to curate and manage the county's collection of artifacts, fossils and geological specimens. This multi-year, renewable agreement is the result of a decades-long effort involving deans, faculty, community and alumni.

“I am proud of my role in building and formalizing a government relations and advocacy structure at Cal State Fullerton,” said Holmes. "I have had the good fortune to work with a team of talented and dedicated individuals, and together we have continued the critical journey of relationship-building and advocacy.”

The Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Award, named for the former director of state government relations at the universities of Arizona and New Mexico, comes with a crystal award.