University Honors Turlock Couple During May 26 Commencement Ceremony
May 27, 2022

John and Jeani Ferrari have received many awards for their activism and philanthropic work uplifting the city of Turlock and the greater Central Valley. On Thursday, May 26, the couple added another accolade to their list: honorary doctorate. 

During Stanislaus State’s Commencement ceremony for the College of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the University and the California State University conferred the Ferraris an Honorary Doctorate 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 demonstrate and uphold core elements of the mission of the CSU and Stanislaus State by advocating for a deeper understanding and stewarding of our natural environment. Their deep and sustained philanthropy and volunteerism have continued to enrich our community and the University.” 

The Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters is the highest honor bestowed by the University and the CSU Board of Trustees. To be considered, honorees must have achieved excellence in areas that embody the CSU’s ideals and objectives, performed meritorious and outstanding service or their life’s achievements serve as an example of the CSU’s aspirations.  

Second-generation farmers who were raised in the region, the Ferraris’ service and support have shifted attention and strengthened impact on significant issues that include homelessness, the arts, farmland preservation and sustaining public libraries.  

Dean Jim Tuedio hoods Honorary Doctorate recipients Jeani and John Ferrari

During her remarks to the Class of 2022, Jeani Ferrari, a Stan State alumna herself, lauded the Central Valley and the University for their impact on residents and the region. 

“The ‘places’ of our lives have amazing influence on the perspectives of our lives,” Jeani Ferrari said. “If you’ve been in this ‘place’ most of your life, or came to this ‘place’ recently, this University and this community has influenced you.  

“I’m grateful 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 more than 10,000 students and this rural community is a college town.”   

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

In 2015, the couple co-chaired a $2.5 million campaign to build an emergency homeless facility in Turlock. They also took the lead on the rebuilding campaign for the Turlock Public Library, surpassing the $1 million target that funded furnishing and architectural enhancements. 

The Ferraris’ passion for libraries, galleries and the agriculturally 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 landscape and agricultural roots of the region welcomes visitors at the entrance.  

The couple also served as co-chairs with Stan State alumna Marlene Stante for “The Next Chapter,” a campaign spearheaded to sustain and enhance technology, innovation and furnishings for the Vasché Library.  

In a brief statement he made during the ceremony, John Ferrari congratulated graduates for making it through unusual and challenging times and moving on from Stan State with a promising future. “Like this land, Stan State has provided you with opportunity," he said. "I wish for you every success in your life’s endeavors.” 

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

“It is a better place because you shared your ideas, customs and 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.”