Camarillo, Calif., April 4, 2012 – CSU Channel Islands (CI) will recognize three outstanding business, technology and community leaders and award five student scholarships at its 8th Annual Business & Technology Partnership (B&TP) Leadership Dinner. The event will be held Thursday, April 19, at 6 p.m., at The Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort. 

The annual event serves as a fundraiser for student scholarships.  It honors the contributions of three local leaders whose work helps advance business, technology, educational collaboration and the local economy, as well as several CI students who are pursuing degrees in science and technology.

CI is pleased to announce the following 2012 B&TP Leadership Award honorees:

Business and Community Leader of the Year:  Ronald Werft, President and CEO of Cottage Health System.  Ronald Werft helms the only not-for-profit, acute care community health provider in the Santa Barbara region.  The three-hospital system cares for more than 20,000 inpatients a year, treats more than 65,000 emergency-care patients a year, delivers more than 2,600 babies a year, and is the largest private employer in Santa Barbara County.  It operates a teaching hospital and the only Level II Trauma Center between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Werft currently serves locally on the boards of United Way of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Partners in Education, Fighting Back, and CenCal Health.  He is past chair of the California Hospital Association, and the Hospital Association of Southern California, and serves on the board of Voluntary Hospitals of America West Coast.

Technologist of the Year:  Casey Houweling, Proprietor of Houweling’s Tomatoes in Camarillo.  Casey Houweling’s 125-acre greenhouse facility is recognized as one of the most technically-advanced and environmentally-friendly farming operations in the world.  Houweling understands that the art of growing without the science of technology will no longer produce the quality and consistency that has become his benchmark.  His methods have improved sustainability, food safety, yields and product consistency, enabling his company to produce scrumptious tomatoes, 52 weeks a year.
Faculty Leader of the Year: Dr. Blake Gillespie, Associate Professor of Chemistry.
Blake Gillespie began teaching biochemistry at CSU Channel Islands in 2003.  He engages his students in hands-on research to drive home fundamental concepts taught in the classroom and help students see first-hand the challenges and rewards of becoming a scientist.  He has mentored and inspired many to pursue scientific research careers and graduate-level education.  Gillespie created a summer program that brings high school students and teachers into the lab.  He received a grant of almost $1 million from the National Science Foundation for his teaching and research into how proteins are affected by other molecules in cells, and is focusing on how biological molecules function or malfunction, a factor in such diseases as Alzheimer’s and mad cow.

CI also congratulates the following student recipients of $4,500 scholarships, who will be honored at the event:

Ronandro De Guzman of Oxnard – Chemistry major
Lace Granatelli of Moorpark – Biology major
Brian Hunot of Santa Barbara – Business major
Erlinda Laska of Camarillo – Nursing major
Ashley Walters of Moorpark – Chemistry major

Tickets are $150 and may be reserved online before April 12 at  The event begins with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m., and the award presentations at 8 p.m.

The event’s title sponsor is Santa Barbara Bank & Trust.  Other sponsors include Airborne Technologies, Aera Energy, Wesely Thomas, Sheeler Moving and Storage, Barbara and Wayne Davey, Elise and Bill Kearney, the Pacific Coast Business Times, and Capistrano’s.

Housed in the Martin V. Smith School of Business & Economics, the B&TP is a collaborative effort between CI and community leaders, business and technology executives and professionals.  The Partnership works to foster the collaboration of technology and related service-based companies with CI and promote technological excellence among CI students, faculty and staff for the benefit of the region’s economy.

For more information on the Leadership Dinner, contact Alissa Larreta, Advancement Events Specialist, at 805-437-8916 or

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About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands 
(CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI’s strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master’s degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more by visiting CI's Social Media.