Camarillo, Calif., March 27, 2013 – CSU Channel Islands (CI) will recognize three outstanding business, technology and community leaders and award five student scholarships at its 9th Annual Business & Technology Partnership (B&TP) Leadership Dinner. The event will be held Thursday, April 18, at 6 p.m., at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach.

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 business, science and technology.

CI is pleased to announce the following 2013 B&TP Leadership Award honorees:

Business and Community Leader of the Year: Ann Deal, Founder and CEO of Fashion Forms.
Inspired by watching celebrities walk the red carpet in daring ball gowns, Ann Deal saw the need for a lingerie solution. She started her business in her garage with a backless, strapless, adhesive bra in 1993. It was an immediate hit and the first in a long line of Fashion Forms products to revolutionize the intimate apparel industry. With her signature Southern charm, boundless enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit, she has turned Fashion Forms into the leading producer of specialty bras and accessories in the U.S., Canada and Europe, with products sold in more than 9,000 stores worldwide. The company holds 14 patents and 18 trademarks for innovative products such as the Original Water Bra. In 2009, Deal received the Femmy Award for lifetime achievement from the Underfashion Club, a council of lingerie manufacturers.

Technologist of the Year: Steven Gill, Partner of Gills Onions.
Steven Gill is a fifth generation California farmer and onion processor who has been in the business for most of his life. Together with his brother David, Gill is the owner-partner of Gills Onions, located in Oxnard. The company was founded 1983, and at that time it had just one customer. A few decades later, Gills Onions has become one of the largest fresh-cut onion operations in the nation, processing up to a million pounds of onions daily, and delivering peeled, diced or sliced onions to industrial customers, grocery stores, and restaurants across the country. In conjunction with sister company Rio Farms, the Gill brothers manage nearly 20,000 acres of farmland and 300,000 square feet of processing and warehouse facilities in California. The farming operation has grown steadily over the years, and it is currently listed among the Top 10 growers in the West. He is also an entrepreneur who is leading the way toward a low-carbon future. In 2009, the company began using its onion waste to generate electricity at its processing plant in Oxnard. The system, called the Advanced Energy Recovery System, or AERS, uses onion juice to produce biogas to power two virtually emissions-free 300-kilowatt fuel cells, which provide 100 percent of the base-load electricity for the processing plant.

Faculty Leader of the Year: Dr. Cynthia Wyles, Professor of Mathematics.
Wyels’ research interests lie in combinatorial mathematics and linear algebra. She is an advocate of undergraduate research and believes it is particularly meaningful for students from non-traditional backgrounds. Wyels is the Primary Investigator for an National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Mathematics site hosted at CSU Channel Islands: 12 – 14 students from across the U.S. and one from our partner institution in Mexico spend eight intensive summer weeks working on original research in mathematics. She also directs CI’s LSAMP program, which helps students who face educational barriers graduate with Science, Technology, and Mathematics majors and pursue graduate education and careers in their fields. This led naturally to her work as part of the leadership team that obtained CI’s largest grant to date: Project ACCESO, designed to inspire and educate the next generation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates at CI and nearby community colleges. Wyels was recognized by the Mathematical Association of America, as a recipient of the Haimo Award for Distinguished University Teaching of Mathematics, in 2012.

CI will also honor five students and award scholarships worth $6,000. The students are: Christy Diggins-Richey, Nursing; Jenna Fordis, Nursing; Charles Hillman, Applied Physics; Ashley Tegley, Nursing; and Eric Varela, Computer Science.

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. Parking is complimentary.

The event’s title sponsor is Union Bank. Other sponsors include: Airborne Technologies, Inc., Aera Energy, LLC, Davey/Wesely, Bill and Elise Kearney, Ruby Oertle, Pacific Coast Business Times, and Sheeler Moving and Storage, Inc.

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 Carrick DeHart, Director of Major Gifts, at 805-437-8919 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.