Innovators and inventors honored by OCBC
OCBC President and CEO Lucy Dunn welcomed some 700 to the gathering, many representing institutions, businesses and nonprofits based in the economic powerhouse that is the city of Irvine.
“OCBC reached out to our universities, community leaders and industry partners looking for ‘Game Changers’ working today to change your lives tomorrow,” Dunn said. “What we heard back was nothing short of incredible. These are people making amazing progress with global impact in their respective fields—and all of them are working right here in Orange County.”
The game-changing honorees helping transform the world included Dr. Payam Heydari, a computer science and electrical engineering professor at UCI who has developed a new microchip-based device called a radiator that may well have groundbreaking impacts in communication, medicine and other tech uses.
“We’re offering an entirely new kind of physics, a new kind of device really,” Heydari has said. “Our power and efficiency is an order of magnitude greater than other designs.” Heydari is also the architect of a brain-computer interface that has the potential to restore walking ability and sensation in people with spinal injuries.
Mya Le Thai is another game-changing UCI scientist recognized at the OCBC event. While a UCI doctoral candidate in chemistry, Thai led a team of researchers that developed nanowire-based battery technology with the ability to be recharged hundreds of thousands of times. The development brings the world closer to the development of a battery that will keep going, and going and going…forever, and never need to be replaced.
Jeff Roos, the western regional president of Lennar Corporation who led Lennar’s early entrée into the California market, was honored as a game-changer by OCBC for his innovative leadership in addressing homelessness through the HOMEFUL Foundation. Roos founded the Lennar Charitable Housing Foundation, and serves on the boards of HomeAid America, the Orangewood Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club of the South Coast Area and a number of charities. Lennar, the No. 2 builder in the U.S., recently acquired Irvine-based CalAtlantic, the nation’s No. 4 builder, in a $9.3 billion deal.
The evening’s honorees didn’t all have a clear Irvine connection, of course. Dr. Hesham El-Askary from Chapman University is one of the world’s leading earth systems researchers.
Dr. Jocelyn Read, a Cal State University-Fullerton astrophysicist, made headlines for leading a team that observed—for the first time ever—gravitation waves produced by colliding neutron stars in a galaxy far, far away: 130 million light years from Earth.
Shohei Ohtani is a superstar Japanese baseball player who chose the Angels of Anaheim over all the teams courting him. While Ohtani doesn’t have an Irvine connection yet, we imagine Albert Pujols and many other athletes might suggest Shady Canyon as place to go house hunting.
The event also honored outgoing OCBC Chair Richard Porras of AT&T, and served to install the new executive committee. Steve Churm, chief communications officer of FivePoint, was sworn in as the new chairman of OCBC’s Board of Directors.
Robert Herjavec, star of the ABC hit-series, “Shark Tank,” delivered an engaging and inspiring keynote address.