Also honors top exec, departing professor
From staff reports
Only high-potential employees of proven ability from food industry companies are eligible for admission into the Food Industry Management Program at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.
But the 2020 FIM Program was anything but typical. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, USC shifted all university classes online in mid-March. And following that transition, the 2020 FIM class held its graduation via Zoom.
Cynthia McCloud, head of the program, opened the virtual ceremony with welcoming remarks.
“We also welcome the companies tonight who so generously supported [the graduates] and the families who graciously sacrificed for them as they were on campus,” she said. “And then, again, when they came home right after we sent them home with the COVID pandemic.”
As the ceremony continued, McCloud recognized some of the individuals who make the program possible.
“You should know there are 148 people on this webinar tonight, and we’re thrilled to have all of you here,” she said.
“Special thanks to all of you who served the students with your whole hearts and souls, both on the campus and off the campus, in your homes and in your companies, where you were rooting for us as we were trying to get everything done and also support those who were dealing with this pandemic.”
One of the highlights from the event was the recognition of Oscar Gonzalez as USC FIM Executive of the Year. Alongside his siblings, Gonzalez leads Northgate Gonzalez Market in Southern California. He’s also a graduate of the USC food industry executive program.
“Oscar and his wonderful family are committed to their business and to the employees and the communities they serve,” said Kevin Davis, a longtime friend of Gonzalez, industry veteran and special advisor to the board at Good Food Holdings.
“Oscar and his family are truly committed to the industry and the community, but they’re especially committed to education. Under Oscar’s leadership, the Northgate Gonzalez company has supported the Food Industry Management Program, not only by sending students but also by funding a WAFC scholarship.
“And his company is proud of their 14 graduates of the full Food Industry Management Program at USC as well.”
After Davis’ introduction, it was Gonzalez turn to address the Zoom gathering.
“I’m humbled, and I’m honored to receive this prestigious recognition,” he said.
“I think that our mission to elevate leadership and education in our food industry is more important than ever. I want to thank my peers in the industry.
“I also want to thank my wife, Sylvia, my daughters, Carla, Clarissa, Victoria and my son Oscar. My brothers and sisters – I’m not going to name them all because there are 13 of us, and we’ll be here for a long time. And I want to thank the Northgate team, that has unconditionally supported me in the many years.
“And lastly, I want to thank KD – Kevin Davis. He has been a mentor and a friend.”
After acknowledging several leaders who have made the USC FIM Program possible, McCloud hailed professor Jim Lee’s influence as he enters retirement.
“Jim is our true master in the industry, and he did a deep dive on current events as well as other management perspectives every week, or almost every week,” she said.
“He’s been my trusted and treasured friend and partner for these last six years that I’ve been here and seven years in the program.”
For his part, Lee expressed gratitude for the opportunity and shared some parting words for the class of 2020.
“There’s a first time and a last time for everything…I wish I could have gotten here sooner and stayed longer, but it doesn’t work that way. I appreciate the opportunity I had. It was a blessing in many ways, especially the people,” he said.
“Your class had a very unique challenge this year…to have to transition halfway through from the on-campus environment…and then having to go 100 percent online, I know it was challenging and difficult.
“But here’s why I’m so proud. Aside from all of the wonderful accomplishments and the great work you did, it was the courage you found. You never wavered. You never faltered. You fought on…it was a job well done.
“So, wherever life’s journey takes you, I want you to just remember…people matter. I think you get that, and you exhibit it so well. But also stay strong, especially at this time, be well and always fight on.”
In recognition of his retirement, the Student of the Year honor was changed to the Jim Lee Leadership Award.