Jay Barbuto, director of Cal State Fullerton's Center for Leadership, behind a lectern at the 2019 Leadership Awards.

Jay Barbuto, director of the Center for Leadership, welcomes honorees and attendees to the 8th Annual Leadership Awards on May 10, 2019.

The annual luncheon recognizes the most innovative, inclusive and trendsetting leaders in Southern California’s for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

The opportunity to honor exemplary Orange County leaders drew 300 professionals from every industry and students and faculty from Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics to the Hotel Irvine on May 10 for the 2019 Leadership Awards Luncheon, which was sponsored by 28 companies and organizations.

Highlighting leadership in both the for-profit and social profit sectors, recognition was based on excellence in strategy, cultural change, innovation, growth, leadership development, continuity and lifetime achievement. The eighth annual peer-nominated awards also paid special attention to philanthropic endeavors and social enterprises that are seeking to make Orange County a more sustainable and inclusive place to live and work.

Excellence in Executive Leadership Honorees

Jeff McBride is president and CEO of the YMCA of Orange County, a local chapter of the international organization that serves more than 60,000 participants each year through personal and family development, youth empowerment, and healthy living programs. Since taking the reins of the chapter in 2007, McBride has turned the Orange County YMCA around from the brink of bankruptcy to a $50 million organization, with a culture of responsibility and respect for the community, as well as its employees and volunteers.

Shari Battle of Bank of America Orange County presents at the 2019 Center for Leadership Awards on May 10, 2019

Shari Battle, senior vice president and OC market manager, Bank of America, and an Excellence in Executive Leadership honoree.

Shari Battle, market manager for Bank of America in Orange County, has utilized the experience from her 25-year career in the financial sector to engage in strategic planning, brand favorability, and sustainability and community support initiatives for the local division of America’s second-largest bank. Under her leadership, the bank has received local honors such as the Civic 50 Large Business and National Philanthropy Day Outstanding Honoree‒Large Business awards, as well as a personal OC Influencer for Good award.

Entrepreneur, attorney and author Elizabeth Yang, is the founder and owner of the Law and Mediation Offices of Elizabeth Yang. The firm has three Southern California offices and an international location in Taipei, Taiwan. In addition to her status among the top 10% of lawyers in the U.S. based on the Lawyers of Distinction award, Yang is a recipient of the Top 100 Civil Lawyers and Top 40 Lawyers Under 40 awards.

When Robert Santana took the helm at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast, the chapter served 130 children and youths and had 12 staff members. Today, with a successful merger with another chapter and the acquisition of the YEP for Kids Foundation (a nonprofit focused on science, technology, engineering and math education), Santana leads an organization serving almost 9,000 children and teens across 66 sites, as well as a staff of 165.

Honoring Regional Enterprises for Their Commitment and Dedication

Hyundai Capital America, an Irvine-based, top-10 U.S. auto finance company with more than 1,500 employees, received the Excellence in Leadership Development Award for its comprehensive employee development programs implemented since 2015. With a particular focus on developing and empowering female leaders, the firm’s internal programs seek to ensure a path to further opportunities for all employees.

Advance Beauty College, a Cal State Fullerton alumni-owned accredited career education institution with more than 40,000 graduates, was another recipient of the Excellence in Leadership Development Award. With a commitment to a wide range of industry, community, ethnic empowerment and local economic organizations; partnerships with local and national employers to ensure a pathway to successful careers for its graduates; and participation in the Center for Leadership Bringing Learning to Work executive education program, the beauty college is emblematic of family businesses seeking to make a positive impact.

Charlie Zhang of Zion Enterprises poses with family and staff at the 2019 Cal State Fullerton Center for Leadership Awards on May 10, 2019

Charlie Zhang (center), founder of Zion Enterprises, the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership and Philanthropy in Business and the Community.

Charlie Zhang, principal founder of Zion Enterprises, earned the Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership and Philanthropy in Business and the Community. At age 24, Zhang arrived in the U.S. with only $20 to his name. Through hard work and perseverance, he rose to create Pick Up Stix, a fast-casual Chinese food restaurant with more than 100 locations. Zhang would go on to sell the restaurant chain and focus on other entrepreneurial ventures, including his current Laguna Niguel-based Zion Enterprises real estate development company and OC Music and Dance, a music education initiative. Zhang is also a 2014 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

For More on Leadership

The Center for Leadership supports a leadership development program, including networking, community service opportunities, exclusive guest speakers and board opportunities through the Leadership Scholars. The center also supports an MBA concentration in organizational leadership.

For Orange County organizations, the Bringing Learning to Work initiative facilitates on-site lectures on leadership-related topics at workplaces and corporate headquarters.

More information on the center is available by reaching out to leadership@fullerton.edu or visiting the center’s website. Or read more of our articles about the Center for Leadership.