group poses at the 2024 Latino Alumni Association gala

USC Latino Alumni Association50th Anniversary Celebration Scholarship Gala

LAA 50th Anniversary Gala graphic

On Saturday, March 2, we celebrated our 50th anniversary and the distinguished Latino legacy at USC. Co-chaired by Jules Buenabenta ’87 and George L. Pla MPA ’74, this milestone, sold-out event was unforgettable, full of inspiring stories and touching remembrances, as we honored alumni and scholars for their leadership and community service.

We invite you to take a look at our gala program and tribute book; a recent USC News article about the event; and a photo gallery (more photos to come!) from the extraordinary night.


Alumni Visionary Award Honoree

Oscar Munoz

Oscar Munoz ’82

Former CEO and Chairman, United Airlines
USC Trustee and Author

Oscar Munoz is a USC Trustee, the former CEO and chairman of United Airlines (UAL) and the author of the bestselling memoir, Turnaround Time: Uniting an Airline and Its Employees in the Friendly Skies.

A widely revered business executive with decades of leadership experience, Munoz made history in 2015, when he joined UAL as the first Latino CEO of a major U.S. airline. Under his leadership, UAL experienced rapid improvement, delivering industry-leading operational reliability and sustained financial success, its stock value increasing 54 percent during his tenure. Munoz formally retired as UAL’s chairman in 2021. 

Prior to joining UAL, Munoz served as the president and COO of the North American rail-based transportation supplier CSX Corp. From 2001 to 2003, he served as the chief financial officer and vice president of consumer services at AT&T. 

Munoz currently serves on the boards of Salesforce, CBRE, TelevisaUnivision and Archer Aviation. He is also a Brookings Institution trustee, an independent trustee for Fidelity, and a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Board.

As a first-generation college graduate from an immigrant family, he founded, along with his wife, the Oscar and Cathy Munoz Pave It Forward Foundation to raise scholarship funds for first-generation students. Since 2022, the foundation has partnered with the American Heart Association to create its Social Impact Fund, which provides financial grants and low-interest loans for evidence-based, community-driven work that addresses heart health inequality.

A USC Marshall School of Business alum, Munoz earned an MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School.

USC LAA Legacy Award Honoree

Martha Escutia

Martha M. Escutia ’79

Retired State Senator, California 30th State Senate District
Vice President, State Government Relations and Special Counsel, University of Southern California

Martha M. Escutia is driven by a passionate belief that preparation and opportunity should be equitably available to all. As the first to graduate from high school, college and law school in her immigrant family, she is living proof that education is America’s great equalizer. 

During her 14-year legislative career representing California’s 30th State Senate District (1992-2006), Escutia became the first woman to chair both the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees. She distinguished herself by developing innovative solutions to promote broadband access; encourage environmental remedies in transportation and energy infrastructure; and ensure that the judiciary was accessible to all litigants. For her exemplary service, Escutia received the California Supreme Court’s Commitment to Justice Award.

Prior to joining USC in 2013, Escutia focused on her legal practice. From 2007 to 2010, she was a partner at the national law firm of Manatt Phelps and Phillips, and also served as legislative counsel for Proposition 7, an initiative to jumpstart California’s Renewable Energy Portfolio. Escutia later became the founding partner of The Senators’ Firm, specializing in legal and regulatory advice.

As USC’s vice president for state government relations and special counsel, Escutia provides strategic advice to advance USC’s institutional mission and academic interests. In addition, she is a lecturer in law at the USC Gould School of Law.

A member of several nonprofit boards, Escutia also established mock trial programs in several East L.A. high schools, where she coaches students to compete in competitions.

Escutia graduated magna cum laude from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.


Our annual Scholarship Gala is our premier fundraising event. It provides an opportunity to network with the who’s who of the Latino business community, alumni and friends.

Every year, we present two awards at our gala. Commemorating the legacy of USC’s eighth president, the Dr. John R. Hubbard Award is presented to an outstanding graduating Latino student for academic achievement, leadership and community service. The Legacy Award is presented to an alumnus/a for his or her contributions to USC and the LAA, professional achievements and philanthropy. We will award the New Alumni Visionary Award in 2024 recognizing a USC alumnus for their exceptional achievement in any field. The recipient must have attained and maintained extremely high stations in their chosen fields and in their service to society.


Thank you to our 2024 gala sponsors.

Presenting Sponsors


Golden Sponsors

The Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation
Cordoba Corporation
US Bank

Signature Sponsors

Benefactor Sponsors

SoCal Gas

Trustee Sponsors

Burke Consulting Group
Yasmin Davidds Leadership Institute
Lifelong Learning
William H. Parker Los Angeles Police Foundation
Porto's Bakery and Cafe
Return to Work Partners
TELACU Education Foundation
USC Rossier School of Education
USC University Relations
Z.A. Lawyers Gina Zapanta & Mike Alder

Trojan Sponsors

Friends of the USC Latino Alumni Association


LAA 50th Anniversary Celebration Scholarship Gala Committee

Jules Buenabenta ’87 and George Pla MPA ’74

Saul Alvarado ’00

Elisa Amaral

Isabel Aranda ’00

Ismael Bautista ’03

Claudia Bodan ’01

Alma R. Burke ML ’15

Yasmin Davidds ’95

Christina Gonzalez EdD ’19

Lorena Guerrero de Plascencia

Maria T. Jones-Sechrest ’87

Mauro Martinez

Raul Rodriguez

Dolores Sotelo

Mercy Willard EdD ’21

Gina Zapanta ’03

Past Galas

Check out our past event photos:

Please view past program and tribute books:

2024 Program and Tribute Book
2023 Program Book
2023 Tribute Book
2021 Program Book
2021 Tribute Book

Please view past recap videos: