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Modesto Junior College

Marian Kaanon honored with 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award

The Modesto Junior College Foundation presented Marian Kaanon with the 2017 MJC Distinguished Alumni Award during the Commencement Ceremony held April 28. She delivered a brief address to the graduates, encouraging them to find ways to uplift and give back to the community.

Kaanon is the Chief Executive Officer of the Stanislaus Community Foundation, which provides grants and scholarships to community organizations in Stanislaus County.  To date, the organization has invested nearly $13 million in local nonprofits and students, and since Kaanon took the helm in 2012, the organization has nearly doubled its charitable assets, and launched two education initiatives: Stanislaus READS! and Stanislaus Futures. They recently initiated the Irvine New Leadership Network to equip emerging local leaders with the necessary tools to transform the community.

Kaanon’s story is one rooted in the American dream.  She was born in Baghdad, Iraq and her family began their immigration to the United States of America when she was five years old, ultimately landing in Modesto, home to a thriving Assyrian community.  She is the product of local schools, graduating from Fred C. Beyer High School in 1992.  Shortly after coming to the United States, her family realized that a higher education was the path to reaching dreams. 

Kaanon began her studies at MJC in the fall of 1992, and became active in the Associated Students of MJC under Nancy Singer, eventually becoming Vice-President of Inter-Club Council.  She fondly remembers the guidance of Professors Higginbotham, Elam and many others.  “At MJC I made lifelong friends who inspired me, and I began steady progress towards my own version of the American dream.” 

Kaanon transferred from Modesto Junior College to UC Davis in the fall of 1994 and graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Communication Studies. After graduation, she began her career in broadcast journalism before working for a number of years in public relations, marketing, and lobbying/legislative affairs.  Kaanon has managed award-winning marketing campaigns for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofit advocacy groups.  She served as Vice President of Marketing for Community Hospice for 8 years, developing and executing a holistic brand strategy that grew the organization triple-fold prior to her departure.

In 2006, Kaanon was named by The Modesto Bee as one of “20 Under 40” young civic leaders to watch, and in 2015 she was named an Outstanding Woman for Stanislaus County. She is active in Modesto Rotary Club, a Senior Fellow with the American Leadership Forum/Great Valley Chapter, and a graduate of the Irvine New Leadership Network.

Kaanon resides in Modesto with her two elementary school age children, Olivia and Luke.  She states, “I have experienced, first-hand, the importance of a quality education, and thanks to my time at Modesto Junior College, I know the value of a ‘good start’ to one’s career and college goals.  I owe so much to this remarkable institution, which I consider a ‘catalyst for good.’  I am honored to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2017!”