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Greg Sarris, Larry Brackett to receive SSU honorary doctorates

Sonoma State University will bestow honorary degrees on two longtime North Bay community leaders during the university’s 2024 Commencement ceremonies on May 18.

Dr. Greg Sarris, chairman of The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR), and Larry Brackett, who owned and operated one of the largest real estate firms in the region, both will receive Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD) degrees at Commencement. Sarris’ degree will be conferred at the School of Arts and Humanities ceremony, while Brackett’s will be conferred at the School of Business and Economics ceremony.

The honorary degrees were approved by the California State University Board of Trustees.

“Sonoma State could not be happier about this opportunity to recognize these outstanding community members and supporters of the university,” SSU President Ming-Tung “Mike” Lee said. 

Sarris was the Endowed Chair in Native American Studies at Sonoma State for 18 years, until 2022, and in 2023 was named Distinguished Chair Emeritus. Under his leadership, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria has provided Sonoma State University nearly $8 million. This significant support has renovated the learning center at SSU’s Fairfield Osborn Preserve, located on the tribe’s native homeland; funded the annual Summer Bridge program; endowed a professorship in Native American Studies; and brought an important collection of art by Joan Baez to the university. Sarris also served as a board member for the Green Music Center.

Sarris was born and raised in Santa Rosa, graduating from Santa Rosa High School. He attended Santa Rosa Junior College, then transferred to UCLA, where he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in English. He went on to receive his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University. He was a full professor of English at UCLA from 1989 to 2001, then became the Fletcher Jones Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Loyola Marymount University from 2001 to 2005.

An accomplished scholar, Sarris has published many notable books, is a playwright and screenwriter, had one of his books – "Grand Avenue" – adapted for an HBO film, and has won several awards, including a Hugo Award for the documentary “American Passages.” Working with the Sundance Institute, he has helped develop a summer writing lab for American Indians interested in film writing. Sarris' new book "The Forgetters," will debut in April.

Brackett is well-known throughout the North Bay as the owner of Frank Howard Allen Realtors, one of the largest real estate firms in the region, which he and his wife, Brennie, purchased in 1989 and sold in 2013. But real estate was not always his vocation.

A fourth-generation San Franciscan and a 1958 graduate of UC Berkeley, Brackett was an investment counselor for more than a decade before returning to school to get his teaching credential, which he received at Sonoma State University in 1972. After a decade of teaching, he and his wife tried their hands at real estate.

He has been a visionary through his support of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, 10,000 Degrees, local health clinics, and many other organizations. He has invested in economic data and research efforts in the North Bay and beyond, and is sought out by business, education, and nonprofit leaders for trusted advice and input about their organizations and operations.

“Greg and Larry’s accomplishments and contributions are models for making the world a better place, and reflect Sonoma State’s and the CSU’s own mission and commitment to engagement and service,” Lee said.