Board of Trustees awards Omar Gutierrez with honorary degree


Sean Young

Dean Vanessa Luna Shannon presents a honorary degree to the Gutierrez family during the Feb. 14 Board of Trustees meeting in Petaluma.

Roland Petty, Reporter

The Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees presented an honorary degree Tuesday to the family of an SRJC student who died in November, at its meeting in Petaluma.

Omar Gutierrez was 29 when he died in a car accident Nov. 5 on Highway 128, according to authorities. 

Members of the Gutierrez family, including his grandmother, were present at the Feb. 14 Board of Trustees meeting to receive the honorary degree on Omar Gutierrez’s behalf.

“Omar was known for his warm and genuine and creative, thoughtful spirit,” said Vanessa Luna Shannon, Dean of Instruction and Enrollment Management for the Petaluma campus. 

Shannon, who presented the award, had worked together with Omar and said that he “embodied the spirit” of SRJC Petaluma. 

Gutierrez, a first-generation student, was the founder of the SRJC Petaluma Society for Leadership and Success and a member of the Student Government Assembly.

Shannon added that Gutierrez advocated for LGBTQ+, undocumented students, and the rights of women and those who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color. His goal was to earn a degree from SRJC.

Gutierrez’s grandmother kissed the diploma after Shannon handed it to her, and the audience applauded.

The Gutierrez family and SRJC employees set up a SRJC Memorial Fund Foundation Scholarship to honor him. The fund is available at for people to donate to. 

The National Society for Leadership and Success has already pledged to donate $5000.