The University of California, Irvine Alumni Association will bestow its highest honor, the Lauds & Laurels Extraordinarius award, to alumni couple Carol Choi ’85 and Eugene Choi ’86, MBA ’01, for their exemplary service and contributions to the university and community.

“We are proud to celebrate the Chois’ remarkable impact through this distinguished and well-deserved award,” said Brian T. Hervey, vice chancellor for university advancement and alumni relations. “The Chois have generously given their time, talent and resources to invest in the next generation, and they continue to create countless opportunities.”

In addition to helping form the Leadership Board for Student Success within UCI’s Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching & Learning, the Chois provide much-needed funding to student researchers in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and are avid supporters of budding entrepreneurs through UCI’s ANTrepreneur Center.

The couple also leverage their international network to build meaningful connections between the university and the community – from serving as alumni ambassadors in China and Korea to helping establish the UCI Korea Law Center to growing and advising the UCI Korean American Alumni Chapter.

“We always wanted to be able to give back to our community,” said Carol Choi. “We both immigrated with our parents and received a really great education, and we knew we wanted to pay it forward.”

The Chois volunteer on several university advisory boards, including as trustees of the UCI Foundation and as members of the UCI School of Law Board of Visitors. In addition, Eugene Choi serves on the UCI Chief Executive Roundtable, and Carol Choi was a UCI Alumni Association board director.

She is the founder and her husband the president and CEO of United Exchange Corp., which has specialized in sales, marketing and distribution of consumer packaged goods to Fortune 500 retailers since 1993.

The couple met as undergraduates at UCI. Carol Choi obtained a B.A. in psychology in 1985, while Eugene Choi earned a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1986. They later got married and went on to become successful entrepreneurs.

Fourteen Distinguished Alumni – each representing a different UCI school or unit – will also be recognized at the 2020 Lauds & Laurels event:

  • Hồng-Ân Trương, M.F.A. ’08 – Claire Trevor School of the Arts; artist, associate professor and director of graduate studies in studio art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Diana Hendel ’85 – School of Biological Sciences; senior partner with Partnership Advantage
  • Tennyson Oyler, MBA ’09 – The Paul Merage School of Business; vice president of brand management and public affairs at Pacific Life, president of the Pacific Life Foundation
  • Kevin Watson – Division of Continuing Education; director for global integration and API consulting services at Kronos
  • Carol Hansen, Ed.D. ’05 – School of Education; superintendent of the Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach
  • Kurt Busch ’93 – The Henry Samueli School of Engineering; CEO of Syntiant Corp.
  • Charles Quilter II, M.A. ’06, Ph.D. ’10 – School of Humanities; retired Marine Corps colonel and airline pilot
  • Greg Hopwood ’67, Ph.D. ’78 – Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences; retired computer technology leader
  • Eric Fanchiang ’12, J.D. ’17 – School of Law; associate at Crowell & Moring LLP
  • Dr. Julianne Toohey ’84, M.D. ’88 – School of Medicine; associate dean of academic/student affairs and professor of obstetrics & gynecology at UCI’s School of Medicine
  • Linda Trinh ’06, M.S. ’13 – Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing; nurse practitioner at Progeny Psychiatric Group and DaVita Medical Group
  • Donald Blake, M.S. ’80, Ph.D. ’84 – School of Physical Sciences; Distinguished Professor of chemistry and Earth system science at UCI’s School of Physical Sciences
  • Shari McMahan ’84, Ph.D. ’92 – School of Social Ecology; provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University, San Bernardino
  • Claudia Keller ’87 – School of Social Sciences; chief program officer for the LA Promise Fund

Additional honorees are:

  • Oscar Rojas Perez ’11 – Distinguished Young Alumnus
  • Joy Avedesian ’00 – Outstanding Alumna Athlete
  • Johanna Shapiro – Outstanding Faculty Achievement
  • Susan Cross, M.F.A. ’72 – Outstanding Staff Achievement
  • An Thien Nguyen – Outstanding Undergraduate Student
  • Jonathan Hasselmann – Outstanding Graduate Student

In its 50th year, Lauds & Laurels is UCI’s oldest awards ceremony and has recognized more than 800 outstanding individuals for their service to the community, professional excellence and campus involvement. An annual tradition, it promotes the university’s and the UCI Alumni Association’s roles in inspiring and supporting the next generation of alumni – an “Anteaters for Anteaters” movement. Net proceeds from the gala benefit current students through the UCIAA Endowed Scholarship Fund. 

The event will take place Thursday, May 21, at the Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach, beginning with a 6 p.m. reception. Table sponsorships and individual tickets are available now. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Chris Ruoff, UCIAA business development director, at

-Elizabeth Beach, UCI Alumni Association
-photo by Steve Zylius/UCI

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