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Making a difference: How one passionate alumnus saw a need and filled it

Published November 13, 2020

Like many college students, Guy Heston was eager to get started with his career after graduating from Cal State Long Beach. Joining the alumni association or even donating back to the place that helped him rise to chief operating officer at Long Beach Transit wasn’t his primary concern as a newly minted grad. 

It wasn’t until 2005 when he met Yolanda Benavidez, a colleague at Long Beach Transit, who was then president of the CSULB Alumni Association. She knew Heston was an alumnus and suggested he get involved with the association. 

“The next thing I knew, I was serving on the Alumni Association Board and what a terrific and fun time I had back at The Beach,” said Heston (’73 B.A., ’87 M.S.).

But it was the realization that alumni did not have a dedicated gathering place that prompted him to donate to a proposed on-campus alumni center. His gift helped lay the foundation of the Anna W. Ngai Alumni Center, set to open in 2022.  

As a member of the CSU Alumni Council, he traveled to various campuses and visited their alumni centers, giving him a glimpse into the importance of having a space where alumni could “gather and network, have special events and enjoy the history and diversity of the university,” said Heston, a loyal supporter, who also has donated to the alumni banquet and Beach Fund.

“The challenge is alumni centers have to be funded by private donations. I was involved in the early discussions and planning, but the hurdle was funding. With her generous founding donation, Anna W. Ngai got the ball rolling. It has been a pleasure to support this effort so Long Beach State can have its own alumni center.” 

The proposed 15,000-square foot Anna W.& Ngai Center also will be a place where alumni can meet up with students seeking advice from those established within the community. 

“One of the most satisfying things about being a member of the alumni family is the opportunity to give back to today’s students in any way we can,” said Heston, who served 10 years on the CSULB Alumni board of directors, including two years as president. 

He also served two terms as president of the CSU Alumni Council, representing more than 3 million alumni. 

Heston said he wishes had gotten involved with CSULB alumni sooner. He said it takes a lot of people to make a world-class university, such as outstanding faculty, rigorous academics, supportive administrators, athletics, campus life and infrastructure. 

“Alumni play an important role with our history, our ability to mentor students and yes, our financial donations,” said Heston, who retired from Long Beach Transit in 2010. “I hope all Cal State Long Beach alumni will consider giving what they can to support scholarships, research and alumni programs that benefit students.” 

Heston said he would not have had a successful 35-year career in broadcasting and with Long Beach Transit without his Cal State Long Beach education and it’s time to pay it forward. He initially was hired by Long Beach Transit as a marketing manager, eventually taking over as executive vice president and chief operating officer. 

Under his leadership, Long Beach Transit established fare-free zones in downtown Long Beach and instituted the U-Pass program for CSULB students, faculty and staff. 

“I got a world-class education at The Beach with a lot of support from faculty, administrators, fellow students, my parents and the taxpayers of California,” he said. “I consider it a responsibility and privilege to do what I can to support today’s students, who are facing tougher challenges than I ever did. 

“Let’s support them. Go Beach. And to my fellow and future alumni, please pay it forward in any way you can.”