Barking Dog debate team member is Top Dog among Fresno State graduates

Primavera Leal Martínez of Sanger was selected by Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro as the president's medal recipient from among the nine undergraduate dean's medalists.
Primavera Leal Martínez of Sanger was selected by Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro as the president's medal recipient from among the nine undergraduate dean's medalists.

It’s a good thing that Dolores Leal Martínez knows how to quickly heal an illness.

When her 20-year-old daughter, Primavera Leal Martínez, felt sick earlier this week, mom resorted to putting Vicks on the bottom of her daughter’s feet every night.

The Fresno State graduate was well enough to accept the Fresno State President’s Medal as the top undergraduate in the Class of 2019 at the university’s 108th commencement at the Save Mart Center.

“From a class of 32 high school graduates (Hallmark Charter Academy in Sanger) to a school of more than 20,000 students, I found my home at Fresno State,” said Leal Martínez upon accepting the honor from university president Joseph I. Castro.

Martínez, the dean’s medalist from the College of Arts and Humanities, made herself at home with the Barking Bulldogs debate team. She has earned the All-American Debater Award from the Cross-Examination Debate Association.

She earned her bachelor’s in English with a 3.91 GPA in only three years.

“It’s been an amazing experience working with amazing people,” said Martínez, who plans to return to Fresno State in pursuit of a master’s in communications. She also plans to be an assistant coach with the debate team.

Fresno resident Anthony Mele, from the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, won the University Graduate Medal.

Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro reaches out to shake the hands of Arnoldo Treviño, the graduate dean's medalist from the College of Health and Human Services. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

This year marked the largest graduating class at Fresno State, with more than 6,200 students meeting requirements. About 62 percent of the graduates are first-generation college graduates.

Castro extolled the benefits of an education during his welcome.

“We are not here by accident,” he said. “Someone, either in our lives today or in generations past, sacrificed to bring us all here together.

“We are a community built by a strong and resilient people. We bring many languages, cultures and traditions – yet, we share in the heritage of all those who came to cultivate the land and build the community here in the Central Valley and throughout our golden state of California.”

Castro encouraged students to draw on the strength of those who came before them.

“We need leaders, innovators and problem solvers who are focused on achieving the greater good for our society,” he said. “We need you to find the inner strength required for hard work.

“We need you to listen and learn from others, to seek our common ground where it exists and disagree respectively where it does not.”

Castro asked the graduates to “take ownership of the proud legacy that brought you here today. You, and only you, can decide what that legacy will be.”

Castro conferred honorary doctorates on Valley agricultural leader John C. Harris and veteran newscaster Janis Yanehiro, a 1970 Fresno State graduate.

Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro bestows an honorary doctorate of Science on longtime Valley ag leader John C. Harris. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

Harris, the CEO of The Harris Farms Group, is a 1965 graduate of UC Davis. He joked about having dreams that he forgot to attend a college class and had an exam staring him in the face.

“One of the best values in education are the state universities of California,” said Harris, who added that agriculture has benefited from those universities.

Harris said he supported Castro during a social media backlash over remarks a professor made about former First Lady Barbara Bush.

“Never talk negatively about someone who is dead. They won’t be able to hear you,” said Harris, who added it is best to debate the issues.

“Try to apply all your knowledge and make the world better and make your community better,” he said.

Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro bestows an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters on 1970 graduate Janis Yanehiro, who has won numerous Emmys and is an inductee into the Academy of Television and Radio Hall of Fame in New York City. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

Yanehiro spoke about her dream of becoming a television newscaster who would travel the world and interview the rich and famous. Every television station in San Francisco turned her down, so she took a job as a secretary at a radio station.

She eventually became a reporter for that radio station before CBS 5 hired her for ‘Evening Magazine,’ which she hosted for 15 years. Her travel assignments included Moscow, México City, Tokyo and Sydney. Her interviews included Joe Montana, Robin Williams and Julia Roberts.

“If you have a dream, keep it. Don’t stay silent. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it,” said Yanehiro. “Do it with Bold, with a capital B!”