Those who knew him remember Matt Winn’s big personality, punctuated by a knack for inducing laughter. They remember the California State University, Northridge alum’s impact on others, especially his passion for wanting those around him to succeed.
That spirit led to the creation of a scholarship in his name by his employer, an effort driven by his co-workers and friends. The Amgen-Matt Winn Environmental, Health, Safety and Sustainability (EHSS) Memorial Scholarship is an investment in the talented pool of students in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the CSUN College of Health and Human Development, pursuing degrees in the EHSS field.
Amgen’s aim in creating the scholarship is to promote environmental, health, safety and sustainability as a discipline, increase diversity in the profession and assist students in financial need.
Shining a spotlight on someone more comfortable with spotlighting others would have been a humbling experience for Matt Winn, said his wife, Jackie.
“Matt did a lot for people and wouldn’t have thought he would be very deserving of this,” said Jackie Winn, who attended CSUN and works for Amgen as a senior executive associate. “For us, it’s such a wonderful way to honor him. I share with my kids the updates I get, and for them to know how their father is recognized is an amazing thing for all of us.”
Matt Winn ’99 (Environmental Occupational Health) provided industrial hygiene expertise across a wide range of industries, ultimately taking a job working for the Amgen Inc. Environment Health Safety Sustainability Department. Amgen is one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies. It develops solutions to combat serious illness and improve people’s health outcomes.
Throughout his career, Winn was known for solving problems, protecting workers and helping create safe and healthy workplaces through his expertise in industrial hygiene.
He died suddenly in March 2020. In addition to Jackie, he left behind two sons. At the time of his death, Amgen had chartered a team that was working to build diversity and inclusion within the company. The group looked at creating a scholarship to benefit CSUN students — many of their team members had CSUN connections, and they knew the impact CSUN’s Environmental and Occupational Health program had on the region. When Winn passed, the effort became an opportunity to memorialize their colleague.
“There are a ton of people in health and safety who went to Cal State Northridge – a big percentage of the people doing this work in Southern California,” said David Bueche ’90 (EOH), MS ’97 (EOH), a friend and colleague in Amgen’s environmental health division. “This was a way to keep Matt’s name alive.”
“We are grateful for the Amgen alumni who thought of this wonderful gesture for their colleague,” said Mechelle Best, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Development. “It is one of the kindest things anyone can do. Establishing the Amgen-Winn Scholarship speaks volumes about how much Amgen values the contribution these alumni make to the company and illustrates the value of a CSUN education.”
Eight students have received the Amgen-Winn scholarship since its inception in 2021. Recipients are awarded $2,500 per semester for two consecutive school years.
Katherine McNamara, chair of CSUN’s student scholarship committee, describes the Winn scholarship as especially impactful because it benefits recipients throughout their pursuit of their degrees. She said she hopes other scholarships will be designed similarly.
“It’s not always understood the financial hardships students encounter these days,” McNamara said. “This is such a meaningful gift because it helps students in need by progressing with them as they go through the program. Ultimately, that’ll continue to build the field locally.”
Scholarship recipient Griselda Gonzalez Gutierrez, a senior, began her collegiate career as a computer engineering major and, after a year, switched to environmental and occupational health. The youngest of five children in her family and the second to attend college, her professional goal is to help achieve better quality through food inspections or to become a water specialist, due to California’s persistent droughts.
“In time, I will choose a specialty in the field and hopefully acquire knowledge in other parts of the field,” Gutierrez said.
To help shape recipients’ vision and expose them to the environmental occupational health (EOH) field – its day-to-day operations, challenges and opportunities – Amgen employees provide tutelage to scholarship winners. Alyssa Ruiz ’08 (EOH), Matt Winn’s former supervisor, serves as Gutierrez’s mentor.
“We’re mentoring them about all the different pathways that life can take you,” Ruiz said. “EOH in particular at CSUN allows you to explore all of these avenues of interest to you. With the scholarship and mentors, you can hone in on it.”
Jackie Winn said students who use the scholarship to guide their career path follow in Matt’s footsteps. He started as a music major before finding his passion and changing his major to environmental occupational health.
“This is an opportunity for them to learn about the career they want and find their love and passion,” Jackie Winn said. “I know Matt is looking down and proud and happy. For me and my boys, this means so much to us that he’s being honored in this way.”