CSUN’s Distinguished Alumni Awards returned in person on Saturday, June 4, celebrating three special graduates Matadors who have built successful careers in Hollywood: actor Lauren Ridloff ’01 (English – Writing), Sony Pictures Entertainment executive and entrepreneur Keith Weaver ’96 (Journalism), M.P.A. ’07, and business manager Fred Nigro ’74 (Accounting).
The event took place at the Skirball Cultural Center, with CSUN alumnus and former honoree Bill Griffeth ’80 (Journalism) returning as master of ceremonies. MSNBC’s anchor-at-large introduced CSUN President Erika D. Beck, who noted that it was her first time attending the awards ceremony as a member of the Matador community. Beck said she had been looking forward to what she called a “beloved event.”
“We recognize and honor the collective impact that CSUN has on the world through the powerful contributions of our tremendously talented and inspiring alumni,” Beck said.
Each of the Distinguished Alumni Award recipients spoke about their time at CSUN and how it had transformed their lives. Ridloff, a former Miss Deaf America and elementary school teacher, made history last year as Marvel’s first deaf superhero in the film “Eternals.” She was nominated for a Tony award for her role in the Broadway revival of “Children of a Lesser God,” and she starred in AMC’s series “The Walking Dead.”
Ridloff, a Chicago native, spoke of coming to CSUN as a freshman and finding a welcoming community at the university’s National Center on Deafness (NCOD).
“NCOD was my home away from home,” Ridloff signed in American Sign Language, while an interpreter translated. “NCOD was where I found support and encouragement.”
She found friends at CSUN with whom she is still close, Ridloff said — and it’s where she met her husband.
“As a student, I learned the importance of holding the door open for others,” she said. “So tonight, it is my honor to be given the privilege of spotlighting that door opening and keeping it open, moving forward for future alumni.”
Weaver was the first in his family to attend college and while at CSUN, he served in leadership roles with the Black Student Union and the Associated Students government
“While at CSUN, I was really trying to figure out my role as a man, as a Black man in particular,” he said. “I was really struck by needing to work, needing to thrive, and escalating tuition increases — and all of that drove me right into civic engagement and social activism.”
Weaver is currently the executive vice president of global policy and external affairs for Sony Pictures Entertainment. He and his wife, Fawn, also co-founded Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, one of the fastest growing and most award-winning American whiskey or bourbon companies in the world..
Nigro reflected on attending Cal State Northridge on the G.I. Bill, after serving in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. His courses in accounting taught him creative thinking, he said.
“When you think about accounting, it’s all about numbers and statistics and verification,” Nigro said. “But my teachers taught me to be able to communicate that, and to use those tools to be able to communicate in everyday English.”
He spoke about working in CSUN’s VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Clinic, which provides cost-free tax service for low-income individuals in the community and an opportunity for CSUN students to gain experience with handling taxation.
“It allowed me to both listen to people and be able to explain things in clear English,” Nigro said.
After graduating, Nigro worked at a small CPA firm in Beverly Hills, where he became a bookkeeper for the long-running soap opera “Days of our Lives.” From there, he worked for the band Fleetwood Mac, and went on to become a founding partner at Nigro Karlin Segal Feldstein & Bolno, now known as NKSFB, LLC — one of the largest and most influential business management firms in the country. Nigro and his partners started the firm with three clients: David Letterman, Van Halen and Joan Rivers. He noted that his company has hired more than 300 CSUN graduates.
Nigro is still deeply involved with CSUN as an active member of the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics Advisory Board. He and his wife, Sharon, created the Fred and Sharon Nigro Scholarship Endowment in the Nazarian College.
Nigro, Ridloff and Weaver join more than 70 past honorees as CSUN Distinguished Alumni.