2019 Poet Awards Celebrate Exceptional Whittier College Alumni

September 30, 2019

Six outstanding Poets recognized for significant impact on the College and beyond.

Whittier College announces the recipients of the 2019 Poet Awards. The winners are George Ekins ’95 and Joseph McCarthy ’97, principals and co-founders of American Dream Fund (Alumni Achievement); Erich ’85 and Yvette Nall ’86, authors, entrepreneurs, and successful business owners (Community Impact); Yasmin Khorram ’10, field producer for CNBC (Outstanding Young Alumna); and Eliseo “Alex” Tenorio ’74, a prominent member of Whittier’s Latinx alumni group, Alianza de los Amigos, and devoted College volunteer (Service to the College).

For decades, the Poet Awards have been presented to select members of the alumni body, chosen for their outstanding service, commitment, and loyalty to Whittier College, and for individual professional and personal achievements that best reflect the ideals and values taught at Whittier. Nominated by their peers, Poet Awardees represent some of the best of the Whittier College community and extended family. 

The awards will be presented on Friday, October 11 during Poet Homecoming and Family Weekend. 

2019 Poet Award Recipients

Alumni Achievement

George Ekins ’95 and Joseph McCarthy ’97 are principals and co-founders of American Dream Fund (ADF), a foreign capital investment enterprise organized through the EB-5 Immigration Investor Visa program. The EB-5 program was created in 1990 as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act to stimulate economic growth, job creation, and development at zero cost to the American taxpayer.
In response to the economic downturn and capital market crash, Ekins and McCarthy created ADF in 2008 to foster foreign investment into domestic markets and spur job creation. With Ekins and McCarthy at the helm, the ADF owns EB-5 Regional Centers across the country in Chicago, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, and San Francisco. Through these centers, they have sponsored, raised and/or funded more than $650 million in EB-5 capital for ground-up development and operations of hotels, assisted living facilities, and high-rise multifamily enterprises, which have, in turn, created more than 15,000 full-time jobs to across the United States.
In his role, Ekins is responsible for organizing, administering, and promoting EB-5 capital projects. He is a former member of the Board of Directors and current member President’s Advisory Council for Invest in the USA (“IIUSA”); the national trade association for EB-5 regional centers and service providers, which oversees the $5 billion industry. He has been an invited speaker at conferences and seminars in both China and the United States. Ekins frequently draws upon his international business Bachelor of Arts from Whittier College and is conversant in Mandarin Chinese. 
In addition to serving as co-founder and partner of ADF, McCarthy is a licensed attorney in California and Washington. He is a widely recognized speaker about EB-5 immigration law both domestically and abroad and frequently speaks about EB-5 to developers and business professionals, government officials, attorneys, and individuals interested in immigrating through the EB-5 program.  For his work in EB-5, McCarthy was acknowledged by the Los Angeles Business Journal as one of the “Who’s Who in Real Estate.” He also serves on the editorial board for the EB-5 Investors Magazine and recently authored multiple chapters of the EB-5 Handbook. McCarthy previously served as the legislative committee director and currently serves on the board of directors for IIUSA.  Following his joint political science and geology Bachelors of Arts obtained through the Whittier Scholars Program, McCarthy went on to earn a master’s degree in engineering and a Juris Doctorate with honors.

Ekins and McCarthy are both members of the William Penn Society. 

Community Impact

Erich ’85 and Yvette Nall ’86 co-founded Ultimate Student Athlete, an organization that offers tutoring and academic assistance, including preparation for standardized tests, to students of all ages. The goal of the program is to help students successfully matriculate through elementary, middle, and high school so that they will go on to earn college degrees. To date, the organization has assisted more than 5,000 students attend colleges and universities across the country. Some of those are now Whittier College graduates. 

Working together as a team throughout their careers, Erich authored and Yvette published 21 Days to Ultimate Health and Wellness, a book aimed at helping individuals lead healthier lifestyles.

Yvette currently serves as executive director at Ultimate Student Athlete, which provides fitness, tutorial support, and academic assistance—including preparation for U.S. standardized tests—to students. In this role, she works with the board of directors in developing a vision and strategic plan to guide the organization. Yvette also oversees the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the organization’s programs and services, as well as its development and fundraising initiatives.  

Erich is the founder and president of Ultimate Transformations Trainings, a physical training program that helps individuals achieve mental, physical, and spiritual balance through fitness. Recognized as an entrepreneur, author, motivational speaker, certified personal trainer, and life coach, he has trained many successful professional athletes, actors, models, and others in the entertainment industry for the past 18 years and is a regular guest and commentator on The Front Page with Dominique DiPrima on KJLH (102.3 FM) and a contributing writer for Volleyball Magazine and Our Weekly newspaper. Erich has appeared on The Steve Harvey Show and KTLA Channel 5 news to speak about the positive side of life growing up in Los Angeles. 

Erich and Yvette received bachelor’s degrees from Whittier College. Erich received a master of business administration and organizational behavior from Northrop University and a master’s degree in organization management from Pepperdine University. At Whittier, Erich was a part of the football team, track team, Black Student Union, and was an English tutor. As an English and computer science double major at Whittier, Yvette was a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society and a member of the track team. 

Outstanding Young Alumna

Yasmin Khorram ’10 is San Francisco-based field producer for CNBC, and covers various sectors in the tech industry and reports for CNBC.com.

When she was a senior at Whittier College, she started the first television station on campus.
It was that drive and innovation that propelled her to a series of high-demanding positions in broadcast journalism. Nearly 10 years from graduating, she is an Emmy nominated producer.
With her motto that “no challenge is too great,” Khorram has been on the front lines of breaking news and in the front row of the control room. 
Khorram started her career at CNN in 2008 as an intern in the Los Angeles bureau where she helped translate Farsi for coverage of the Iranian presidential election protests. She joined the network as a video journalist in 2010, eventually winding up in New York City as a producer for CNN Tonight With Don Lemon where she was nominated for an Emmy as part of the team that covered the Manchester Concert attack.
Along the way, she worked on several primetime shows and reported on numerous high-profile stories for CNN.com. Khorram’s experience includes coverage of the 2016 presidential election where she produced live shows for the political conventions, debates, and inauguration.
It was her resourcefulness that led to several exclusive stories for the CNN investigative unit during the Pulse Nightclub terror attack in Orlando and the Chattanooga shooting rampage. She was also the first to interview crew members on the ill-fated El Faro, the ship that sank during Hurricane Joaquin.

What she has learned at Whittier is never far from her mind and she has shared that in numerous speaking engagements.
Khorram has been a panelist at the Iranian American Women Foundation Conference in 2017 and 2019. She also spoke at the Future of Journalism Leadership Forum for the 100th anniversary of the Quaker Campus.

Service to the College

Eliseo “Alex” Tenorio ’74 grew up in the projects of East Los Angeles in the 1950s. As a child, the idea of attending college was far-fetched, but when he was nine-years-old he met Martin Ortiz ’48, who would change the course of his life. Ortiz encouraged him to pursue higher education and would eventually become his mentor and life-long friend. 

But the path to his college degree was not a smooth one. Due to family obligations, Tenorio did not graduate from high school but instead went on to marry and start a family. During the early years of his marriage, he supported his wife as she earned her college degree. Tenorio would eventually enroll at Whittier in 1971 as a transfer student from Rio Hondo College with a Ford Foundation Scholarship. Under Ortiz’s tutelage, Tenorio became involved on campus in clubs like MEChA and volunteered at local high schools to recruit Latino students.  

After graduating, Tenorio went on to lead a successful career in human resource management, from which he retired in 1993 to serve as a caregiver to his family. 

Tenorio received his bachelor’s degree in history and, in 2013, he was inducted into Whittier College’s Alianza de los Amigos’ Hall of Fame in recognition of his personal and professional achievements. In the 2012 campaign to build the Martin Ortiz Memorial Fire Pit, Tenorio was a leading fundraiser. He also served on the President’s Poet Council in 2015 and 2016. Tenorio’s relation with the College continues as a mentor for Latinx students and volunteer with the Ortiz Programs.