Honorary Degrees

Helen Rucker

Helen Rucker, a retired teacher, librarian and longtime community activist on the Monterey Peninsula, has dedicated her career and life to civil rights and community engagement. She remains active in the Seaside community, previously serving as a city council member and board member of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. She also volunteers with numerous other community organizations addressing issues important to her including: prison education, HIV/AIDS prevention, Black entrepreneurship, mental health services, tax assistance and meal delivery for seniors, police reform, low-income housing, voter education and registration and civil rights. In 2015, California State Assemblymember Mark Stone honored her lifetime of service by naming her Woman of the Year for the 29th District. 

Voting rights is a cause Ms. Rucker has advocated over the years. She began her activism by holding voter registration information sessions in Louisiana and then in California. She is the founder of Seaside’s Voter Education Center, an organization dedicated to inspiring young people, especially of color, to vote.  In 2017, Ms. Rucker was awarded the Monterey County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Medgar Evers Freedom Legacy Award for her work on behalf of civil rights and civic engagement. In each of the last five national elections, as well as over 10 local, county and state elections, she ensured the community had access to educational materials and forums in which to discuss and debate pertinent issues. 

In 2019 Ms. Rucker received the Community Woman of Distinction from the Women’s Leadership Council at California State University, Monterey Bay. This award was created to honor a tri-county area woman who represents the mission and goals of the Women’s Leadership Council; demonstrates support to CSU Monterey Bay; serves as a model to students; and demonstrates a commitment to community service. Ms. Rucker has been a donor to CSU Monterey Bay every year since 1999. She is one of the university’s most loyal and consistent donors.  

In recognition of her many accomplishments and civic work at both the local and national levels, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Monterey Bay are proud to confer upon Helen Rucker honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.