Nicole Armanino Clay

Honorary Degrees


California State University San Diego

Ms. Nicole Armanino Clay’s passion for volunteering and her dedication both to San Diego State University and the wider community reflect a lifetime of remarkable commitment to creating a better place to live, work and thrive. When it comes to any metric to measure the most engaged San Diego State alumna or perhaps even person of all time, Ms. Clay always comes out at the top.

Ms. Clay’s relationship with the university began nearly six decades ago as a freshman at what was formerly San Diego State College, where she was active in Associated Students. Ms. Clay earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in public administration. As an alumna, she distinguished herself as a consummate volunteer and donor under four San Diego State presidents. She serves as the current chair of The Campanile Foundation after more than 20 years as an active board member. She is a past member and chair of the alumni board, with a leadership role in fundraising for the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center, and was an inaugural member of San Diego State’s first-ever comprehensive campaign.   

Ms. Clay and her husband, Ben, support Presidential Scholars, the Ben and Nikki Clay Scholarship in Public Affairs, The Campanile Foundation Endowed Chair, and athletics and veterans programs. Both are former Alumni of the Year and, in 2016, their many gifts to San Diego State were commemorated by naming a main entrance to campus “Clay Gateway.” They led the fundraising campaign for the Thomas B. and Anne K. Day Quad within the Engineering & Interdisciplinary Sciences Complex, and have supported San Diego State’s Mission Valley River Park development and a new Performing Arts District.

For 15 years, Ms. Clay was owner and president of the public affairs firm Clay Co.; she currently serves as strategic counsel. Previously, she was senior vice president for public affairs at Stoorza, Ziegas & Metzger and served in many capacities for the County of San Diego.

Her multiple contributions to civic affairs include chairing the boards for Downtown San Diego Partnership, Holiday Bowl, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Old Globe and the San Diego Convention Center. In fact, she was the first woman to serve as chair for both the Downtown San Diego Partnership and the Holiday Bowl. She was appointed to citizens’ boards by Governor Pete Wilson and San Diego mayors Dick Murphy and Susan Golding.

In recognition of her outstanding leadership, and her inspirational volunteerism and philanthropy, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and San Diego State University are proud to confer upon Nicole Armanino Clay the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.