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May 21, 2009

Simply Mar-velous

Elepano Wins USC President's Award

By Mary Modina

Some suspect that Mariano Elepaño moves at superhuman speed. Others are convinced he has clones.

USC President Steven B. Sample presents Mar Elepaño with the 2009 President's Award for Staff Achievement.
How else can he simultaneously be everywhere—mentoring students, coordinating film productions, organizing faculty and staff events, and establishing relationships with industry contacts, all the while replying to emails?

But that's what one can expect from Elepaño, production supervisor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts' John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts. For 26 years, he has juggled all these responsibilities and more each day with passion and a positive attitude.

As evidence of that hard work and dedication, Elepaño—minus his signature fez and Hawaiian shirt—was honored with the 2009 President's Award for Staff Achievement on April 22.

"Mariano Elepaño demonstrates an exemplary work ethic and a passion for his craft," said President Steven B. Sample. "He is the backbone of the animation and digital arts program, and his infectious enthusiasm has earned him the deepest respect of the students, donors and industry professionals he collaborates with on a daily basis."

Elepaño's unparalleled knowledge of animation and production has guided students through the complicated process of filmmaking. Students testify of his selfless and unyielding support of their work, and countless student films end with a special credit thanking Elepaño, who is often found working late most nights, including weekends and holidays.

"Every animated short that I've created, Mar would eagerly keep up with its progress," said Andrew Marshel, who earned his B.A. from the division in 2008. "He has a genuine compassion for the students and their work, and we can all sense his excitement when he watches our completed films. I cannot imagine my experience at the USC School of Cinematic Arts without him."

In addition to his service at the school, Elepaño provides support and experience to the greater USC community. Twice a week he teaches martial arts, mentoring and training students from all disciplines on campus.

He is also an inspiration to local youngsters. For many years, Elepaño has volunteered at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles, conducting workshops on animation and filmmaking for Visual Communications, a locally based Asian American community media arts group. In 2007, he received the California Council for the Humanities Grant Award for teaching Cambodian youth to document their personal stories through animation and digital media.

An exceptional ambassador for the university, Elepaño received a Fulbright grant in 2001, and he has lectured on animation and digital arts to students and faculty in Malaysia. He currently mentors Los Angeles high school students in the creation of digital narratives.

"Mar has been an enormous support, sincere friend and reliable colleague," said Hench Chair Kathy Smith. "He is an exceptional human being and his actions, service and dedication to our school, the university and the greater Los Angeles community speak enormously of his humanity and sincerity."