The Ken Marino Entrepreneurship Excellence Award

Recognizing and Awarding an Outstanding Fowler Student


Ken Marino AwardGenerous alumni, Zeynep Ilgaz (Class of 2000, MBA) and Serhat Pala (Class of 1999, MBA), have provided a gift of $100,000 to the SDSU Lavin Entrepreneurship Center. Donations from the two alumni have established the Pala Family Aztec Cooperative Fund Endowment which allows start-ups, nurtured by the ZIP Launchpad Program, to find student interns who can fulfill the necessary tasks they require to optimize their success as a company. 

Their gift also funded the Ken Marino Entrepreneurship Excellence Award, which is awarded to one outstanding student intern who shows extraordinary service and dedication to the programs supported by the Lavin Center. The award is given to at least one student intern annually and is awarded by the Lavin Center Executive Director. In addition, Ilgaz and Pala will meet with this student via a private meeting and if possible, provide feedback and mentorship to the student.

This award is named in honor of  Ken Marino, who served as Associate Dean,  Director of the Graduate School of Business and Department Chair of Management at San Diego State University. Ken Marino was the original co-contributor to the creation of the San Diego State University Sports Master of Business Administration Program, alongside George Belch and Jim Lackritz. He developed programs in electronic business, sports management, health sciences administration, and regulatory affairs. Ken Marino also served as co-director of the Center of International Business Education and Research and even created the SDSU Master’s program in Taiwan. He was known for his generosity and devotion to student excellence. His support of both Ilgaz and Pala did not go unnoticed by the couple and they created this excellence award in his name to say thank you for his support.

Both Ilgaz and Pala immigrated to the United States from Turkey in 1998, and due to the economic crisis within their own country, they were unable to afford the cost of tuition. Ken Marino, assisted the two of them by finding on campus employment which led to Ilgaz working at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center. Both were able to complete their degrees and in December 2008, Ilgaz and Pala co-founded Confirm Biosciences which offers health and wellness diagnostic testing kits. They sold Confirm Biosciences to Clinical Reference Laboratory, one of the largest privately held laboratories in the United States, in December 2020.