The L. Robert Payne Lecture Series 

Bringing Outstanding Entrepreneurs to SDSU

John Wilson Stance Talk

Not many people give back to their alma mater as generously as L. Robert Payne has. The successful SDSU alumnus built his career in real estate and development and now has been able to impact the campus through his philanthropy. The L. Robert Payne Lecture series has brought a dynamic range of entrepreneurs and guest speakers to help inspire the next generation of Aztecs. From Tony Hawk to Ralph Rubio, the lecture series’ high profile guests provide impactful experiences and sage advice, helping build an entrepreneurial community around SDSU.


2023 Speaker: Maya Madsen

Maya Madsen is the Founder and CEO of Maya’s Cookies - America’s #1 Black-owned Gourmet Vegan Cookie Company. Raised as a foster child and now with three sons of her own, Madsen did not want her children to face any financial barriers to their education so she took it upon herself to earn extra income for the family.

As a vegan with a sweet tooth, she noticed an opportunity in the market to create a delicious, soft-baked vegan cookie and with the support of her friends and family, Maya’s Cookies was founded. Since its conception in 2015, the company has evolved from local farmer’s market favorite to a national name. With 600% growth in 2020 and continued success in retail and ecommerce, Madsen has been named a “key player” in the vegan cookie market, according to a recent market research report.

From the classic to unique and forward-thinking flavors such as "Chocolate Chip S'mores" and "Marble Fudge", every flavor has a story grounded in Maya's travels, memories, and experiences with specialty ingredients sourced from fellow Black-owned businesses. Alongside providing the highest quality product that appeals to everyone, Maya's Cookies is committed to superior customer service and community engagement, with a focus on youth and underserved communities.




2021 Speakers: Zeynep Ilgaz and Serhat Pala

SDSU Alumni and Co-Founders to Speak at SDSU

The L Robert Payne Lecture Series featured an amazing journey for two co-founders Zeynep Ilgaz and Serhat Pala, SDSU alumni. They relocated to the United States from  a small village in Turkey in 1998. After graduating from SDSU, they eventually co-founded Confirm Biosciences, a health and wellness test provider, which turned into a multi-million dollar company that Zeynep and Serhat have recently sold. However, their journey from a small village to entrepreneurship as international students brought many obstacles and challenges for them to overcome. The couple shared their story of triumph and struggles with students from across campus.


Previous Speakers from the L. Robert Payne Lecture Series











Outstanding entrepreneurs who have spoken in this series:

  • Ralph Rubio, Co-founder, Rubio's Restaurant
  • Steve Lake, Co-founder, Sector 9
  • Tony Hawk, BirdHouse
  • John Wilson, Co-founder of Stance
  • Kurt Listug, CEO of Taylor Guitars
  • Thom McElroy, Co-founder of Volcom
  • Jeff Church, Co-founder of NIKA water
  • Jim Sinegal, Co-Founder and CEO of Costco
  • Tina Nova, Co-Founder, President, CEO and Director of Genoptix, Inc
  • Norm Brinker, former Chairman of Brinker International
  • John Moores, Founder of Peregrine Systems & Chairman of the Padres
  • John Sarkisian, Co-Founder, Pat & Oscar's Restaurants
  • Irwin Jacobs, Chairman & CEO of QUALCOMM
  • Robert J. Nugent, former Chairman & CEO of Jack in the Box
  • Russell Lewis, Founder and CEO of Rhino Linings
  • Robert Beyster, Founder of SAIC
  • Ron Fowler, Chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments, Inc

 For more information, please contact Jennifer Patel at [email protected]