DAA 2020: Owens had a vision for Sac State, Placer County | #College. | #Students

Scott Owens

Distinguished Service Award

’86 (Criminal Justice)

Retired district attorney, Placer County


By Dixie Reid

Scott Owens grew up in Meadow Vista, in Placer County. The first time he saw Sacramento State was as a seventh-grader on a field trip. He remembers buying green-and-gold athletic shorts in the bookstore.

“Those were my favorite shorts for years,” he said. “I never dreamed that it would be the college I wound up going to.”

Owens, who received a 2020 Distinguished Service Award from the Sacramento State Alumni Association, transferred to the University from Sierra College in 1984. Because he was a full-time group counselor for the Placer County Probation Department, he usually was at Sac State just long enough to attend classes.

“I’ve enjoyed my meetings with Sac State professors, deans, and administrators. They’re so progressive in their thinking, something I didn’t always see in local government.”

“I always felt that I was cheated out of my college experience,” Owens said. “I wish I could have been more involved, but I had some professors that I came to know and respect, and the Criminal Justice program was phenomenal.”

Owens graduated from Sac State in 1986 and earned his juris doctor degree from McGeorge School of Law in 1989.

He served Placer County for 37 years, including nearly 10 as district attorney, before retiring early in December 2019 to tend to family matters. He was named Placer County’s Prosecutor of the Year in 1998.

While district attorney, Owens “pushed hard” to get a crime lab in Placer County, but the idea was met continually with resistance, he said. Then one day he had lunch with fellow Hornet Holly Tiche ’89 (Business Administration ‒ Accountancy), president of Placer Ranch, Inc.

Tiche’s boss, philanthropist Eli Broad, recently donated 300 acres for the planned Sacramento State Placer Center, 28 miles from Sac State’s campus on J Street. The gift had been in the works for many years.

The new academic site in one of the state’s fastest-growing counties initially could accommodate up to 500 full-time students when completed.

Owens told Tiche about his dream for a Placer County crime lab.

“She said, ‘What can Sac State do to help?’ ” Owens said. “It was a tremendous idea that she wanted Sac State to be involved with the crime lab. And what a partnership I knew that could be.

“We brainstormed over lunch, and it’s taken years, but it’s on the table as a possibility at Placer Center.”

The building to house the Placer County crime lab is expected to be one of the first completed as the Sacramento State Placer Center begins to take shape. Sac State will lease classroom space in the crime lab while constructing its own facilities at the site.

“I’ve enjoyed my meetings with Sac State professors, deans, and administrators,” Owens said. “They’re so progressive in their thinking, something I didn’t always see in local government.”

Owens currently serves on the Placer Advisory Council, which supports the Sac State Placer Center.

In the past, his civic causes have included Stand Up Placer, which provides services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and the Roseville Police Athletic League.

He also was known as the “Barbecuing DA” for the barbecues he held to raise money for the Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy.

Each year since 1972, the Sacramento State Alumni Association has honored accomplished alumni and friends of the University with the Distinguished Alumni Awards (DAA). This year’s honorees were recognized during a virtual ceremony on Oct. 15. For more information, visit the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Awards page. 


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