University News

Jose Hernandez Biopic Inspires Pacificans and the World

Many of the milestones in the remarkable life of Jose Hernandez ’84 UOP—NASA astronaut, University of the Pacific engineering graduate and former regent—have been driven by his incredible sense of perseverance and patience. He continually peppered NASA with applications for the astronaut program—12 times in all— before finally being accepted.

A Million Miles Away, the biopic of Hernandez’s journey, starting as a migrant worker in the farm fields of San Joaquin County to Pacific, and eventually to fame as an astronaut, debuted internationally on September 15 on Amazon Prime. Actor Michael Pena plays the role of Hernandez.

Pacific students, alumni, donors and other invited guests were treated to a screening of the movie on August 30 at both the Janet Leigh Theater and Don and Karen DeRosa University Center on the Stockton campus. Afterwards, Hernandez took part in a question-and-answer session with University President Christopher Callahan.

“When I was growing up my intention was not to have a movie made about my life,” Hernandez said, prompting a chuckle from the audience. “My goal was simply that I wanted to go to space. When I did get selected, I got attention because I was the first migrant farmworker astronaut. It was then I realized that I had become an instant role model. I embraced that role when it came to talking to kids to inspire them.”

Hernandez noted Hollywood often takes liberties when it comes to storylines. He said his biopic has some characters who are combined and timelines that are altered. But, for the most part, he believes the movie “stayed true” to his story. He also praised Pena’s work. “He was my choice to play the role from the start,” Hernandez said. “And I thought he did an excellent job.”

The movie has several Pacific and Stockton references, including a shot with the Pacific gate in the background and several clips in which Pena wears a University of the Pacific shirt. Those drew applause from attendees at the campus movie showing.

“He has positively impacted tens or even hundreds of thousands of young people across the Central Valley,” Callahan said. “This film now will have that same impact.”

“I met Jose when I was younger when he was planning to run for elected office,” said Mariana Arellano, Class of 2025, a marketing major from Modesto. “He is part of the reason I am here. He paved the way for so many of us. The fact that he was able to make it further was inspirational.”

In an interview prior to the screening, Hernandez talked about embracing new challenges. “I will always be known as an astronaut, but that and $4.99 will only get you a coffee at Starbucks,” he said. “I still must work for a living. I have my consulting business and my vineyard. I am moving forward with a lot of energy. I feel there is something big that is going to happen. What that is, I do not know. But we are turning the page every day.”

Dr. Frank Brucia ’44 Leaves Legacy of Unwavering Loyalty

Dr. Frank A. Brucia ’44A, the dental school’s longest-serving supporter, mentor and friend, passed away on May 12, 2023, surrounded by his family, at the age of 106.

Brucia graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry, then known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons, in 1944. He had a successful private practice in the North Beach area of San Francisco and prominent leadership roles with the California Dental Association and San Francisco Dental Society.

He was awarded the Alumni Association’s Medallion of Distinction in 2000 and in 2022, he received the rare Arthur A. Dugoni Lifetime Achievement Award for extraordinary accomplishment, commitment and service to the dental school.

His generosity to the dental school spanned more than five decades and led to the creation of the Brucia Loyalty Society in recognition of his unwavering support. The society honors donors who mark 10 consecutive years of giving to the Dugoni School of Dentistry, with at least $10,000 in lifetime giving.

“Dr. Frank Brucia, known as Papa Frank, was an icon and inspiration to so many,” said Dean Nader A. Nadershahi ’94. “He shared his time, talent and treasure with the Dugoni School and beyond. Dr. Brucia is one of our giants who has paved the way and provided shoulders upon which we stand today with a stronger profession.”

Brucia was married to his late wife Helen for 69 years. He leaves behind three children: Kristina Davis, Ric Brucia and Dr. Jeff Brucia ’88, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.