Distinguished Alum: Dern works to fulfill a mission

Jeff Dern's career path started at Sac State and prepared him to lead PRIDE Industries, what he calls a "high purpose."
Mon Sep 9, 2019

By Cynthia Hubert 

Jeff Dern’s childhood home in College Greens was minutes away from Sacramento State. He and his brother Michael attended summer sports and arts camps at the University. His grandmother Marjorie earned a Sac State degree.

So when Dern decided to study business in college, it was clear where he would go.

“The business program always had an excellent reputation, which made my decision to pursue my degree at Sac State an easy one,” he said.  

Dern pursued his college education with vigor, studying finance and accounting and engaging in campus groups such as the Accounting Society and Beta Alpha Psi that helped broaden his perspective and instill leadership skills.

By the time he graduated in 1998 with a degree in Business Administration, he was primed for success in the working world.

After college, Dern put his Sac State education to use at Oracle, Ernst & Young, and Arthur Andersen before he joined the nonprofit PRIDE Industries as controller in 2008. He rose to vice president of finance in 2014 and two years later became the company’s chief financial officer.

Now PRIDE Industries' president, Dern is responsible for the company’s operations, finance, human resources, information technology, sales and marketing, and rehabilitation departments.

PRIDE works in partnership with communities across the Sacramento region and the nation to hire, train and employ people with disabilities. The company, which places workers in private and government manufacturing and service jobs, is one of the largest employers of its kind in the country.

“I had great experiences in the for-profit world,” Dern said. “When I transitioned to PRIDE, I took all of those skills and experiences and applied them to a mission-driven company.

“For me, it’s a high purpose, a calling, to serve in a leadership role at a company like PRIDE that has such an important mission. It’s about something greater than yourself, and it’s very fulfilling.”

Dern credits Sac State’s community of students, faculty and alumni for his successes in business and life.

“Collectively, the Sac State community made a positive impact on me and helped to shape my career goals,” he said.

The University, he said, lives up to its commitment to be an “anchor university,” strengthening the region through partnerships with local government, state lawmakers and businesses.

“Sac State is an integral contributor to our region’s growth and economic development,” he said. “It serves as a catalyst for innovation by educating the workforce and future leaders of the Sacramento region. The success of Sac State’s programs and alumni base enhances our communities and improves the quality of life in our region.”

He cited the proposed Sac State Placer County campus as an example of the University's larger vision for expanding the region’s workforce and economic growth.

Dern said he is pleased to be recognized as one of Sac State’s best and brightest alumni.

“There are many deserving alumni for this award, and I’m honored to be selected,” he said. “Sac State prepared me for a challenging and rewarding career path. I am proud to represent Sac State as a recipient of this award.”