Often one of the problems with these sorts of lists is their seemingly arbitrary nature. Our intention, however, is not to be definitive, but reflective. Much like our annual Women in Business issue, we looked to who has drawn our specific attention and the attention of other community members who pay at least as much attention as we do. It is not remotely comprehensive—when it comes to a city (and surrounding area) as dynamic and culturally “oversized” as Pasadena, that would be an impossibility for a publication such as ours. We live in a small pond that harbors an inordinate number of big fish. And that is precisely why we all love this area and the people who make it sparkle and shine, not just locally, but often nationally and even internationally as well.
Many of the faces you’ll find in our 50 Influential People of Pasadena may already be familiar. But if they’re not already somebody you know about, they should be. These 50 people are decidedly not alone in their influence on the life of our community. Were there space for three times that number we could have legitimately filled it. But that’s a feature, not a bug. This list is a small but representative sample of the area’s abundant human resources that ultimately benefit us all. We suspect you’ll agree that those you know belong here, and come to appreciate the contributions to Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley from those you may be meeting for the first time. Meet our 2020 influencers.
Science & Tech
Frances H. Arnold
Research Chemist and Professor, Caltech
When you’re talking global influence, a Nobel Prize certainly certifies you qualify. And Caltech has produced an inordinate number of winners, including the chemist Linus Pauling, the only two-time solo winner. Frances H. Arnold is following in those esteemed footsteps as the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry, and winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Born in Pittsburgh, Arnold came to Caltech in 1986 and began working on “directed evolution,” a method for creating enzymes in the laboratory using the principles of evolution. “Life—the biological world—is the greatest chemist, and evolution is her design process,” says Arnold in an interview for caltech.com. Her work has application in medicine, neurobiology, chemical synthesis, and alternative energy. Among the many benefits to humanity are environmentally-friendly methods of manufacturing chemicals used to create renewable fuel sources and pharmaceuticals, including improved production of a drug for treating Type 2 diabetes.
Owner and Chef Bacchus Kitchen, Claud & Co Catering
When it comes to influence, most chefs count on their food to do the work. If Chef Claud Beltran relied only on his food, his influence on the Pasadena food scene would most definitely be felt, and his Sunday night jazz series, Bacchus LIVE, provides perhaps the only true supper club experience in Pasadena. But Beltran touches lives through cooking in other profound ways. At his restaurant Bacchus’ Kitchen, he maintains what he calls a collaborative environment, where he sees his job as nurturing, training, and helping to refine the skills of his kitchen staff, while encouraging them to bring their own ideas to the table. And perhaps most importantly to him is his work with Hillsides, where he developed a 12-part curriculum along with Chef Alexandra Poer to introduce foster kids aging out of the program to the world of the professional kitchen.
CEO – Five Acres
With over 20 years of experience in child welfare, advocacy, and policymaking, Chanel Boutakidis is the perfect fit for her role as chief executive officer of Five Acres, a position she assumed in 2011. A dynamic leader with verifiable year-after-year success, Boutakidis has led diverse teams comprised of more than 400 employees and managed organizations exceeding $30 million in revenue. Says Boutakidis, “Today we serve over 10,000 children across six counties and growing. We help families to receive the resources they need to be healthier and safer together, and therefore keeping children out of the foster care system. We understand how important prevention is and how that is much more cost-effective as a community. When a child is served, our rate of keeping them out of the foster care system and with a safe, loving forever family is 90%. That is a viable solution.”
Chief Development Officer, Rose Bowl Stadium
The Rose Bowl Stadium has entertained more than 100 million visitors since it opened nearly a century ago. As chief development officer of the Rose Bowl Stadium, Dedan Brozino believes the venue’s iconic rose and famous turf shine brighter than ever because of the generational memories it creates for those visitors. With a master’s degree in sport management from California State University, Long Beach, as well as more than 16 years of sports administration experience in fundraising and resource acquisition, Dedan arrived at America’s Stadium in 2015 to steward the nonprofit efforts of the National Historic Landmark. Since then, the Legacy Foundation has generated more than $22 million in philanthropic pledges from a national community. In 2017, the Foundation secured a $10 million contribution, its largest ever. The Rose Bowl will be hosting its Party of the Century on April 18, 2020 to kick off a multi-year centennial celebration.
President, ArtCenter College of Design
Despite his prestigious title, ArtCenter College of Design president Lorne Buchman
has been known to teach a class or two on occasion—though his teaching focus is shared with his vision to expand ArtCenter with new academic facilities and affordable student housing. Among his many accomplishments is the City of Pasadena’s approval of a 15-year master plan that will provide the first-ever campus housing in the history of the college, offering a more affordable education for students. “Some institutions have housing as a revenue stream, [but] that’s not our plan,” Buchman asserts. “If we’re not helping the affordability of this education, I’m actually not interested in building housing here. [Our goal is that] we can offer this education to as many deserving and qualified students as possible.”
Dr. Gina Chang
President and COO, Autism Learning Partners
Dr. Gina T. Chang, a Pasadena local for over 16 years, has spent her career increasing access to services for people with autism spectrum disorder. In addition to her 20-plus years of clinical and operational leadership, and a doctorate in applied developmental psychology from Claremont Graduate University, Dr. Chang is the first-woman appointed president and chief operating officer at Autism Learning Partners, which is headquartered in Pasadena. Under Dr. Chang’s leadership, care has expanded across the country from 5 to 18 states, serving over 4,400 families. She has presented her research at national conferences and has been featured in notable publications such as Journal of Special Education Technology. Dr. Chang’s influence is evident in the greatly expanded access to services for people dealing with a diagnosis that affects 1 out every 59 children.
Interior Designer, Owner Cozy*Stylish*Chic
One of the biggest influences you can have on the future is providing those who hope to follow in your footsteps with a place to learn, collaborate, and grow. Jeanne Chung, a successful interior designer in her own right, is intending to do just that within the novel space she is creating in Old Pasadena. After a stint in Southeast Asia working for her family’s clothing business, Chung made her way back to Pasadena, by way of New York City. After becoming a successful design blogger, she opened design showroom Cozy*Stylish*Chic in Old Pasadena. Building on the success of that business, she has begun remodeling the large, open reclaimed space that constitutes the rest of the building. Along with an expanded showroom, Chung is carving out a cooperative work space for young designers, where they can collaborate and earn required continuing education units from experienced design experts brought in from outside.
Joseph M. Costa
President and CEO, Hillsides
Since joining Hillsides in 2010, Joseph M. Costa has used his expertise and experience to significantly expand programs and services to further cement Hillsides as a leader in the child welfare field. Costa successfully shepherded Hillsides through an $18.2 million dollar capital improvement project to significantly enhance the main campus in Pasadena that houses the short-term therapeutic residential program and school, Hillsides Education Center. Under his direction, Hillsides has also expanded its Youth Moving On program for transition-aged youth with a drop-in center, the Peer Resource Center, and expanded its Family Resource Centers. “We have poured our heart and soul into the reimagining of our campus,” says Costa. “The new Margie & Robert E. Petersen Student Center and the surrounding grounds has transformed our campus, and we will now be able to offer even more opportunities to the children and families we serve.”
President, Light Bringer Project
Founded in 1990, Light Bringer Project is a Pasadena-based nonprofit whose mission is to build community through arts and educational programs for underserved youth. It also partners with local organizations to help individuals with special needs. President Tom Coston ensures that the nonprofit devotes the bulk of its attention to youth development with programming in nearly a dozen schools. “While we became known as a producer of cultural events like the Pasadena Chalk Festival, LitFest Pasadena, and the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, 90% of our work is done with schools,” explains Coston. “Our programs are [connecting] young people with creative professionals who mentor them.”
Women’s City Club of Pasadena, Blinn House Foundation Board, Photographer, FIDM Instructor
Pasadena is a city that values its past and understands how deep roots contribute to the future. As the only third-generation member of the current Women’s City Club of Pasadena, Shannon Cottrell shares the city’s values in that regard. Born in Pasadena, Cottrell lives with her husband in what was once her grandmother’s house in East Pasadena. She is a successful fashion, product, and residential photographer, and recipient of numerous awards, including the Disney Creativity Challenge in Photography and The City of Hope Award for Documentary Short Film. An adjunct professor in photography direction and photography rendering at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Cottrell, along with her husband, recently established the Lone Star Design Co-Op. Dedicated to “using art to turn sad things into good,” the co-op collaborates with artists in support of a number of local charities.
Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Methodist Hospital of Southern California
While Clifford Daniels’ dynamic background in business development and marketing could deliver success in many industries, he decided on a career that would make a positive impact on people’s lives. As senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Methodist Hospital of Southern California, Daniels brings together physicians, hospital resources, and community leaders to ensure the availability of high-quality, affordable health services. Daniels also volunteers as a board member with nonprofit organizations like San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, Healthy Living Productions, and Reach Out, all of which strive to advance quality of life and economic vitality. Daniels remains passionate about improving the community health status. “Good health is everything,” says Daniels. “I work hard to ensure people have access to a full-service hospital with the finest physicians and highest quality services. And hopefully, making Southern California a better place to live.”
Oscar De La Hoya
Founder, Oscar De La Hoya Foundation
Despite gaining fame as an Olympic gold medalist and 10-time world champion in six different weight classes, Oscar De La Hoya remains motivated to give back to the East Los Angeles community that he came from. In 1995, while he was still boxing professionally, De La Hoya established his namesake foundation to provide educational and athletic opportunities to underprivileged East Los Angeles youths. The Foundation serves thousands annually through a number of charitable endeavors. Nearly 20 years ago, in honor of his mother, De La Hoya donated $350,000 to fund the Cecilia Gonzalez De La Hoya Cancer Center, which now offers some of the most advanced cancer detection and treatment facilities in the nation. Over the past decade, donations from the Foundation also helped build the Oscar De La Hoya Labor and Delivery Center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Adventist Health White Memorial.
Science & Technology
One of the most powerful ways to influence the life of a community is to solve a pressing problem. When that problem extends to many communities across the country, that influence can be all the more profound. Grant Delgatty is the original designer of the personal electric scooter that would become the URB-E. A Pasadena native and graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, Delgatty hoped to make an impact on the environment and our crowded streets. In the spring of 2018, Grant was invited to teach product design at the Iovine and Young Academy at the University of Southern California, later accepting a position as associate professor and chair of product innovation. Delgatty holds several utility and design patents, has won many awards for his designs, has been published extensively, and was included on the socalTECH 50 list of Southern California entrepreneurs to watch for.
Author, Speaker, Podcaster
If you want to influence people without them feeling led by the nose, humor might be the stealthiest and most effective method. Lian Dolan is an expert at making people laugh. A resident of Pasadena and graduate of Pomona College in Claremont, she is the author of two best-selling novels, Helen of Pasadena, and Elizabeth the First Wife. She is also the creator of the popular podcast Satellite Sisters, which she produces with her four real sisters. A winner of 13 Gracie Awards for excellence in women’s media, it will have you laughing (and crying a little) as they focus on issues that all women can relate to. Dolan is also a frequent public speaker and a regular columnist for Pasadena Magazine. Her next book, The Sweeny Sisters, is due out in April 2020.
Colleen Dunn Bates
Founder and Publisher, Prospect Park Books
Rumors of the death of books may be exaggerated, but there is no doubt that physical books are fighting for survival in an increasingly digital world. Fortunately, for those of us who prefer the page to the screen, there are dedicated individuals like Pasadena resident Colleen Dunn Bates that are committed to the survival of the printed word. As the founder of local publishing company Prospect Park Books, named for the street on which she lived, Bates began modestly with the publication of the popular Home Town Pasadena, which went through numerous reprintings following its modest 5,000 copy launch in 2006. Now, Prospect Park Books publishes roughly 12 to 15 books per year, continuing to build on a solid catalog of more than 70 titles across a number of genres including cookbooks, mysteries, regional focus, and general fiction.
Producing Artistic Director, Pasadena Playhouse
In 2017, Danny Feldman took the metaphorical stage as the Pasadena Playhouse’s producing artistic director, a unique position that combines the artistic job with the business-side role of executive director. One of the first things Feldman did was restructure ticket costs. He explains, “The point of that was saying, ‘For $25 you can get a great seat to see any play that we do here.’ When you ask people [in surveys], they say [theater] costs too much and ‘It’s not for me.’ We’re trying to show with our actions that, one … for $25 you get a great seat, and two, it is for you. The stories we’re telling are really inclusive.”
Dr. Lois P. Frankel
Founder, Bloom Again Foundation
In addition to being a bestselling author, executive coach, and internationally-recognized expert in the field of leadership development for women, Dr. Lois P. Frankel also founded Bloom Again Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports economically vulnerable working women when they encounter medical challenges. Dr. Frankel earned her doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Southern California and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Phillips Graduate Institute. Her work as a public speaker, consultant, and author has provided her with the privilege of serving diverse clients such as The Walt Disney Company, World Bank, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Ernst & Young, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Morgan Stanley, and Warner Bros. She also provides pro bono consultation and workshops to nonprofit community agencies.
Lori Gangemi has been CEO of AbilityFirst since 2004 and the organization is flourishing under her leadership. Currently, Gangemi leads a staff of 300 employees across Los Angeles County, who provide a variety of programs designed to help more than 2,000 children and adults with developmental disabilities achieve their personal best. “Our person-centered programs are grounded in individual choice, autonomy, and community participation,” explains Gangemi. “They empower individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other intellectual and developmental disabilities to discover what is important to them in their lives and to develop the skills that are important for them to achieve their goals. At AbilityFirst, we value trust, belonging, and personal best.” Gangemi earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Washington State University and has a 35-year track record of success in the nonprofit arena, including executive leadership positions at March of Dimes and American Heart Association.
Executive Director, Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau
Even a city as well-known as Pasadena doesn’t sell itself. Fortunately, Visitor’s Bureau executive director Jeanne Goldschmidt knows how to market a city. A native of upstate New York, Goldschmidt came west in 2012, having gained experience in event management, client services, and sales for Hartford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, where she worked for several years for then-mayor Buddy Cianci. Once here, Goldschmidt fell in love with Pasadena, and with the man who would become her husband. She says, “Pasadena is by far the best destination I have worked for. It’s a unique and special place.” A safe and welcoming community, abundant cultural attractions, and many fine restaurants, make “selling and promoting Pasadena both fun and rewarding,” adds Goldschmidt.
Marketing and Business Development Director, Methodist Hospital of Southern California
Giving back to the community was a lesson learned early by Brian Greene, marketing and business development director at Methodist Hospital. While growing up in Downey, California, Greene’s father served as a city council member and youth sports coach, while his mother volunteered with the Assistance League of Downey. When he’s not publicizing the high-quality services at Methodist Hospital, Greene continues his parent’s tradition of volunteerism by serving as president of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, as well as coaching with Sierra Madre Little League, where his son Cameron plays baseball. “It’s important to give back to this great community, yet you always seem to get back more than you give,” Greene says. “While I’ve developed business relationships and friendships through the Chamber, I love coaching baseball. It’s extremely rewarding to see the kids’ hard work pay off over time as they develop their skills.”
Chef and Owner, The Arbour
Ian Gresick’s Pasadena restaurant The Arbour joins the growing list of excellent fine dining offerings taking root around Lake Avenue’s business district, with an elegant interior aesthetic that has drawn the notice of design experts. Having spent time rising through the ranks of some of L.A.’s most respectable establishments, including DRAGO Centro and Patina, where he became the youngest pastry chef to earn a coveted Michelin Star, Gresick boasts 20 years of culinary experience. The Arbour is his first time at the helm, but lucky for us, Gresick is more than proving himself capable with farm-to-table dishes that are as delicious as they are inventive.
Founder and Festival Director, Pasadena International Film Festival
Founded in 2013 by Jessica Hardin and Marco Neves, industry veterans and Pasadena residents, the Pasadena International Film Festival is the only competitive film festival in Pasadena. Hardin received her B.A. cum laude while simultaneously attending the National Theater Institute in Waterford, Connecticut, and the British American Drama Academy in London, England. After, Hardin moved to New York to study acting, where she subsequently worked as a model, dancer, singer, and actress. During a family vacation, she discovered the joys of a Los Angeles winter and stayed. While attending many film festivals that her husband was involved with, Hardin decided to hold one in Pasadena, thus founding the Pasadena International Film Festival.
President and Creative Executive, The Hettema Group
When it comes to influence, there may be nothing more powerful than the stories we tell about ourselves as a society. Phil Hettema believes that the power of an unforgettable experience to tell a story and thus shape our cultural narrative in positive ways is unmatched. Educated at Cal State University, Long Beach and his hometown’s ArtCenter College of Design, Hettema cut his teeth at Disney; during the 1984 Olympics, where he was production head for the Opening Ceremonies; and ultimately, as the person responsible for everything Universal Parks did in the experience and attraction business. Now, Hettema is the creative leader of Pasadena’s Hettema Group. Since 2002, he has worked on some of the world’s most important experiences, including One World Observatory in New York City—the stunning observation deck experience that provides meaningful subtext to the tragedy of 9/11, along with a compelling story that keeps us looking forward.
Science & Technology
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, codeSpark Academy
It’s not always easy to move the needle on entrenched attitudes and assumptions. When it comes to STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), the long-held assumption was that boys and men were more interested and more competent in that regard. Although the ground has begun to shift, significant gender disparities in these fields persist. Grant Hosford had 20 years of experience in the tech industry when he found himself struggling to find educational software that could help teach computer science basics to his young daughter. So, he took the problem into his own hands, resulting in the codeSpark Academy app. Intended for users age four to nine, the app teaches the ABC’s of coding through fun games and engaging puzzles. While boys are welcome, 53% of users globally are girls.
Science & Technology
CEO and Co-Founder, ObEN
Co-founded in 2014 by Nikhil Jain, a roughly 20-year Pasadena resident and USC Marshall School of Business graduate, Pasadena-based ObEN utilizes artificial intelligence technology to create a 3D avatar that looks and talks like a human—and is capable of performing a variety of useful tasks. Originally, ObEN began as a way to mollify Jain’s (and co-founder Adam Zheng’s) personal desires to remain connected with their families when they traveled on business by allowing them to leave behind virtual copies of themselves. With the rapid development of AI and Blockchain technology, ObEN has expanded to a full-stack artificial intelligence company, creating a suite of products that humanize and personalize every facet of the digital experience.
Science & Technology
Vice President, a.new reality
A self-described storyteller, Joey Jones came to the tech world via architecture school. He currently helms the “a.new reality” team at Pasadena ad agency Ayzenberg Group. Jones’ mission is to bring media—and the stories his clients hope to tell—into a virtual 3D experience that can integrate with the real world. Jones and his team “are always exploring new tools and methods, while never relying on them, to make the most compelling content and branded stories.”
Owner and Manager, Lucky Boy
The story of America is told in many different ways, including with a burrito as the bullhorn.
Lucky Boy didn’t exactly invent the breakfast burrito, but if you ask most Pasadenans, under the direction of second-generation owner and manager Christina Karagias, they’ve certainly perfected it. Both of Karagias’ grandfathers came here from Greece, and were soon followed by two great uncles, who moved to Pasadena in the late 1920s. Eventually, Karagias’ father and uncle arrived, working first as draftsmen in an airplane factory, before partnering in the first Lucky Boy, which opened in South Gate in 1961. The second Lucky Boy opened on Walnut Street, followed by the Arroyo Parkway location. For Karagias, who helms the current Arroyo Parkway location with her 93-year-old uncle, success is less about the burrito and more about an abiding connection to the people and spirit of Pasadena.
Executive Chef, Union
When you take over a restaurant kitchen from a “celebrity” chef helming one of Pasadena’s hottest tables, many chefs would find creating their own influence on the cuisine to be a daunting challenge. Chef Chris Keyser, now the executive chef at Union following the departure of Bruce Kalman, was concerned only with staying true to himself, confident in the fact that his own well-developed expertise would prevail. By all accounts that is exactly what happened, as Union remains as popular as ever. Kaiser says he “learned how Californians like to eat” while he was chef de cuisine at AR Cucina in Culver City. From there, and following a brief tune-up in Italy, he took over the reins at Union. Though Keyser thrives under the notorious pressure of a five-star kitchen, he says, “It’s hard work, but it’s only really hard if you’re not having fun.”
Science & Technology
Partner, Enbroaden, Inc., President, Innovate Pasadena
Sometimes connecting people with others of influence is the very definition of influence itself. In her role as president of Innovate Pasadena, Beth Kuchar strives to be part of the glue that makes such productive connections possible. Originally from South Pasadena, after graduating from Scripps College in Claremont and a stint in DTLA where Kuchar met her husband, she returned to Pasadena as a founding partner, along with her husband, of the digital creative agency, Embroaden. In her “spare time” she leads Innovate Pasadena, a local nonprofit that seeks to create “an ecosystem where innovators and entrepreneurs thrive.” “We want to tie up this funnel we have of talent, and education, and job opportunity, and innovative businesses, and entrepreneurs…kind of completing that whole circuit,” says Kuchar. “Our group is really good at connecting.”
Karen R. Lawrence
President, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
Karen R. Lawrence assumed her position as the ninth president of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens on Sept. 1, 2018, following a decade as president at Sarah Lawrence College. In September, Lawrence launched The Huntington’s Centennial Celebration, a yearlong series of exhibitions, public programs, artist interventions, and more—inviting people with a range of interests to engage with the venerable institution’s collections and the connections they offer, and to join an exploration of ideas that will shape the future. “This institution’s reach is already wide,” says Lawrence. “We are seizing this moment to amplify our invitation to new audiences in our Southern California communities and beyond, as well as to welcome artists, writers, and scholars to explore new synergies across the library, art, and botanical collections.”
CEO, Hing Wa Lee Jewelers
After graduating from the entrepreneurship program at USC Marshall School of Business in 1992, David Lee joined the family business, the iconic Hing Wa Lee Jewelers, making key changes that have proven to be timeless. In 1993, the family’s first luxury retail store opened in the San Gabriel Square, offering the top-notch Swiss-made timepieces, fine jewelry, and gemstone carving collections that have become synonymous with the Hing Wa Lee name. Under Lee’s leadership the business has continued to expand, which included the opening of a second store in Hong Kong Plaza in Rowland Heights in 1997, before relocating to the Hing Wa Lee Plaza in Walnut seven years later. Lee’s efforts have culminated in a state-of-the-art 15,000 square foot flagship store in San Gabriel, making Hing Wa Lee Jewelers the gold standard in Southern California luxury jewelry.
President, Pasadena Chamber of Commerce
Paul Little and his wife moved to Pasadena in 1986. After a number of years in TV, Little transitioned to public relations work in the early ‘90s before becoming a member of the city council, where he served until 2007.When he was approached with an offer to become the new Chamber of Commerce director, Little at first found the idea “crazy.” Fortunately for local businesses, however, he relented. Almost 12 years later, Little’s tenure has been marked by a steep growth in membership, with the number of member businesses nearly doubling to 1,400. Challenges remain, he says, not least how to support small, local business while continuing to draw tech sector investment, such as the arrival of GM Cruise Automation, the automotive giant’s foray into self-driving cars. Little has every intention of continuing in his effort to facilitate local business. “It’s been a lot of fun,” he says, “and I have only a one-mile commute.”
President and CEO, Hathaway-Sycamores
Hathaway-Sycamores president and CEO Debra Manners has dedicated her career to improving the lives of children and families in our community. A licensed clinical social worker, Manners received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Washington. Her first professional job working in a children’s shelter shaped her commitment to understanding and treating both the immediate and lifelong effects of childhood trauma. Manners joined Hathaway-Sycamores in 1987 and has served in her current role since 2015. Dedicated to innovative solutions, she has been key to the development of new programs at Hathaway-Sycamores that have become the industry standard. She serves on statewide and national boards, focusing on behavioral health and child well-being public policy. Through her collaboration with other public, private, and governmental agencies, her impact extends far beyond those served by Hathaway-Sycamores.
Science & Technology
Science Guy, CEO of The Planetary Society
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University, Bill Nye worked as a mechanical engineer for Boeing Corporation, inventing a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on 747 airplanes. He transitioned into television with “Bill Nye, the Science Guy,” a popular PBS program that ran from 1993 to 1998 and taught science to children and adults alike. He is also the author of two bestselling books on science, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, and Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World. Nye has received honorary doctorates from several universities, including Johns Hopkins University in 2008 and Simon Fraser University in 2015. An advocate for science and astronomy, Nye helped develop sundials for the Mars Exploration Rover missions and appears in popular media as a science educator. He has been an effective advocate for improving the quality of life on our planet, as well as furthering space exploration.
Dr. Zein Obagi
Founder, ZO Skin Health and ZO Skin Centre Pasadena
With more than 30 years as a leading expert in skin health solutions, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi is an innovator and visionary in the industry. He is the founder of ZO Skin Health, a line of skincare products that help achieve and maintain healthy skin, and ZO Skin Centre Pasadena, a leading dermatological practice that provides unparalleled skin care services to men and women of all ages. Says Dr. Obagi, “[Our skin care restoration and rejuvenation treatments] are light-years ahead of any other system existing on the market. The ZO formulated programs give the best results because we address the skin in totality.” Currently, Dr. Obagi has trained thousands of physicians in dermatological care and has lectured at medical seminars and academic workshops, both nationally and internationally.
Science & Technology
Founder, Principle – Home Front Build, Carbonshack
When it comes to having an influence on how people think about home construction, Steve Pallrand is on a mission to demonstrate that your dream home can not only be beautiful, but can also be built or remodeled in an environmentally responsible way. A former Hollywood set designer, Pallrand’s design-build company Home Front Build recently completed a proof of concept home using all recycled and locally-produced materials that not only significantly minimizes the carbon footprint of construction, but has won design awards for its aesthetic accomplishment. With his online platform CarbonShack, Pallrand has created a special type of calculator that homeowners anywhere in the U.S. can use to determine the carbon footprint of their home. The tool also demonstrates how one can reduce their home’s energy usage and provides options for building greener, as well as the positive environmental impact that such changes can produce.
Co-Owner, El Portal
Abel Ramirez came to Pasadena on vacation from Mexico, fell in love with the city, and decided to never leave. At 20, he took a dishwashing job at the Huntington Hotel (better known today as The Langham), where he worked his way up the chain of command. In 1995, he opened his own place, El Portal, which remains popular to this day with many regulars who can trace their love of Ramirez’s distinctive Yucatan cuisine back to the restaurant’s opening. Wanting to give back, Ramirez has joined a host of boards across the city, including the Tournament of Roses and the Pasadena Playhouse. Though Ramirez is technically retired, he can still be found at El Portal on most days, and the restaurant remains a family affair with his son and co-owner Armando, and wife Rosalia.
Dr. Arthur Riggs
Director Emeritus, City of Hope Beckman Research Center, Samuel Rahbar Chair in Diabetes & Drug Discovery
Given that approximately 1 in every 10 adults suffers from diabetes, insulin is a vital influence on the quality of life for millions of adults across the country. Prior to Dr. Arthur Riggs’ groundbreaking work, the only sources of human insulin were cows and pigs. Working with specialists in DNA synthesis and recombinant DNA technology, Riggs and his partners developed a gene that could command bacteria to make human insulin, turning the bacteria into a veritable microscopic insulin factory. Not only was this a life-saving development for millions of diabetes sufferers, it was the beginning of the now $112 billion U.S. biotech industry, and the creation of companies like Genentech, which continues to develop life-saving technologies for diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, and cancer.
Dr. Steven Rosen
Provost and Chief Scientific Officer, City of Hope
As director of Northwestern’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chicago, Dr. Rosen spent 24 years building nationally recognized programs in laboratory sciences and clinical investigations aimed at cancer prevention and control. In 1984, Rosen and his wife Candice, a registered nurse and author, moved to Pasadena when Rosen became provost and chief scientific officer at City of Hope. Additionally, Rosen is the director of The Beckman Research Center of City of Hope, and the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences. Not only is Rosen responsible for shaping the research and educational vision at City of Hope, but he is also the longest-serving NCI-designated cancer center director in America.
CEO, Pasadena City Operating Company
In 2006, Mike Ross, a veteran facilities manager with previous experience in Sacramento and San Jose, arrived in Pasadena. He’d come to build and manage the new Pasadena Convention Center, which at that time was the biggest construction project in the City’s history. What he didn’t know was that the Great Recession of 2008 was right around the corner. Despite the challenging economic times, Ross brought the $162 million project in six weeks early and under budget. On top of that, the Convention Center opened as a LEED Certified Gold facility—at the time, it was one of only three such convention centers in the nation. Fast-forward to the present, and Ross continues to oversee operations at the center, which remains a vital economic engine for the city, generating an estimated $51 million annually in direct spending at local hotels, restaurants, and shops.
Chairman and Founder, Rusnak Auto Group
If you’re interested buying a luxury car, the influence of Paul Rusnak is unavoidable. An immigrant to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia during The Great Depression, the iconic Rusnak brand was born when he opened his first dealership in 1959, followed by the purchase of the Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in Pasadena seven years later. Today, Rusnak is well-known across Southern California throughout luxury dealerships featuring names such as Audi, Bentley, BMW, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, and Volvo. He has been involved in the local community and charities such as the International Aids Research Hospital and Foundation. Rusnak received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree from SIAS International University at Zhengzhou in the Henan Province, as well as the Outstanding Business Leader Award from Northwood University.
Moji and Euan Shand
CEO and Chairman, Duncan Taylor Scottish Whisky
Alcohol consumed to excess has been known to have an unwelcome influence, but when it comes to alcohol that is meant to be appreciated and savored for its exceptional quality, the influence of Duncan Taylor on Pasadena’s supply of rare Scotch whisky is most welcome indeed. When Euan Shand and Moji Zamani came together as husband and wife, as well as business partners, they soon became the area’s go-to purveyors of artisanal spirits. Combining Scotsman Euan’s experience in the whiskey business with Moji’s marketing acumen, not to mention a world-class collection of Scotch whisky that began in 1938 as Duncan Taylor, turned out to be an exceptional blend. In addition to the original collection that contains whiskey from distillers no longer in existence, Duncan Taylor carries award-winning artisanal vodkas and tequilas, as well as their own brand of scotch, Black Bull.
Bob and Gregg Smith
Co-Founders, Owners – Parkway Grill, Arroyo Chop House, Smitty’s Grill
Though difficult to believe, there was a time when Pasadena wasn’t the dining destination it is today. It took a handful of restaurateurs to see the potential, and among those visionaries were Bob and Gregg Smith. In 1985 they opened Parkway Grill, their first restaurant in Pasadena, which introduced Southern California to now-staples of fine dining like the open kitchen, woodfire oven, and organic farm-to-table ingredients plucked from their garden next door. Nearly 40 years later, Parkway Grill remains a crown jewel of Pasadena dining, joined by the equally iconic Arroyo Chop House in 1997, and Smitty’s Grill in 2002, the brother’s tribute to comfort food.
Dr. Vaughn Starnes
Chair of the Department of Surgery, Surgeon-in-Chief at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Keck Hospital of USC
Dr. Vaughn Starnes’ list of bona fides tells you a lot about his success as physician. He is chair of the Department of Surgery, surgeon-in-chief at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Keck Hospital of USC, the H. Russell Smith Foundation chair for Cardiovascular Thoracic Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and the president of USC Care. Throughout his career, Starnes has been at the forefront of the development of life-saving surgical techniques, beginning with a radical double-lobar lung transplant that kept cystic fibrosis patients alive until drug therapy caught up, making surgery unnecessary. A recognized expert in heart and lung transplants, repair of congenital heart defects and heart surgery in children and newborns, Starnes has performed over 12,000 cardiac surgeries. A committed researcher and educator, Starnes is involved in the exploration of robotic surgery technology and gene therapy techniques.
Dr. Rebecca Swimmer
Founder and CEO, Vet Villa
Dr. Rebecca Swimmer knew at the age of five that she wanted to become a veterinarian. It has been her lifelong dream come true to open Vet Villa Animal Hospital and to provide high-quality veterinary medicine in a loving environment. After completing her formal education, Dr. Swimmer moved to Los Angeles, where she completed a rigorous small animal rotating internship at the Animal Specialty & Emergency Center (ASEC). While at ASEC, she received advanced training with board-certified specialists in emergency and critical care, internal medicine, surgery, radiology, cardiology, and oncology. She further applied this knowledge and honed her skills during her years as an emergency and critical care veterinarian prior to transitioning to small animal general practice.
Acting Chief Curator, Norton Simon Museum
Emily Talbot spent time working at the National Portrait Gallery in London before making a move to Norton Simon Museum, where she was recently appointed acting chief curator. The community has been embracing Talbot as well, starting off with her highly-praised inaugural exhibit “Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor,” which drew on Talbot’s fresh perspective and ability to breathe new life into past works. “It’s been a pleasure and a delight to work with Norton Simon Museum’s stellar holdings of 19th-century French art over the past two years,” says Talbot. “In my new role as acting chief curator, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the museum’s operations more broadly, and to working with colleagues across the institution to develop exhibitions and programming that celebrate the richness and diversity of our collections.”
Science & Technology
Co-Founder and CEO, Spokeo
In terms of Pasadena, Harrison Tang’s biggest influence might be his decision to have his company here. In bringing the popular people search engine Spokeo to Pasadena, Tang has contributed to Pasadena’s growing reputation as a center of technological innovation. Like countless other tech entrepreneurs, Tang launched his company in Silicon Valley, but moved to Pasadena in 2010. He believes Pasadena’s world-class academic and cultural institutions, and diverse population provide a rich reservoir of talent on which to draw. By organizing billions of records from publicly available data into organized and easily accessible reports, Spokeo can provide any number of data points about people of interest, including location history, contact information, and employment records. In 2017, Spokeo made the prestigious Inc. 5000 list of the country’s fastest growing companies for the third year in a row.
Mayor, City of Pasadena
When Terry Tornek was hired as city planning director in 1982, he brought with him a wealth of experience in historic preservation and the redevelopment of historic properties. With Old Pasadena recently saved from the wrecking ball, largely through the efforts of Claire Boggard and Pasadena Heritage, Tornek was the perfect man for the job. After a successful stint as city planning director, Tornek left government for a period of time to become a private developer. His historic renovation and redevelopment work include the Dodsworth Building on Fair Oaks Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, and the Braley Building, which is now the Pasadena home for the Church of Scientology. Soon enough, he was coaxed back to a seat on the Planning Commission, and from there he ran for city council and was elected. After Bill Bogaard’s retirement, Tornek was elected as mayor, a post he’s held since 2015.
Chief Executive Officer, Pasadena Symphony Association
Lora Unger is passionate about stewarding the orchestra’s role as a connecting force for good in the community and providing today’s youths with the far-reaching benefits of music education. Under her leadership, the orchestra has flourished both artistically and financially. Largely due to Unger’s efforts, the Pasadena Symphony and POPS stands today as the community’s preeminent leader for live musical events that combine innovation and entertainment experiences for more than 50,000 audiences annually. Unger holds degrees in music and business from the University of Louisville, and graduate degrees in arts administration from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Carl H. Lindner College of Business. She believes in the importance of being of service to the community and serves on the board of directors for Friends of Foothill Family, The Gooden School, and is a member of the San Marino Junior Alliance.
Artistic Director, MUSE/IQUE
Rachael Worby first arrived in Pasadena to take a position as guest conductor for the Pasadena Symphony and POPS orchestra and shortly after, was invited to become music director of POPS. After joyously leading POPS for a decade, Worby founded MUSE/IQUE in 2011 to bring fresh perspective to live music and multidisciplinary arts. Worby, who believes that community engagement is the heart of the inspiration behind MUSE/IQUE, says, “I think that my greatest passion and possibly my greatest talent is to help people feel powerful and smart, and less left out. I’m so tired of people feeling left out of the arts because they feel that they don’t know enough about them but rather, I think the joy is in the power of the learning and that’s what I’ve done my whole career and that’s what MUSE/IQUE was made to do—to motivate listeners to want to learn more and be their best selves.”