Thursday, May 26 , 2016, 3:40 am | Fair 57º

Clifford Sponsel, Gerd Jordano Named Santa Barbara’s Man and Woman of the Year

69th annual event honors the recipients for their dedication and commitment to volunteerism in the community

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

There was only one question lingering on the lips of hundreds of guests who gathered at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara last Thursday evening: Who will be named the recipients of the prestigious 69th Annual Man & Woman of the Year Awards?

By sunset, conversation was swarming with bouts of speculation, playful wagers and abundant curiosity at a black-tie event in the La Pacifica Ballroom at The Biltmore near the stunning seaside.

Paula Lopez, KEYT-TV evening anchor, started the festivities and welcomed guests with background on the history and principles behind the coveted awards.

“We are here to take part in a long tradition nearly seven decades old by celebrating and acknowledging those who work tirelessly and selflessly on behalf of our community,” Lopez said. “Not just to make it a beautiful city aesthetically, but to make it a beautiful community in every other way possible — a community that reaches out and helps others.”

“People who have reached out with innovations and ideas to make good things happen and some of them are in this room tonight,” Lopez said as she acknowledged former award recipients, including Larry Crandell, Michael Towbes, Jean Schuyler and Joanne Rapp.

Next, Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation, spoke on behalf of the organization.

“The Santa Barbara Foundation is honored to be the steward of this tradition,” Gallo said. “For this is not our event; it belongs to everyone in this room and every resident of Santa Barbara who understands that what makes this place beautiful and vibrant is our connectivity, and never has this connectivity been more necessary.”

Gallo also noted that despite a beautiful and pristine setting, the city has a high rate of poverty, violence in neighborhoods and illiteracy rates in schools that are coupled with struggles to maintain health, jobs and housing.

“So why aren’t I pessimistic despite these enormous challenges?” Gallo said. “Because what I still see in abundance in American people, and especially in Santa Barbara, is that special and powerful connectivity that comes from community outreach.”

Later, the earlier closely guarded secret was revealed as the Santa Barbara Foundation and KEYT announced the 2010 Man & Woman of the Year recipients as Clifford Sponsel and Gerd Jordano.

Sponsel and Jodano were each selected from a diverse pool of candidates for unwavering dedication and long-standing commitment to volunteerism in the community.

Colette Hadley, executive director of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, presented the Man of the Year Award to Sponsel, a philanthropist who at 101 years old is the oldest recipient to be honored with this distinguished title.

Sponsel thanked a crowd of onlookers who gathered around his table and his wife, Juliette, said her husband winning the award was a surprise and an honor.

“Cliff is a generous man with a high IQ, but I think what makes him special is that he is a humble man and so with humble eyes you can see more,” she said. “And if you are egotistical, you can only see yourself.”

Sponsel’s philanthropic devotion has endured for more than 50 years with business leadership and financial advice that has served many organizations and enabled the completion of the Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care Administration Building and Serenity House, both named in his honor. Among many other community contributions, Sponsel is a founding member of Concours d’Elegance to raise funds for student scholarships and the inventor of the modern-day thermostat, which he gave to General Motors with no compensation for himself — further emphasizing his giving spirit.

Former award recipient Dr. Peter MacDougall presented the Woman of the Year Award to Jordano, who received a standing ovation and numerous hugs from guests as she made her way to the podium.

“It’s such an enormous honor from a community that I love so much because all the events I have volunteered for over the years have been a labor of love and the rewards are huge,” Jordano said. “The friendships that are formed open doors that would have never happened if I had not volunteered, and so the hours and time for all these jobs is not work, it’s passion.”

Jordano has provided service to many Santa Barbara community causes for more than 25 years as an active volunteer with Cottage Health System and Westmont College and as a board member with Hospice of Santa Barbara, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara and CALM. She is also a founding member for a grassroots organization dedicated to monitoring growth, Citizens for a Balanced Community, and has provided volunteer leadership and received honors from many other community organizations.

“The ultimate expression of generosity is not in giving of what you have but in giving in who you are,” Lopez said. “That is the quote you’ll find on the Santa Barbara Foundation website, and it speaks volumes as to who they are and why we are here tonight.”

The 69th Annual Man & Woman of the Year event was sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation and KEYT with support from KDB 93.7FM.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews, and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.