Civic leaders Ken Saxon and Patricia MacFarlane were honored as Santa Barbara’s Man & Woman of the Year on Thursday night, in recognition of the pair’s long-standing commitment to community service and voluntary leadership.
A closely guarded secret, the Santa Barbara Foundation announced the 2012 honorees at the 70th annual awards ceremony, which was sponsored by the foundation, Noozhawk, KEYT and KDB 93.7 classic radio.
MacFarlane has served in numerous nonprofit leadership roles since she and her husband, John, moved to Santa Barbara from New York in 1994. The former J.P. Morgan Securities vice president is a past board president of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. She also is active with the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation and Crane Country Day School, and teaches Sunday school at her church.
The honor appeared to stun MacFarlane, who was greeted with heartfelt hugs from her beaming young sons.
“As I look around this room, I want to thank all of you who have been my role models,” she said. “And thank you for the wonderful culture that is Santa Barbara.”
Saxon and his wife, Jo, and their twins, Griffin and Hope, moved to Santa Barbara from the Bay Area in 1996 after he sold his startup company, First American Records Management. In his new community, he immediately put his entrepreneurial skills to work on behalf of the nonprofit sector. He, too, is a past board president of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara and he has served on the boards of the Santa Barbara Foundation, Santa Barbara Middle School and The Eleos Foundation.
With Craig Zimmerman, president of The Towbes Group, Saxon co-founded FUND (Families Uniting to Nurture Dreams), a group of 20 families who include their children in a giving circle to raise money for needy students and teach their children about philanthropy. He also developed the now 4-year-old Courage to Lead, a year-long leadership and renewal program designed to support nonprofit executive leaders with strategic planning, coaching and self-development.
In a 2008 interview with Noozhawk, Saxon explained the simple philosophy behind his community service.
“Some people move here and want to engage, and other people ... want to hide out, and that’s fine,” he said. “But it’s awfully fun to engage.”
He returned to that upbeat theme Thursday night.
“In a way this honor is unnecessary for me,” said Saxon, referring to his nonprofit work. “It’s just not hard duty.”
Click here to read Noozhawk’s complete interview with Saxon.
Thursday’s awards were presented by Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation, and KEYT news anchor Paula Lopez during a gala dinner at the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club in Montecito.
Chosen from a diverse pool of nominations, MacFarlane and Saxon join a select group of Santa Barbara’s most dedicated civic leaders who have been recognized as Man & Woman of the Year since the program was established in 1942. Previous honorees include David Anderson, Pearl Chase, Larry Crandell, Patricia Dow, Bob Emmons, Léni Fé Bland, Susan Gulbransen, Palmer Jackson Jr., Penny Jenkins, Gerd Jordano, Eli Luria, Peter MacDougall, Joanne Rapp, Maryan Schall, Cliff Sponsel, Thomas M. Storke and Richard Welch.
“Patty MacFarlane and Ken Saxon are true volunteer leaders whose selfless actions have inspired many to do more to help others,” Gallo said. “They are the current representatives of a 70-year-long tradition of celebrating voluntarism, joining exceptional men and women who have combined their experience and talent with a deep concern for the welfare of others to enrich our community ...
“The Santa Barbara Foundation is honored to be the steward of this tradition, as it belongs to every resident of Santa Barbara who understands that what makes this place so beautiful and so vibrant is our connectivity. ... Voluntarism and philanthropy are the most enduring and honorable platforms for citizen engagement.”
Check back with Noozhawk for iSociety columnist Melissa Walker’s coverage of the 70th annual Santa Barbara Man & Woman of the Year Awards.