From left, Community Leader Speaker Warren Staley, Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara President and CEO Candace Winkler, Student Speaker and scholarship recipient Sydney Santana, and Mary Lynn Staley at the Scholarship Foundation’s Community Leaders Luncheon. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

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iSociety: Rochelle Rose

The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara recently held its annual Community Leaders Luncheon for 350 attendees at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Hotel. Reflecting the holiday spirit, the ballroom was decorated in red, green and gold with giant holiday pine wreaths hanging over the stage.

The Scholarship Foundation luncheon is a time to celebrate its friends and supporters from throughout Santa Barbara County and is dedicated to appreciation, not fundraising.

In keeping with tradition, the Community Leader Speaker shared stories from his life and discussed the important role of education. This year’s speaker was Warren Staley, former CEO and board chairman of Cargill Inc., a global food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services company.

The luncheon platinum sponsors were Montecito Bank & Trust and Venoco Inc.

The program was opened by board chair Barrett O’Gorman, who noted that this year the foundation awarded 3,019 scholarships to deserving students from Santa Barbara County, totaling $8.74 million. O’Gorman concluded his welcome remarks by saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you! It because of your work and donations that these 3,019 students will continue their education next year.”

O’Gorman then introduced Philanthropist Spotlight Speakers Rick and Regina Roney.

“Regina and Rick first became involved with the Scholarship Foundation in 2005 and since then have become engaged supporters of the organization,” O’Gorman said. “They have made thoughtful and strategic gifts, such as helping us acquire the needed software to move to a completely paperless application. The Roneys consider themselves investors, not philanthropists.”

The Roneys shared the podium and described their commitment to education.

“The students are the reason that we are all here,” Regina Roney said. “I love hearing their stories, which reflect their inspiration for their work and gratitude for the opportunity that they have received through a scholarship. We are changing lives.”

Scholarship Foundation President and CEO Candace Winkler introduced Student Speaker and scholarship recipient Sydney Santana, who is attending California State University-Fullerton.

Santana grew up in Santa Maria and went to Allan Hancock College before she transferred to CSU-Fullerton, where she plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in fine art.

“It has not been an easy road for me since I started to go to college,” she said. “After being accepted, I learned that I had a heart syndrome that required me to have heart surgery to close an open pathway in my heart. Then I learned that I had six blood clots and had another heart surgery.”

Scholarship Foundation board member Kathy O’Leary, left, with scholarship recipient Luis De La Palma Piedras.

Scholarship Foundation board member Kathy O’Leary, left, with scholarship recipient Luis De La Palma Piedras. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

Despite it all, Santana persevered and realized her dream of going to Fullerton, where she was selected as the assistant to the university photographer, which has opened many doors for her.

“I am the first in my family to go to college,” she said. “I am forever grateful for the Scholarship Foundation.”

Retired as Cargill CEO since 2007, Staley described his own journey from high school to a stellar career at Cargill.

“When I was in high school in Springfield, Ill., I never thought I would have enough money to give it away,” he said. “Education was held in high regard by my parents. They told me to get as much education as I could. I earned a degree in electrical engineering at Kansas State University and an M.B.A. at Cornell University. A key figure in my education was my junior high school math teacher, Miss Campbell. She told me I had to work harder. And I did. It was a turning point in my life. My strong work ethic was critical to my career success.”

Another turning point in Staley’s life was after he married his wife, Mary Lynn. They took a two-year assignment by the Ford Foundation in Columbia. Mary Lynn taught elementary school and Warren worked in banking.

“It was our first look at real poverty and the severe impact that the lack of education, food and shelter can have,” Staley said. “Our focus in giving is to education and alleviating poverty. Mary Lynn and I believe that education is the best way to break the cycle of poverty.”

Since 1962, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara has provided more than 44,000 scholarships to Santa Barbara County students totaling $99.3 million. Additionally, the Scholarship Foundation provides financial aid advising services to more than 45,000 students and parents each year. The Scholarship Foundation’s mission is to inspire, encourage and support Santa Barbara County students in their pursuit of higher education through financial aid advising and scholarships. For more information, contact Jennifer St. James, director of marketing, at 805.687.6065 or or click here.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at This article includes reportinf Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Board member Trudi Carey, left, board president and event emcee Barrett O’Gorman, and Perri Harcourt.

Board member Trudi Carey, left, board president and event emcee Barrett O’Gorman, and Perri Harcourt. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)