Star-News, Rose magazine honor 7 ‘Women of Distinction’

Jewels of Pasadena: Get to know the Honorees

Pasadena Star-News and Pasadena’s Rose Magazine hosts the 3rd Annual Jewels of Pasadena Women of Distinction Gala, April 19, 2012. YWCA Pasadena is the 2012 Non-Profit Organization of the Year


Public ServiceEducationCommunity Service

By Catherine Gaugh, SGVN
The Pasadena Star News/Pasadena’s Rose Magazine 2012 Woman of the Year is
devoted to teaching children to help others.

“We want our students to learn to serve because that’s what makes a
 community run,” said Jennifer Ramirez, the principal of St. Philip
the Apostle School and the winner of the Woman of the Year award.
“That’s what all communities need in order to function.”
Ramirez was one of 12 finalists nominated for their contributions
 to the community in several categories. There were six category winners,
 and a separate Woman of the Year award.
The ceremonies were held Thursday night at the Hilton Pasadena. About
250 people attended to support the work of the nominees.
Ramirez was nominated by several school parents, who said she puts in
 very long hours but is always patient and caring. The school principal
 also makes sure all the 532 kindergarten through eighth-grade students
 are exposed to sports, drama, chess and speech and debate.
Outside providers come in to teach things such as ballet and martial arts.
There is a tuition-assistance program as well as an emphasis on helping
others: Students help support a food bank, serve meals to senior citizens
 and make treks to Union Station to deliver food to the homeless.
“It’s our mission to teach them to do what Jesus would want them to do,
 which is to help other people,” she said.
Alice Coulombe, a founding member of Los Angeles Opera and a champion
of a myriad of music programs including the Colburn School, won the arts
 and culture category.
Gale Kohl of Gale’s Restaurant was named winner in the business category
 for contributions to a number of charities, including work on behalf of
Ability First to run the gourmet fall festival fundraiser.
Jo Stoup, who has taught music at John Muir High School and Pasadena City
College and who currently is music director for the Pasadena Young
Musicians Orchestra, was named the winner in the education category.

Cynthia J. Kurtz, president and CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic
Partnership and a former Pasadena city manager, was named the winner in
the public service category.

There were two Community Service winners.
Ann Slavik Hall was given the award for Community Service/Lifetime for
 her work with Huntington Hospital and the Huntington Medical Research Institute.
Rebecca Huang, 18, was given the Community Service/Youth award for her work to
raise money for the Bad Weather Shelter for the homeless in Pasadena.
The other finalists were Beverly Marksbury, president of the Pasadena
Showcase House for the Arts and Cynthia Young, artistic director of
Pasadena Dance Theatre (Arts & Culture); Jaylene Moseley of J.L. Moseley Co.
and Terry Clougherty of Carmody & Co. (Business); Grace R. Chan, chief
engineer and general manager of the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts,
 and state Sen. Carol Liu (Public Service).
The YWCA Pasadena-Foothill Valley, as the 2012 Pasadena Star-News Nonprofit
 Organization of the Year, was presented with a $2,500 donation.
The evening included a performance by 15-year-old violinist Simone Porter
from the Colburn School, who made her professional solo debut with the
Seattle Symphony at age 10.

Women of Distinction: Cynthia J. Kurtz

Cynthia J. Kurtz


Cynthia J. Kurtz has been the president and CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership since January 2009.

The Partnership was founded in 1990 to develop and implement programs to expand the economic base of the communities in the area.

Previously, Kurtz served as Pasadena’s city manager for nearly 10 years. As such, Kurtz managed 11 departments, 2,300
employees and an operating budget of $580 million.

She also served as Pasadena’s capital projects administrator and the director of public works.

Before taking the job with the SGVEP, Kurtz was the interim city manager for the city of Covina.

Kurtz also serves on the Finance Committee of the Pasadena Foothills YWCA and on the board of trustees for the Pacific Asia Museum. She lives in Pasadena with her husband Jim McDermott.

Women of Distinction: Grace R. Chan

Grace R. Chan


Grace R. Chan has been a fixture at the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles for nearly three decades.

As the chief engineer and general manager, she is responsible for all the day-to-day activities and operations of the district’s programs and departments, including engineering design and construction management, financial management and accounting.

The 53-year-old Glendora resident became assistant chief engineer and assistant general manager in 2008.

She also served as the assistant department head and the head of the Solid Waste Management Department.

Chan, who has a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, has two children and two grandchildren. She was first hired at the Sanitation Districts in 1983.

“In my 28 years at the Sanitation Districts, I have always felt proud and fortunate to work for an agency that has a long history of innovative yet cost-effective public service,” she said.

Women of Distinction: Carol Liu

Carol Liu


State Senator Carol Liu, D-Glendale, is running for the newly formed 25th State Senate District in November. A win would make it her fifth term in state office.

The 70-year-old La Cañada Flintridge resident is currently state senator in the 21st District, which includes Altadena, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Temple City, La Cañada Flintridge and parts of Los Angeles.

After a stint as a La Cañada Flintridge City Councilwoman for eight years, Liu also served three terms as a state assemblywoman.

Liu, who has three children with husband California Public Utilities Commission President Mike Peevey, attended the UC  Berkeley School of Education.

She chairs the state Senate’s Human Services Committee and was recently named Easter Seals Disability Services Legislator of the Year.

Women of Distinction: Ann Slavik Hall

Ann Slavik Hall


Ann Slavik Hall has had such a positive experience over the years with Huntington Hospital as a patient, it is only natural that she support the hospital as much as she can. Hall and her husband Jack Hall are key players in the expansion of the hospital’s Emergency and Trauma Center.

Slavik Hall also knows the importance of medical research from her experience with her father’s struggles with Lou Gehrig’s disease, so she has also been a great supporter of the Huntington Medical Research Institutes, including the HMRI Summer Student Research Program, which helps hundreds of young people in their journeys to successful careers in the medical field.

Slavik Hall’s dedication to health and well-being does not only extend to her fellow man, but also our furry friends with her contributions to the Pasadena Humane Society, the Los Angeles County SPCA and the Companion Animal Program. Her love of animals led her to create the St. Louis-based Donald Slavik Family Foundation, in honor of her late first husband, to support organizations dedicated to preserving marine mammals.

She has contributed in many ways to other community groups as well, including the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena and Five Acres.

– Claudia S. Palma

Women of Distinction: Beverly Marksbury

Beverly Marksbury (Photo by Walt Mancini)


Beverly Marksbury loved touring the Pasadena Showcase House of Design each year, and decided it would be fun to get a look at it behind the scenes.

So in 1993, she joined the Pasadena Junior Philharmonic Committee — that was the name of the group at the time — and took dozens of challenging volunteer assignments that come with presenting the designer showcase houses for the next 19 years. In that time, she wrote a handbook for docents, invited other nonprofits to help staff the 62 docent shifts during the run of the house tour; and one year was even in charge of the portable toilets.

“I learned so much,” she said. “Where else could I have been in charge of porta-potties?”

This year, Marksbury is serving as president of the group, now called the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts. She recently retired from her job as a court administrator in Los Angeles County and is using the time to enjoy some of the music her group has helped to support all these years.

The Showcase group has donated $18 million to music programs to date; The year Marksbury was in charge of the house (2010), the group donated an all-time high of $750,000.

“We’re all hard-working,” Marsbury said of the Showcase volunteers.  “We’re not ladies who do tea.

“But the best part is that it’s a lot fun.”

– Catherine Gaugh

Women of Distinction: Terry Clougherty

Terry Clougherty (Photo by Walt Mancini)


Terry Clougherty of Pasadena fits many descriptions: the Volunteer Mom. The president of Pasadena’s Junior League, an organization of women dedicated to promoting volunteerism and community improvement. A board member for Ascending Lights, a group devoted to teaching leadership skills to inner-city kids, to aid in breaking the cycle of poverty and violence in their neighborhoods. She is also on the board of trustees at Woodbury University, where a benefit was held in her honor.

Clougherty is also the founder and owner of Carmody & Co., a five-year-old business that sells greeting cards, fine stationery and custom invitations among gift items and children’s books.

Her special interest in opening the shop was to support the printing needs of nonprofit entities.  After years of volunteer work, she knew that the cost of invitations and other printing for charities had become prohibitive. Clougherty gives nonprofits discounts and special graphic design and printing services on her finest stationery. With her help, charities can afford to look good.

– Hillary Smith

Women of Distinction: Gale Kohl

Gale Kohl (Photo by Walt Mancini)


There is a real Gale behind Gale’s Restaurant in Pasadena. It is owner Gale Kohl of Pasadena, who, through her business, is strongly dedicated to helping charities of all types.

Kohl has held fundraisers at her restaurant to raise money for various agencies, including Armory Center for the Arts, a group that strives to transform lives and communities through art; AbilityFirst, which offers programs to help children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities realize their full potential; the Pasadena Humane Society, a shelter and adopting agency for animals; the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, home to plant collections from all over the world; Planned Parenthood; and Huntington Hospital.

Kohl is on the AbilityFirst Festival of Fall steering committee, where she initiated contacts with sponsors and was able to present the 31st Annual AbilityFirst Gourmet Festival of Fall at the historic Laurabelle A. Robinson house in Pasadena. Kohl’s connections and her motivation to help brought donations and new sponsors to the event, which raised more than $140,000 for AbilityFirst.

The website for the restaurant,, displays an extensive list of charities to which the restaurant has donated over the years and explains that each month, Kohl and her crew review requests for help from other worthy causes.

–Hillary Smith

Women of Distinction: Rebecca Huang

Rebecca Huang (Photo by Walt Mancini)


Rebecca Huang of San Gabriel is a typical busy high school senior, except that along with the hours she spends on school work, Huang also volunteers extensively for her community. Her current effort is aimed at raising money for the Bad Weather Shelter, which since 1986 has provided homeless people in Pasadena a meal and a warm place to sleep in harsh weather.

Huang said her dad, who works for the City of Pasadena, told her about the shelter.

“I had never known that such a program for the homeless existed, but thought it sounded like an excellent and essential one,” she said. “But my dad also informed me that due to budget cuts, the city was not going to be able to fund the shelter after this year.”

Other funding had decreased as well, threatening the very existence of the program.

So Huang, 18, helped launch The Friends of the Bad Weather Shelter last November.  It is an effort to get 100 Pasadena businesses to each donate $600 a year to help keep the program going. She has put in countless hours soliciting businesses and the public for donations. She has made posters explaining how people can help,  posting them in 20 different bus shelter stations. She worked with local newspapers to publicize the campaign and also worked with the designer of the Ecumenical Council of Pasadena Area Churches website (  to accept online credit card donations.

Huang and the group have raised $18,000 so far.

While most high school seniors are stressed out by college applications, Huang worries about the people in her community who aren’t as privileged as she is. She saw a way she could help, and never looked back.

–Hillary Smith

Women of Distinction: Cynthia Young

Cynthia Young, artistic director of Pasadena Dance Theatre (Photo by Walt Mancini)

Arts and Culture

Cynthia Young is the artistic director of Pasadena Dance Theatre. The nonprofit school and company operates with a small staff on a tight budget. But Young also works full-time as the associate dean of California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, so she can afford to share her free time — as well as her knowledge and talent — with PDT.

“Dance is one of the most understated opportunities for people,” Young said. “As a fine art, it goes to a deeper point. There’s a real pathos that is communicated through a storyline or just through movement itself.”

Young adds that dance is a form of communication that can teach different techniques of interaction, from sharing an idea to working with others. She points out that the so-called social media is actually a solitary pursuit, whereas dance, whether as participant or observer, is truly social.

PDT is open to anyone who wants to dance and provides scholarships for needy students. It offers classical training, as well as contemporary jazz, African dance and other genres.

Along with classes and performances, PDT produces a “Nutcracker” outreach program at the Pasadena Playhouse, attended by 5,000 children a year. The kids see a ballet performance, take a backstage tour and listen to a talk about the performance process.

Young has been dancing since age 8. For her, dance “is not a choice, it’s just looking for the next opportunity to be able to share that passion and that love and that drive with other people.”

PDT has been collaborating with the Island MovingCompany in Rhode Island and performed there with them last year at a festival. This month (April), the company will visit Pasadena to perform.

This summer, PDT will offer an opportunity for students to experience a wide range of dance disciplines with the Advanced Intensive for ages 14-18 in June and Regular Intensive for ages 8-18 in July.

– Michelle J. Mills