Six accomplished community members, selected from a list of more than 40, can add being winners of the annual Avenidas Lifetimes of Achievement award to their extensive lists of honors. Each has contributed to the community in a different way, ranging from service in medicine, environmental sustainability and nonprofit work to education and landscape design.
The honorees, all older than 65, were revealed at a private ceremony hosted by the Palo Alto nonprofit, Avenidas, on Thursday. They are Dr. Tom Fiene, Ben and Ruth Hammett, Al Russell, Judith Steiner and Katsy Swan.
Fiene was a partner at Menlo Medical Clinic for 45 years until 2012 and has taught in the Stanford School of Medicine since 1967. He has volunteered as a teacher at the Stanford Pacific Free Clinic in San Jose since 2009 and has served on the Stanford Hospital Biomedical Ethics Committee since 1998.
Fiene has also served on the boards of Channing House, the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra and the Portola Valley Ranch Association. He and his wife live in Portola Valley.
The Hammetts' volunteerism has included youth and environmental causes, including establishment of the Hammett Awards within the Department of Environmental Studies at U.C. Santa Cruz in 2007.
Ben has taught and conducted research at Palo Alto's Western Graduate School of Psychology and Palo Alto's Mental Research Institute, and he served on both boards for a total of 15 years. He was on the National Parks Conservation Association Board and has been on the NPCA Western Region Advisory Council since 2008. He has also volunteered with the Peninsula Conservation Center, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and Palo Alto's Unitarian Universalist Church.
Ruth was active with the League of Women Voters in three different states, served on the board at Adolescent Counseling Services and is now on the advisory board at the Palo Alto History Museum. She was active with the PTA at various Palo Alto schools. The couple lives in Palo Alto.
Russell, an attorney in private practice in Palo Alto, has made large contributions to local education. He launched Foundation for Education in 1987, served on its board and led several advisory and planning committees. After the organization merged with the All Schools Fund to create Partners in Education (PiE), he served four more years on the new board.
Russell has been a board member of the Palo Alto Historical Association, Palo Alto Community Child Care, Youth Community Service and the Palo Alto Christmas Bureau. He was a program leader and fundraiser for Palo Alto's YMCA, coached for the American Youth Soccer Organization for three years, and has been on the board of Palo Alto High School's Gold Star Memorial Scholarship Fund since 1998.
Steiner has made a career in nonprofit management, including leading Hidden Villa from 1994 to 2004. A school teacher, youth employment counselor and language teacher for both the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency, she founded Innovative Housing on the Peninsula, a program providing shared housing to low-income single parent families, in 1985. She has served on many boards, including the Senior Coordinating Council, which later became Avenidas. She was the human-relations chair for the PTA at several Palo Alto schools and has been involved with the League of Women Voters, the UC Master Gardener Program, and Stanford Studies of Homeless Families, Children and Youth. She was named 2002 Woman of the Year for the 11th Senate District and was one of five finalists for the Center for Excellence in Nonprofits' first Excellence in Leadership Award. She lives in a sustainable house in Palo Alto that she and her husband designed.
Katsy Swan designed the gardens at Stanford University Medical Center, the UCSF Cancer Center courtyard garden, the Earth Sciences Courtyard at Stanford and many local private gardens. She was an active parent volunteer and member of the Palo Alto PTA. She became involved with the Garden Club of Palo Alto and, as a volunteer, arranged flowers for local events. While redesigning the gardens at Stanford's Hoover House, Swan earned a degree in landscape architecture from U.C. Berkeley. She has been involved with Gamble Gardens since its beginning, leading tours, giving classes and serving on its advisory board. Swan and her husband, Ben, live in Palo Alto.
"This annual celebration of older adults who make things happen is near and dear to the hearts of many folks in the community," Avenidas CEO/President Lisa Hendrickson stated in a press release.
A garden party in Palo Alto to honor the Lifetimes of Achievement awardees, and raise funds for Avenidas, will be open to the public on Sunday, May 19, from 3-5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $75 by contacting Avenidas at 650-289-5445 or online at www.avenidas.org.