Avenidas honors seven with 'Lifetime of Achievement' awards

May garden party will celebrate winners, raise funds for senior agency

Seven local residents -- three individuals and two couples -- will be honored this spring by the senior services agency Avenidas with "Lifetime of Achievement" awards.

They are Palo Alto residents Bill Busse, Judy Koch, Marty Deggeller and Dick and Jerry Smallwood, and Los Altos residents Jim and Emy Thurber.

A garden party honoring the seven -- and serving as Avenidas's major annual fundraiser -- will be held Sunday, May 15, 3-5 p.m. in a Palo Alto backyard.

"A common thread among this year's honorees is that they are all hard working, humble people who have simply done the right thing because it was the right thing to do," said Avenidas President and CEO Amy Andonian. "Avenidas is delighted that we have the opportunity to bring these distinguished individuals together so that they can share in the spotlight for all that they have accomplished."

Busse, an architect, completed several large buildings at Stanford University as well as the Palo Alto Baylands Interpretive Center and the Downtown Library. His community interests have included international exchange and development, human relations, peace and arms control, Stanford Basketball, the Palo Alto Rotary Club and the natural world.

Koch began her career as an English teacher but later joined her husband in purchasing and operating a small machine shop in Sunnyvale. The business thrived and Koch began a small library on site to encourage employees, many of whom were Spanish-speaking, to read to their children. The venture developed into the nonprofit Bring Me a Book Foundation, which has helped 450,000 children and parents in underserved communities since 1998.

Deggeller made the decision to commit his time and engineering skills to the nonprofit sector following his 1996 retirement from a career in engineering management. The results can be seen all over Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. Through the Kiwanis Club and the tree preservation group Canopy, Deggeller assembled, repaired, painted, planted, maintained and oversaw many improvements, including more than two miles of irrigation lines and more than 1,000 trees.

Jim and Emy Thurber have made their marks both locally and in Washington D.C, where Jim worked for the U.S. Information Agency and Emy worked in the Washington office of former U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston. Both Thurbers have served on the Santa Clara County Democratic Committee and the California State Central Committee. Jim has been mayor of Los Altos and president of the Los Altos History Museum and has also been involved with the Association of Bay Area Governments and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Emy has been a director of the Mid-Peninsula YWCA, board president of the Sempervirens Fund and chair of the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women.

Dick and Jerry Smallwood were already active in the community and raising a family when they launched Pursuit of Excellence, a college scholarship program, in 1984. Dick, who had attended MIT on a scholarship, wanted to help make that opportunity available for others in need. The two started small, with just one student the first year. But pooling their own funds with those of others over the years, Pursuit of Excellence has helped 261 students. The group seeks out students with challenging backgrounds for whom additional funds -- between $500 and $5,000 the first year -- can be the tipping point in allowing them to attend a four-year college.

The May 15 garden party honoring all seven of this year's Lifetime of Achievement honorees is open to the public. The $75-per-person ticket proceeds will go toward supporting Avenidas's "programs for positive aging," according to the organization.

Contributing Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at

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1 person likes this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 7, 2016 at 7:12 pm

How absolutely wonderful. I totally agree with the description of the people who are honored. We feel blessed to call Bill Busse our very dear friend.

Congratulations to all. Well deserved.

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