The two women selected as Palo Alto's most influential leaders by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce have dedicated countless hours to helping children and families with serious medical conditions and to diversifying the city's housing stock.
Sherri Sager, chief government and community relations officer at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, and Elaine Uang, an architect and co-founder of the grassroots housing and transportation group Palo Alto Forward, will be feted at the 2018 Athena Awards on Oct. 30, hosted by the Garden Court Hotel in downtown Palo Alto.
The Athena Awards are given to women and men who strive toward the highest level of accomplishment and who excel in their chosen field and, through their accomplishments, open paths so others may follow, according to the Chamber of Commerce.
"Among all the outstanding women in business in the Palo Alto area, these two women are being especially recognized as role models for other professionals for the generosity and impact of their community service," Judy Kleinberg, president and CEO, said.
Sager is receiving the Athena Leadership Award and Uang Athena Emerging Professional Leadership Award.
As Lucile Packard Children's Hospital's chief government and community-relations officer for more than 24 years, Sager has traveled to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to advocate for the work done at Packard hospital and for patient health, including asking Congress to pass legislation to aid children with medically complex conditions. She's helped shape policy locally as a board member of the Joint Venture Silicon Valley. And at Packard, she has developed community-education programs.
"I am very mission focused and want to leave the world a better place than when I entered it. I think of myself as a pragmatic idealist," she stated in an email.
Sager was raised in San Jose, earned a degree in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's degree in public administration from San Jose State University.
She worked for presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey at the 1972 Democratic Convention, where she learned "that if you want to change the world, you have to change it from the inside," she stated in her Joint Venture biography.
She is a current and former director of numerous nonprofit organizations, including the board chair of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, co-vice chairperson of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce and board liaison for the Ravenswood Family Health Center.
It's hard to list just one most gratifying aspect of her work, she said.
"The work that I do in government and community relations can make a difference for our patients to be able to get to the right provider at the right time and in the right place. I can cut through red tape for them," she said.
"The advice I would give to folks is ... know that everyone can make a difference. One rock can create ripples that can create other ripples. And never give up. Sometimes you have to break things down to small bites and for every two steps forward there may be a step backwards, but don't give up. Lasting change is worth taking the time and patience so don't get discouraged," she wrote.
Uang, an architect and founder/owner of Architarian Design, said her work in grassroots organizing through Palo Alto Forward hasn't necessarily been easy.
"The most satisfying thing about my civic contributions is helping to create safe spaces for people to talk about important issues. When I started housing advocacy in 2013, Palo Alto was full of voices opposing Maybell and 'dense,' low-income senior housing," she stated in an email.
"Housing was not something you could publicly support without being vilified by the most vocal anti-housing voices," she said.
This year, her two greatest achievements were garnering support for the city's affordable-housing overlay and helping Pastor Rick Mixon and his community partners obtain the city's permission to use First Baptist Church as a community center, she said.
"The affordable-housing overlay reaffirms support for housing policy and new laws/standards that help make future affordable housing projects more feasible in Palo Alto. We haven't seen any 100 percent below-market-rate housing approved or built in nine years," she said.
Building community is important to Uang, which is why she worked with others to help First Baptist Church create a space for people to come together in shared activities, she said.
In 2017, she championed reforms to the city's accessory-dwelling-unit ordinance and parking programs, both of which the Palo Alto City Council passed.
Uang earned a bachelor of arts degree in human biology from Stanford University and a master's degree in architecture from the University of Virginia. She is a 2015-2016 Leadership Palo Alto fellow.
The Athena Emerging Professional Leadership Award recognizes a woman who "is newer to the professional world and who already demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in her business or profession and the community," according to the Chamber.
The Athena Awards will begin with a networking reception from 11 a.m. to noon, followed by the awards luncheon. Sponsorships are available by calling 650-324-3121 or [email protected] Individual tickets and table sales are currently available at paloaltochamber.com/athena-awards.