Creating positive change doesn’t happen overnight. Just ask the seven Palo Alto residents who have been selected as recipients of this year’s Avenidas Lifetimes of Achievement awards for pouring their time and energy into projects designed to better the community.
Together, Ruth and George Chippendale, Dexter Dawes, Marion Mandell, Judy Sleeth and Carol and Terry Winograd have dedicated the equivalent of 312 years of public service to advocating for art in the classroom, providing nonprofits with financial expertise, caring for 20 foster children, supporting Palo Alto’s Sister City Organization, bringing Jewish and Muslim communities together and more. Their persistence and unwavering desire to change the status quo has made an impact not only here but across the globe.
The following stories shine a spotlight on how these individuals with ordinary beginnings went on to lead extraordinary lives.
Ruth and George Chippendale
Faith fuels activism
Recently married and pondering job prospects across the country, George and Ruth Chippendale took a driving trip in 1957, stopping for interviews in Wichita, Denver, San Diego and Los Angeles before landing in Palo Alto, where they decided to plant their roots in the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood.
Palo Alto was like nothing the East Coast-bred pair had ever seen before, said George, who settled on an engineering job at Lockheed Missiles and Space.
“It just seemed different out here,” George recalled. “What I noticed was the farmland. In fact, right across the freeway -- and it wasn’t a freeway then, it was just Bayshore Highway -- and over in Mountain View were extensive farms.”
There was space to roam, and a nice family house could be had for $21,500, Ruth added.
“Oh, it was wonderful,” she said.
George, who during his college years in Boston had learned to fly and bought his own small plane, flew it out to California.
“He put it in the garage to work on it and everybody was kind of flabbergasted when he’d open the garage door and there was an airplane,” Ruth recalled. “Every time I wanted to get into the washing machine I had to duck under the propeller.”
By 1962, the Chippendales had three children, and Ruth had left her teaching career to raise them. It was also during this time that the couple became involved in the Christian Family Movement, which launched them into a lifelong commitment to social activism and giving back to the community that had impressed them so much that first day they arrived.
For nearly six decades, the couple has spent countless hours providing aid to parents of emotionally and mentally disabled children; offering emergency assistance through the St. Vincent de Paul Society; feeding the homeless; distributing food; working for peace and justice; taking in 20 foster children and adopting a developmentally delayed son (who died at the age of 21); collecting and distributing toys and clothing; and preparing layettes for needy new mothers.
In 2004, the Vatican awarded the couple the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for their years of service. The following year, the couple received a prestigious Jefferson Award from the American Institute for Public Service. This month, the duo is receiving the Avenidas Lifetimes of Achievement Award for their service to Palo Alto.
Joining the Christian Family Movement was “a dramatic change in my life,” said George, who proudly called himself a “Boston Irish Catholic Democrat” but, until marrying Ruth, had considered weekly Mass mainly a place to snooze or daydream.
Ruth had come from a deeply religious family, with a sister who became a nun and a brother who became a priest.
“The church was nothing to me until I met this woman,” he said, explaining that she had shown him the English translations of the Latin prayer books that made the service more meaningful.
Through the Christian group’s Migrant Mission Program, George found himself teaching catechism to farm workers in Cupertino. He flew priests to Mexico and Central America for the Latin American Mission Program, and “that was a step up in motivation,” he said.
By the late ‘60s, George was piloting health care teams and patients back and forth to Central America to perform reconstructive surgeries on children with cleft palates through the Stanford University-based group Interplast (now Resurge International).
Interplast founder Dr. Donald Laub of Stanford “had a recognition that really motivated people,” George said. “He wanted to teach, particularly young doctors, that you could get a peak experience when you have a team of like-minded people -- nurses, doctors, translators -- doing good work in places that needed their work. That in itself was a peak experience.”
Ruth meanwhile began taking in babies through a foster program with Santa Clara County. Between 1966 and 1976 the family took in 20 babies, the last one of which they adopted and raised as their own.
“That was in the days when they didn’t have enough adoptive parents,” Ruth said. Most of the babies were newborns, coming straight from the hospital. The Chippendales kept a carriage, which they would wheel from room to room, and Ruth grew deeply attached to the babies.
“We had Susan, the first one, and I told them, ‘Don’t take Susan ‘til you have another one to put in the infant seat’ because I knew it was going to be so hard to let her go. They took Susan and put Eddie in.”
These days, George has long since stopped flying his plane -- he no longer even drives -- but uses the telephone to continue his decades-long activism in East Palo Alto with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, coordinating emergency help to families and individuals in need with food, rent, utilities, clothing and medical prescriptions.
Until recently, George and Ruth helped prepare a meal every Monday at St. Francis of Assisi church in East Palo Alto for anybody who wanted to come in and eat. George also has helped recruit and secure scholarships for children to attend St. Elizabeth Seton School and Hidden Villa summer camp in Los Altos Hills.
Ruth, a regular at the 7:15 a.m. daily Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas, continues her 30-year involvement with Palo Alto’s Downtown Food Closet, as well as with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Hotel de Zink, in which churches take turns providing hot meals and beds for the homeless.
She’s also become a Raging Granny, joining fellow grandmothers who dress up in hats and go into the streets to promote peace, justice and equality.
“I’d gone to so many rallies and so many demonstrations -- anti-war, pro-environment -- and I thought, ‘As long as I’m going to go to these rallies and demonstrations, I might as well have some fun with it,” she said.
Both Chippendales say the tightening housing market in East Palo Alto is making it harder than ever for low-income people trying to survive.
“Now, with the impact of people coming into East Palo Alto with places like Facebook and Google, no longer do you have that market technique of renting a room from the bulletin board at the laundromat,” George said. “Instead you go onto Craigslist and the room that used to be $600 is now $1,200.
“It’s the facts of life here -- it’s just so hard. East Palo Alto particularly has been a low-income haven ... and that’s now changing. It’s so difficult right now in seeing how people are going to survive.”
Contributing Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeping nonprofits financially sound
Palo Alto resident Dexter Dawes tried retirement in 1996 -- but it didn’t last long. A few months after retiring, the former investment banker and his wife were welcomed home from their trip to India with a surprise voicemail asking Dawes to jump back into the business world. His youngest son’s friend wanted to start a software company, and he needed someone with proven financial expertise to guide him. Dawes, 60, was ready to take on this new challenging role. That was 20 years ago, and the Palo Alto resident still hasn’t quite retired.
Now in his 80s, Dawes has spent the bulk of his “retirement” years volunteering on numerous boards, commissions and oversight committees to provide financial guidance to local nonprofits. He has served on 17 different boards for corporations as well as organizations benefiting everyone from seniors and children to students and Palo Alto families, including the Palo Alto-Los Altos American Youth Soccer Organization, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale, the Palo Alto High School Sports Boosters and the Bond Oversight Committee and the Audit and Finance Committee for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.
This month, Dawes is receiving the Avenidas Lifetime of Achievement Award for his service.
Dawes said sitting around watching TV after leaving the corporate world was never an attractive option, so he decided to put his experience to use.
“I think my role is addressing problems,” said Dawes, whose behind-the-scenes input has helped keep numerous organizations financially sound, even during tough times.
Dawes, who served as chairman and vice chairman on Palo Alto’s Utilities Advisory Commission, developed a 10-year efficiency plan that enabled the city to weather the energy crisis of 2001 as well as volatile changes in the gas market, including the bankruptcy of energy supplier Enron Company.
The commission’s decision to reduce its power contract with Enron ultimately saved the city tens of millions of dollars, Dawes said.
As treasurer, chairman and board member of Palo Alto’s Channing House, he helped develop financial guidelines for the retirement community’s development and led what he described as “a battle” to settle more than 10 lawsuits over a construction project that was two years late and whose budget was significantly overrun. When the construction company sued for excess costs, Dawes was ready to shepherd a resolution. The case went into mediation.
After “driving hard with a mediator, who put a lot of pressure on the contractors,” Channing House settled on a favorable basis, he said. The settlement was finally agreed upon on Dawes’ last day as a board member in February 2016.
“All things considered, the fight was worth it for the community,” Dawes said.
Dawes attributes his success in the nonprofit sector to skills -- such as negotiating and good judgment -- he acquired during a long and storied career he launched at Ford Aerospace shortly after earning an MBA. By 1973, he had started his own firm that specialized in raising capital, mergers and Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). During the 1980s, he took over the management of an investment fund and switched from raising capital to investing in private companies.
Looking back on the past 20 years, Dawes said nonprofit work can be just as challenging -- and rewarding -- as a paid job.
“Palo Alto is an amazing community with intelligent, active and well-heeled people. With these blessings come a fountainhead of ideas and approaches,” he said. “The long and short of it ... (is) it can be a stifling process in which it takes years to get a decision made and implemented.
“I don’t know how to solve it except through exceptional leadership.”
Editorial Intern Sophie Pollock can be reached at email@example.com.
Inspiring generations of Girl Scouts
It was during the 1940s at the height of World War II when 10-year-old Marion Mandell decided to join the war effort. She worked tirelessly to knit socks and mittens for overseas troops and to roll and sterilize bandages in the oven as part of a Girl Scout project for her troop in New Jersey.
The war eventually ended, but Mandell’s commitment to community service and the Girl Scouts of the USA never waned. Mandell, now 87, has spent the better part of eight decades inspiring generations of Girl Scouts and strengthening community programs that help those in need.
“Working with people is so terrific and rewarding,” said Mandell, who has an uncanny way of using skills she’s learned -- whether it be folk dancing or Spanish -- to help others.
This month, Mandell is receiving the Avenidas Lifetimes Achievement Award for her ongoing service to local Girl Scouts as well as her role in Palo Alto’s Sister City Organization, which she has supported for half a century.
Mandell, who started with the Girl Scouts as a Brownie in 1939 when cookies cost only 25 cents a box, credits her first troop leader for her lifelong commitment to volunteer work. Mandell said her leader was “a wonderful woman,” so she stuck with the organization and realized that maybe she, too, could have that impact on others.
She continued in the service organization as an assistant leader and in college became a summer camp counselor in upstate New York.
“I thoroughly enjoyed those summers,”said Mandell, who still calls herself a Girl Scout.
In 1958 -- the same year she, her husband and two young children “caught a 14-hour flight on a propeller plane” (before the use of modern passenger jets) to move 3,000 miles from New York to their new home in Palo Alto -- she became involved in the local Girl Scouts.
She went on to serve as a Girl Scout camp counselor, troop leader, camp director, trainer and organizer. She has directed three Camporees -- an outdoor skills competition with about 300 participants -- annually for 37 years for the Girl Scouts of Palo Alto and Santa Clara County. To this day, she is still involved in the event, which she calls her favorite Scouting activity.
Mandell said she believes the Girl Scouts’ enduring appeal is in large part due to the organization’s flexibility and willingness to remain relevant with the times.
“The Girl Scouts have (always) been in the forefront of modern events,” she told the Weekly when the Palo Alto Girl Scouts were celebrating their 90th anniversary in 2012.
The local Scouts can get badges in areas related to aerospace and architecture and even media savvy. In conjunction with NASA, they formed the first all-girls local robotics team, which now encompasses the entire Bay Area.
Mandell also has had a significant impact on Palo Alto’s Sister City program, serving as the primary organizer of the Neighbors Abroad cultural-exchange program between Palo Alto and Oaxaca, Mexico, each summer for more than 50 years.
Mandell said her interest in Neighbors Abroad began when her children began taking Spanish in school. Mandell said it seemed very possible that her family would be hosting an exchange student from Mexico, so she enrolled in every Spanish course that Foothill College had to offer and became fluent.
This prompted her to do more with her newly learned skill. She joined the board of directors for Neighbors Abroad in Palo Alto in 1963 and shortly after became the group’s vice president for Palo Alto’s sister city, Oaxaca.
City Council members have described Mandell as a “key champion” for the program, fostering cultural connections between the two communities that have led to the construction of a children’s library, a planetarium and the Albergue Infantil Josefino orphanage, which cares for 55 children. The group also funded a health care initiative that has helped rural villages grow nutritious food and learn about basic medical care.
Mandell also has worked with the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs to provide Oaxaca with eight badly needed emergency vehicles donated from Palo Alto. Oaxaca has named an ambulance after Mandell.
“It’s the people. The whole idea of ‘people to people’ is one of the main, strong things that has come from this relationship,” she said. “If you get to know people, you find out they are just like you are.”
Editorial Intern Sarah Mason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making art come alive for students
When Judy Sleeth was in high school, an art museum visit with a friend gave her a surprising lesson in what was missing from her own education. The friend, a Swiss foreign-exchange student, knew how to interpret the paintings. Art appreciation was a routine part of the curriculum at her school in Switzerland.
“I felt, really, as though I had been robbed of something special,” Sleeth recalled, “because we didn’t get that at all in public school in California then, or now. At that time, I understood that I wanted to do something to make art come to life for other people, specifically children.”
She has made good on that aspiration: As a teacher, a docent and the founder of the nonprofit Art in Action, Sleeth has inspired a love of art in thousands of Peninsula students, for which she is receiving the Avenidas Lifetimes of Achievement Award this month.
“I think the world opens to you with art,” she said. “It’s a whole visual language that, increasingly, is how we communicate: with images and photography.”
Sleeth, who grew up in Pasadena, studied history and art history in college and earned a master’s degree in education. She taught English, history and art history at Castilleja School in Palo Alto.
Art in Action began in 1982, when Sleeth volunteered in her eldest daughter’s kindergarten classroom. Budget cuts had ended arts education, so the teacher asked Sleeth to give art lessons.
Large-scale art prints left over from a Junior League of Palo Alto program became the basis of her first lessons.
“Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, for example -- we would talk about how the colors make you feel, how the flowers show movement,” Sleeth said. “And even kindergartners absolutely understand that. They can see art differently when they realize the power of an image.”
Soon, friends began asking her to show them how to teach art. Sleeth designed curriculum for volunteers who don’t have a background in art -- mostly parents and some teachers. As the program grew, a friend, Betsy Halaby, helped train volunteers and develop lessons.
Volunteer teachers keep Arts in Action affordable for schools, but as with many arts programs, funding is always the biggest challenge, and raising funds is a necessity.
For a time, finding a consistent source of large prints proved frustrating, but the internet made it easier. It has also allowed Art in Action to offer its volunteer training online and reach more schools.
Art in Action now serves 74,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade nationwide. In addition to offering lessons in art appreciation, the organization equips volunteers with “art kits” stocked with art supplies so that students can create their own art.
Sleeth often hears from teachers that days with Art in Action visits have almost perfect class attendance.
From the founding of Art in Action until her retirement as executive director in 2013, Sleeth never collected a salary. She is still active with the program, spearheading a scholarship fund that allows more schools to participate.
Last year, she received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Obama Administration. The award recognizes extraordinary volunteer service.
For many years, Sleeth has also volunteered as a docent with Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center, developing tours for school children. When Art in Action students come to the Cantor, Sleeth enjoys the chance to see their newfound appreciation of art.
“Even the 5- and 6-year-olds understand basic concepts of art,” Sleeth said. “They say things like ‘I can’t believe we’re looking at the real thing an artist painted a thousand years ago.’ To have them understand that is one of the most special things about art. Because art is the footprint of mankind.”
Freelance writer Heather Zimmerman can be reached at HZimmerman408@gmail.com.
Carol and Terry Winograd
A shared passion for peace, activism and human rights
Young couples aiming to manage two demanding careers and an engaging family and community life might look to Carol and Terry Winograd for inspiration.
Terry, a star in the field of artificial intelligence who left the industry in 1980 to create Stanford University’s Human-Computer Interaction Group, has mentored scores of technology entrepreneurs, including some of Silicon Valley’s most famous names.
Carol, a physician and professor of medicine and human biology at Stanford, directed the university’s Geriatric Research and Education Center until she was sidelined by illness and retired on disability in 1995. She later returned and, for another 12 years, taught a sophomore seminar in “Woman and Aging,” incorporating biology, psychology, sociology and even poetry.
Together the couple has raised two daughters and maintained a commitment to the progressive ideals and 1960s activism of their youth. The 10-year-old hybrid SUV parked in their driveway displays a riot of bumper stickers including one of their favorites: “Mensches in the Trenches.”
This month, the Winograds are receiving the Avenidas Lifetime of Achievement Award for their efforts to eliminate poverty and promote peace. Carol has served on numerous boards including J Street, the Advisory Board of the Jewish Chaplaincy at Stanford Medical Center, Abraham’s Vision, New Israel Fund and the Women Donors Network’s Middle East Peace Circle. She is also a longtime member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and she brought the Jewish and Muslim communities in Palo Alto and the south bay together as co-founder of JAMAA, Jewish and Muslim American Association.
Terry founded Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and the Liberation Technology Project. He is an active member of Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice organization. Together, they participate in Sunday Friends, a nonprofit organization that empowers families to break the generational cycle of poverty; Kol Emeth and Beth David synagogues; and the Palestinian Jewish Dialogue Group. They have also traveled to Kenya with Stanford students to help local people apply technology to solve problems of daily living.
When the couple first met in early 1968 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Terry was a graduate student at MIT, and Carol was working as a research assistant at Massachusetts General Hospital and preparing to complete her pre-med coursework. (She’d been a French major in college.)
As Carol tells it, “Our first date was to the AI lab to visit the robots; our second date was to the lab at Mass General to clean out the bunny cages; and our third date was to the beach.”
The next two dates kicked off the couple’s long history of shared activism: They traveled to New Hampshire to work on the anti-Vietnam War Democratic presidential primary campaign of U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy.
Both had inherited a sense of liberal activism and civic engagement from their parents -- Terry’s in Greeley, Colorado, where his businessman father had served on the school board and Carol’s in Woodbridge, New Jersey, where her mother, a “consummate volunteer,” had established community mental health programs and a Reach to Recovery breast-cancer support program.
Terry has a childhood memory of going out with a wagon to campaign for Adlai Stevenson for president, “which, in Greeley, Colorado, was pretty ‘out there,’” he said.
Carol recalls holding tin cans with her brother in front of a Howard Johnson’s restaurant to collect donations for a cause she cannot remember.
“But I do remember my mother saying, ‘It’s the poor people who give more money than the rich people,’” she said.
Within months of their first date, Carol and Terry were living together and by the end of that same summer, they had married.
“We look back and say, ‘What were we thinking?’ How would you get involved so quickly and not take your time, but we just did it,” Terry said.
Carol added, “We’re lucky; we’re very compatible.”
The Winograds moved from the East Coast to San Francisco in the early 1970s for Carol’s medical residency at the University of California, San Francisco.
“It was called ‘family medicine’ but the focus was on urban health care, health care for the poor,” Carol said. “Even back then it was clear to me that much of health was very much affected by your socioeconomic status and the community and resources around you.”
She was particularly drawn to what she calls “medicine in the streets” or “political medicine,” having already worked in women’s health clinics, Black Panther clinics and as a medic for anti-Vietnam War demonstrations.
Terry took what he thought was a one-year fill-in position at Stanford for an artificial intelligence scholar who’d gone on sabbatical. But the other professor never came back, and Terry assumed the post permanently.
In 1983 Carol took a job at Stanford and the couple moved with their 3-month-old to the Eichler on campus they still call home. Aspiring to share the chores of child rearing, Terry said, “Of course you can’t do everything (equally) because she was nursing. But I did the diapers. ... It gave me a chance to physically connect with the baby. And after a few weeks, we had child care, so it wasn’t just the two of us.”
In those years of teaching, research and consulting at what was then Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Terry came to a conclusion that led him to switch his research and teaching focus: the belief that artificial intelligence would never properly capture the scope of human cognition and that the more compelling pursuit was the use of computers to enhance -- not replace -- human intelligence.
In the early years, Terry’s program in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) was viewed as a “stepchild,” Carol said, but others eventually came around. Besides the now 26-year-old HCI group, Terry’s collaborations led to a new undergraduate major in “symbolic systems,” combining engineering, humanities and social sciences, and he became a founding faculty member at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the “d school.”
Among the future entrepreneurs he advised were Google co-founder Larry Page and Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman.
Carol’s approach to geriatrics sprang from work early in her career at what was then called the Jewish Home for the Aged in Oakland.
“It was a visionary program because it believed in people’s potential, as opposed to what they don’t have,” she said. “If disease knocks out 93 percent of your capacity, they focused on the 7 percent. It was really quite wonderful.”
Nowadays, both Winograds, officially retired from their faculty jobs, continue to mentor some students but make a lot of time for the progressive causes they favor and, for their grandchildren. Having had some pre-IPO shares in Google has allowed them also to become philanthropists and political donors, though they say it hasn’t changed their lifestyle much.
“We don’t buy a lot of stuff -- no new gadgets, no yacht, no furs, no jewels,” Terry said.
Among their many current involvements, they have traveled with American Jewish World Service to Thailand, India and Nicaragua. But highlights of their schedule these days, they said, are the standing dates with each of their four grandchildren, either in Saratoga, San Francisco or at their Stanford home. Calling her husband a “baby magnet,” Carol said, “They come here, and we just play.”
Contributing Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at email@example.com.