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San Marino City Club

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Jim Folsom

Jim Folsom, who retired in December from the Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens after a long and award-winning career, will be the featured speaker at San Marino City Club’s meeting on Tuesday, April 20, at 6:30 p.m.
Folsom was the Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens at the Huntington Library. He joined the Huntington staff in 1984, serving as assistant curator before becoming director in 1987. As director of the Huntington’s gardens, he oversaw more than a dozen thematic gardens covering 120 acres of the 207-acre grounds.
He served as a visionary and project head for the development of new gardens and botanical facilities and restoration of historic gardens and maintenance. He dedicated much of his efforts at the Huntington to education programs that increase public interest and understanding of the science, culture, and history of plants and gardens.

Berkeley Willis Johnston

Berkeley Willis Johnston passed away on January 9, 2021 with his beloved wife of 59 years, Maria, by his side. His several year journey through Alzheimer’s never took his smile, sense of humor or unbridled love for the people around him. During his 84 years, Berk touched many lives with his enthusiasm and passion for life. He loved being with his friends and family and was quick to invite others along to join in his many passions, whether it be skiing, backpacking, horseback riding, or hiking in his much loved Sierra or Teton mountains.
Berkeley graduated from Menlo Atherton High School and Stanford University (Class of ‘59). He met Maria while they were both attending university. They were married in 1961 and moved to San Marino where they raised their three children, Berkeley, Kristen and Erik.

John Mulchaey

John Mulchaey, director of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science, is expected to provide insight into today’s “golden age” of astronomy and the promise it holds for understanding our universe when he speaks at the San Marino City Club’s virtual meeting on Oct. 20.
Mulchaey will discuss Pasadena as a leading center of astronomical research and discovery and the impact of studies performed at the Carnegie observatories. He’ll also discuss current research on the evolution of the cosmos, galaxy and star formation, dark matter, black holes and much more.
Founded in 1904, the Observatories are renowned for research on the evolution of the universe.

The city continues its outreach over a proposal to update and upgrade the San Marino Center as well as to coax residents to offer design ideas for the facility, with the next step tentatively scheduled for a Sept. 9 City Council meeting.
A task force appointed by the city plans to present a series of recommendations to municipal officials at that meeting, suggestions that are likely to be relayed to designers at Crane Architectural Services to draw up plans for the remodel. The city aims to revamp the building to function more as a community center and bring it up to various codes.

KATHRYN BARGER

Saying her life has now come “full circle,” Los Angeles County Supervisor and San Marino resident Kathryn Barger addressed a full house of more than 120 attendees at Tuesday night’s meeting of the San Marino City Club.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be standing before you as a county supervisor,” said Barger, who grew up less than a mile away from the San Marino Center, where the event took place. “I moved to Adair Street when I was five and graduated from San Marino High School.” She then personally greeted a half dozen or her former neighbors and classmates who were in attendance.

But it would not be an accurate portrayal of the meeting to say the audience was completely collegial. Barger immediately sunk her teeth into one of the meatier issues in town: Metro’s offer of $32 million to the City of San Marino for projects that will improve the flow of traffic through town.

Many residents are skeptical that Metro intends to use Huntington Drive as a main source of circulation in lieu of the 710 extension, which they claim is a dead issue. As a supervisor, Barger is also a member of the Metro board of directors.

“I was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors right after they decided what they were going to do with the money,” said Barger, who took office in December 2016. “But this has to be from the bottom up,” she said. “The residents need to tell them what to do. This cannot be Metro telling people what they have to do with the money.”

On May 24, 2017, Metro—the Metropolitan Transportation Authority—voted to cease efforts to fund a five-mile, $3.2-billion tunnel that was proposed to run through El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena to connect the 710 and 210 freeways. In exchange, the board earmarked $700 million to help increase circulation in surrounding communities. Though Metro claims San Marino will have authority over where the money will be spent, many residents—some of whom were in attendance on Tuesday evening—feel Huntington Drive will be turned into “a freeway.”

Barger promised to partner with with the city to ensure the funding is spent wisely.

“The money has to be used to address congestion and the movement of vehicles,” Barger said. “I make this commitment to work with you, but we have an obligation to vet how we address congestion in this area.”

Barger said that a proposed plan to synchronize the traffic lights along Huntington Drive could help the city as “Waze has become a weapon, diverting traffic to save two minutes.”

Waze is a navigation application that automatically directs drivers to what it has computed to be the fastest route between two locations. Many feel it has negatively affected traffic flow through San Marino.

“There are projects you could benefit from,” said Barger. “If the city chooses to leave things the way they are the traffic will move to the side streets. There is nothing in stone. St this point it is all conceptual. I promise to partner with the city.”

Barger also addressed her work with the homeless and mentally ill, the need for mass transit and her appreciation for parklands. But when the question and answer segment arrived, attendees wanted more answers on Metro’s proposals.

Before signing off, Barger thanked her predecessor, Mike Antonovich, who served in her position for 36 years before term limits ended his service.

“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here right now,” she said.

Barger also lamented that the nation has regressed towards “a lawless society.”

Tim Sloan addressing San Marino City Club in 2017. The San Marino resident stepped down last week as president and CEO of Wells Fargo. Mitch Lehman Photo

San Marino resident Tim Sloan stepped down last Thursday as chief executive and president of Wells Fargo Bank and will be retiring on June 30, the bank announced on March 28.

“I am focused on the transition through my retirement and then look forward to traveling with [wife] Lisa and visiting our family,” Sloan told The Tribune when asked of his plans.

The bank’s general counsel C. Allen Parker was inserted as interim president and chief executive. Wells Fargo said last week it would immediately begin the search for Sloan’s replacement.

Sloan was named The Tribune’s 2012 Citizen of the Year for his many contributions to the community and ongoing support of youth programs. He served as president of San Marino National Little League in 2001, the year a group of young ladies advanced all the way to the Little League Softball World Series. In 2011, Sloan and Greg Forgatch received the prestigious Paul Harris Honorary Fellowship from the Rotary Club of San Marino. In 2017, Lisa and Tim Sloan received Villa Esperanza’s Guardian Angel Award for the impact they are making in the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are served by Villa Esperanza. The Sloans also played a key role in bringing the artificial turf surface to San Marino High School’s Titan Stadium.

Tim Sloan

Sloan had also served as Wells Fargo’s chief financial officer, chief administrative officer and also managed corporate communications, corporate social responsibility, enterprise marketing, government relations, and corporate human resources.

Sloan earned his B.A. in economics and history and his M.B.A. in finance and accounting, both from the University of Michigan.

He serves on the Board of Overseers of the Huntington Library and is a member of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business advisory board. He is a trustee of Ohio Wesleyan University and City of Hope and a member of the board of directors of California Resources Corporation and a member of the board of trustees at the California Institute of Technology.

Sloan’s retirement was announced as Wells Fargo received new new criticism of its efforts to recover from a 2016 scandal that was uncovered when the bank acknowledged it had opened millions of fake accounts, among other problems. In September 2016, Wells Fargo absorbed $185 million in penalties in a settlement with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Los Angeles legal officials. Sloan became CEO and president of Wells Fargo in October 2016 after his predecessor, John Stumpf, resigned under pressure from the scandal.

“This was my decision based upon what I thought and believe is the best for Wells Fargo because there’s just been too much focus on me and it’s impacting our ability to move forward,” Sloan, a 31-year veteran of Wells Fargo, said in in a conference call last Thursday announcing the move. “I just care so much about this company and so much about our team that I could not keep myself in a position where I was becoming a distraction.”

The Sloans gracefully withstood several protests at their San Marino home by the Occupy movement. One brought dozens of protestors and an inflatable representation of the Dakota Pipeline, which was partially financed by Wells Fargo, accompanied by shouts of “lock him up,” aimed at Sloan.

Tim Sloan, third from left, with family members at the San Marino High School graduation of his son, Andrew, third from right. Tim Sloan recently stepped down at Wells Fargo. Mitch Lehman Photo

“I was surprised to see some of my neighbors out there,” Sloan joked as he delivered the keynote address to the San Marino City Club at its February 2017 dinner meeting.

The city of San Marino eventually changed the zoning on Sloan’s street to allow for better traffic management.

The Sloans have three children; Ben, Andrew and Kathleen, each of whom graduated from San Marino High School and have all since taken college degrees. They can expect visits from mom and dad in the near future. But Sloan still holds a soft spot in his heart for San Marino.

“I have traveled all over the world in my many roles at Wells Fargo,” Sloan told The Tribune. “When people ask me to name my favorite place, I tell them it is San Marino because of the quality of the people and the sense of community. The support I have received over the past few years has been remarkable.”

And vice versa.

DR. MICHAEL HARRINGTON

Huntington Medical Research Institutes [HMRI] is just a few miles from San Marino, but studies conducted there are likely to have worldwide implications, if they haven’t already.

On Tuesday evening, Dr. Michael Harrington, Director of Neurosciences at HMRI, provided members of San Marino City Club with an update on his group’s forays into finding cures for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and migraine headaches, which he pronounces “me-grains” in his delightful native Scottish dialect.

“Migraines are more abundant than every other affliction added together, and we don’t know why,” Harrington told a large audience in the San Marino Center. “Thirty-five to forty million Americans suffer from them and it is now ranked as the fifth most debilitating condition in the world for females. And they are much more prevalent in females.”

A key, Harrington said, has been found in the way the human brain regulates sodium.

“The brain is constantly regulating sodium and the sodium levels fluctuate in everyone’s brain, but in the brains of migraine sufferers it fluctuates wildly,” Harrington said. “We feel we have found the model. We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It may take a couple of years, but I think it will happen very soon.”

Harrington also pointed out the benefits of studying migraines.

“Migraines have the advantage that you can look at a person when they are sick and when they are well,” Harrington said. “Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other conditions, the patients don’t get better and you can’t compare their symptoms. With migraines, we can draw comparisons among different control subjects and that is a big advantage.”

Alzheimer’s disease? A much more difficult challenge.

“We really need to figure out what the mechanism is for Alzheimer’s,” Harrington said, his voice taking on a tone of gloom. “The planet will be bankrupt by 2050 if we don’t figure something out.”

Harrington stated that six million Americans are currently battling Alzheimer’s.

“One of the challenges is, Alzheimer’s is not infectious, we are just living longer,” he said. “Back in the day, once the patient reached the age of 65 we called it ‘senile dementia’ and the teaching was ‘they are old people, who cares.’ That is what we said.”

It’s a much different approach these days as Harrington reported that recent research has determined a set of risk factors that can predict the likelihood of contracting the disease.

“They can be determined up to 25 years before the symptoms start,” he said. “Until recently, nobody studied the impairment.”

He advised those in attendance that there is a significant difference between normal memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

“When you can’t remember a word or if that word comes back many hours later, that is not Alzheimer’s,” Harrington stated. “This type of recall is what we know as typical aging.”

Preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is similar to protecting one’s heart, according to Harrington.

“It’s the ‘use it or lose it’ theory,” he said. “Treat the brain like you treat the heart. Running on a treadmill helps the heart and solving problems helps the brain. Cognitive exercise helps neurons keep their connections. When there is heart disease, the blood vessels are damaged and there is decreased blood flow to the brain, which is believed to cause dementia.”

HMRI is looking for subjects to conduct its non-invasive research and Harrington began his presentation by mentioning that he recognized several people in the audience, and quipped that “HIPAA regulations forbid me from mentioning you” as the room erupted in laughter.

He stated that HMRI has a large number of brains available for study and said that a simple urine test could soon determine if a patient has dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“We have found broken down oxidized lipids in urine and there is a higher level for people in a pre-symptomatic state,” Harrington said.

Harrington received his medical degree in 1976 from Glasgow University, Scotland. He trained in internal medicine and neurology, and pursued full-time research at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland and Caltech. He joined HMRI, established its Molecular Neurology Program in 1998, and has been its Director of Neurosciences since 2016.

Kathy Fiscus

It was a story that put San Marino on the map, and for not the most uplifting of reasons.

On April 8, 1949 a three-year-old girl named Kathy Fiscus fell down an old abandoned well located on the current site of San Marino High School’s Titan Stadium. Unfortunately, despite all efforts, Kathy could not be saved. The rescue attempt received nationwide attention in the United States, as KTLA and a team that included reporter Stan Chambers carried it live on radio and television. The event was covered on scene for a 27-½ hour period. It is considered a watershed event in TV history, as it is recognized as the first live coverage of a breaking news story.

The tragedy will be the subject of William Deverell’s presentation to the San Marino City Club on Tuesday, January 15.

Bill Deverell

A Professor of History at USC and Director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, Deverell will in the fall be releasing a book about the Kathy Fiscus story. His presentation marks the buildup to the 70th anniversary of Kathy’s death and Deverell will be revealing new information on the tragedy based on recent findings.

“As you know, this has been a passion of mine, regardless of its sad, tragic outcome,” Deverell said earlier this week.

There was a longstanding belief that the well Kathy fell into was located on the upper field at San Marino High School on the northwest border of the campus, where a plaque memorializes her all-too-brief existence. Other opinions have placed the site under the third tennis court, but Deverell believes the well in which Kathy lost her life—the Johnson Well, one of six operated by the California Water & Telephone Company at the time—was actually located between the east end zone and inside lane of the track at Titan Stadium. One of the many tragic ironies of the story is that Kathy’s father, Dave Fiscus, worked for the California Water & Telephone Company.

Deverell is also the founding director of the Collections Convergence Initiative at the USC Libraries. He is a scholar of the 19th and 20th century American West, writing on environmental, political, ethnic, and social history. He is currently at work on a project examining the history of Old Chinatown in Los Angeles and a book on the post-Civil War American West. The Institute on California and the West is about to launch at multi-year investigation of fire in the West across the last 1000 years.

Professor Deverell received his undergraduate degree in American Studies from Stanford and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in American history from Princeton. He lives in Pasadena with his wife Jenny Watts, curator of photography at The Huntington, and their two children, Helen and John.

City Club members may RSVP by emailing cityclubrsvp@gmail.com, or by calling (626) 765-4411 and leaving a message with the member’s name and the full name of any guest whom the member wishes to invite. Adult guests will be welcome at this event for $30, and $15 for children, payable at the door by check or credit card. For more information on this event, please visit the City Club’s website at www.sanmarinocityclub.org.

If Bill Ukropina has a choir, it was to them he was preaching on Tuesday night at the first City Club meeting of 2018, at San Marino Center, and new President Dick Pearson’s maiden journey.
Ukropina, who was born and raised in San Marino before moving across the 210 Freeway into Pasadena, returned to a packed house Tuesday evening where he basically obliterated the mold of a typical presentation during his 60-minute address, which was alternately exhilarating, nostalgic, heart-wrenching and hilarious.
Ukropina took the enterprising approach of providing each dinner guest with a list of 36 people – many of whom were in attendance – who he thanked for inspiring him in one way or another, from his high school English teacher Barbara Barbarics, to the Rev. George Woodward.
But Ukropina also acknowledged a sad anniversary, for it was 49 years to the day that he lost his classmate, neighbor and dear friend, David Robert Thomas, who died in a bicycle accident on January 16, 1969.
“We loved David and we lost him too young,” said Ukropina. “Tonight I dedicate this speech to David and and to everyone on this list,” he said, as he held the legal-sized page aloft.
“I wanted to be a quarterback,” Ukropina said, his voice filling the hall with volume and enthusiasm. He then mentioned the journey of the 1964 San Marino High School varsity football team, which finished the season 5-4 but squeaked into the playoffs thanks to a tie-breaker. The Titans proceeded to defeat El Centro, Loara and Thousand Oaks to win an unlikely CIF championship, a victory that has, obviously, affected him ever since.
Ukropina mentioned two of his heroes from that football team, quarterback Rich Haley and guard John Duling.
“So a few days ago, I looked them up and asked them if they would be here tonight,” said Ukropina. “And here they are.”
The audience applauded as the two former football stars rose from their seats, broad smiles across their faces.
“I wanted to be a quarterback but I weighed about 100 pounds,” Ukropina said, as the cheering quickly switched to laughter. A member of the Titan cross country and track teams, Ukropina explained how he had to travel all the way to the Palouse and Washington State University to realize his aspirations of becoming a signal-caller.
“My fraternity, Sigma Chi, had three teams,” he said. “Team 1 was made up of clearly the best athletes. Team 2 was made up of the backups and Team 3 was everybody else. I played quarterback for Team 3.”
His attention then turned to Conrad Ukropina, the eldest of his three sons, who last year wrapped up a fine career as a placekicker at Stanford. The elder Ukropina chronicled his son’s gridiron journey, from a broken arm as a freshman quarterback at Loyola High School to a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds of his final appearance at Stanford to defeat Notre Dame.
But it wasn’t always a life in high cotton for Conrad Ukropina. His father displayed negative press clippings predicting Conrad’s demise after a poor performance in a Cardinal spring game and another welcoming a new kicker who had been highly recruited.
“Patience, Practice and Perseverance,” said Bill Ukropina, echoing the title of his address, the words appearing on the screen behind him. “My favorite word in the English language is perseverance.”
Bill Ukropina mentioned how hard his son worked to prove his doubters wrong, driving the length of the state to attend practice sessions.
“He worked and worked and worked all summer to be the starter because they brought in a freshman to replace him,” said Bill.
Several subsequent video clips, most accompanied by applause from those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, proved otherwise.
Though he scored highly at last year’s combine and was given four personal tryouts by four NFL teams, Conrad was not offered a contract for the 2017 season. Bill Ukropina said that Conrad continues to practice four days a week and will give it one more shot.
Based on what we learned Tuesday, who would be foolish enough to bet against him?
Steve Talt, who was recently appointed to serve a one-year term as mayor, opened the program with a synopsis of what is happening at City Hall.
“The new year is bringing change,’ said Talt. “We have an ad hoc committee that has studied how the city’s administration can be more effective. They are really getting their fingernails dirty and have made 42 recommendations about how we can be more efficient.”
Talt also mentioned the status of several of the city’s commissions as well as plans to draft new ordinances before getting off this zinger.
“If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the vice mayor,” Talt joked.

San Marino City Club 1st Vice President Dick Pearson saved the best for last when introducing Bill Davis, Chief Executive Officer of Southern California Public Radio, as Tuesday’s keynote speaker.

“It is Bill’s voice you hear over the air when he is having one of his famous fundraisers,” Pearson said, as the San Marino Center broke out in spontaneous laughter.

Davis was quick to capitalize.

“Who has listened to the fundraisers?” he asked, as hands shot up into the air.

“Well, thanks to those who have given and I am NOT going to be asking for money tonight.”

As the laughter subsided, Davis began with an homage to the organization itself.

“These clubs are very important,” said the La Cañada resident. “Our audience is not unlike what we have here tonight. Public radio listeners are more likely to be well-educated and affluent.”

Which led Davis to his second point.

“We are really trying to expand our audience,” he said. “We are reaching out to the African African and Latino communities.”

Davis reported that Southern California Public Radio recently hosted a focus group looking for answers to the demographic question.

“One guy actually got up from his seat and began to beat on the window,” Davis recalled. “He said ‘Los Angeles is changing and we trust you to tell us. We don’t trust the Los Angeles Times or ABC. We trust you!’”

Davis quickly segued into the main topic of the evening: President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to public broadcasting.

Over the years, there have been multiple attempts to eliminate funding for public broadcasting,” said Davis. “The initial response is that this is an attack on public media.

I don’t believe that. The proposal is usually part of a narrow and specifically targeted program.”

Davis did say that Trump’s plan is “unprecedented.”

“Not since the drawdown in 1946 and 1947 after the end of WWII have we seen such cuts to public programs. The elimination of public broadcasting is this tiny sliver in a much, much broader attempt to limit the scope of government, the reach of government. I don’t have any quarrel with that.”

Davis did say that, traditionally, funding for public media has come from Republican senators representing rural areas.

“PBS and NPR mean a lot more to those in Alaska and Mississippi than in Los Angeles,” Davis said. “And the cohort of moderate Republicans has gotten smaller and smaller.”

Davis said that the elimination of public broadcasting “is not higher than 50-50 right now, but it is higher than it ever has been before.”

“My sense is, you have not seen this movie before,” Davis said. “I am cautiously pessimistic instead of cautiously optimistic.”

Davis shared that he believed funding for public media will be used for horse trading at a later date.

“This is not a bad thing,” he declared. “Public media has traditionally been dependent upon generosity of the audience. Communities like Los Angeles. New York and San Francisco will respond. Federal funding is the nuts and bolts of public media so I don’t know what’s going to happen in places like Nebraska, Wyoming and Mississippi. There will be other ways we can configure ourselves and we will make sure we are more reflective of the cities we serve. I don’t see this as an attack. It is not doom and gloom. But we will be more dependent on financial support and the engagement we have with our audience members.”

Davis mentioned that Southern California Public Radio has a current budget of $40 million, which is funded by $15 million of individual contributions and $7.5 million in corporate gifts. The remainder is made up of government funding and gifts from foundations. He projected a probably 10% cut in staff if public media is not supported by the federal government.

NEW TO THE CLUB: San Marino City Club welcomed three new members at Tuesday’s dinner meeting. Pictured above, LEFT TO RIGHT, are Vanessa Koo, Irene Wan, San Marino Park & Public Works Director Dan Wall and City Club Membership Chair Kelly Ryan. Mitch Lehman Photo

Davis said that Los Angeles has the “most listened-to” public radio station in the country and his biggest challenge is “hanging on to our talented staff. And that has only gotten worse.”

He then listed a handful of employees who were wooed away by other media firms.

There was an audible gasp when Davos mentioned that 97 percent of all American people listen to the radio.

“It’s an incredibly resilient form of media,” he said. “The amount of time spent listening to radio has been going down and who knows when the point will come. Radio was able to create a level of community that strengthened bonds between people who didn’t know each other and couldn’t see each other.”

He also said that media usage skews towards “the individual control of each person.”

Therefore, audience engagement is more important than ever. Davis talked about a program called ‘Unheard LA,’ a series of meetings and storytellings throughout Southern California.

“We are going to see if that is successful, to get out into the community more,” Davis said.

“We are holding up an accurate mirror to the imperfect paradise that is Southern California.”