Eugene business and community leaders Wednesday honored those who have already achieved success, as well as young people who are expected to lead the community in the decades ahead, at the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce's annual Celebration of Business.
Lane Community College President Mary Spilde, named this year's First Citizen, was praised as "inspiring, compassionate and visionary" by last year's first citizen, Eugene attorney Gerry Gaydos.
Members of the LCC community and local residents such as Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and Springfield schools Superintendant Nancy Golden described Spilde as someone who has had an impact on not just the local community, but the state and nation through her championship of education and innovation.
"She sees her job as making people's hopes come true," Golden said, while Gov. John Kitzhaber said simply in a taped tribute: "I don't know of anyone more deserving of this honor."
Spilde, for her part, said, "Honors like this are never about one person."
"There are many, many people who have shaped (my life)," she said, including her parents, who ran a bakery in their native Scotland and who themselves had little formal education. But they raised their daughters to believe in the value of hard work and the value of education, she said.
Community colleges, a uniquely American invention, Spilde said, bring the opportunities that education provides to everyone, she said, so that "not just the privileged few have an opportunity to create a good life for themselves through education."
Community colleges welcome some of the poorest members of the community, some of the least prepared for higher education and offer them a route to a better life, she said, all on a fraction of the resources that private colleges have. "We're expected to do miracles, and we do," she told about 600 people in attendance at the event at the Hilton Eugene.
The chamber also honored a group of local students who were finalists for the Future First Citizen award for their contributions to the community and promise of things to come. Anna Hickey, a senior at Willamette High School was named the Future First Citizen. She is, among other things, a musician who plays in both jazz and marching bands, a court officer of the Bethel Teen Court and active on the Willamette swim team. She plans to major in biochemistry at the University of Oregon and may follow a medical career as a doctor, nurse or in a chemistry- related field.
Other finalists for Future First Citizen were: Brooke Gemmell of Marist, Hannah Larson of South Eugene, Jacqueline Ochoa of North Eugene, Kelsey Sherman of Sheldon and Lydia Tam of Churchill. All finalists receive scholarships funded by past First Citizens and the chamber.