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Three women win awards from Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce

New Woman of Wisdom Award also to be unveiled

Carol Larson, Celeste Ford and Lucy Wicks will be recognized at the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce Athena Awards on Nov. 7. Photos courtesy Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce.

Two women with connections to Stanford University, Carol S. Larson and Lucy Wicks, will be honored for their influential leadership at the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce Athena Awards luncheon on Nov. 7.

In a separate honor, the Chamber is initiating its own new Silicon Valley Woman of Wisdom Award, to be given to aerospace pioneer Celeste Ford. The Woman of Wisdom, which honors women who reflect Silicon Valley values, is separate from the Athena, an award given in communities throughout the nation. Athena awards are bestowed on women and men who strive toward the highest level of accomplishment, excel in their chosen field and, through their accomplishments, open paths for others, according to the Chamber.

The 2019 awards in Palo Alto will be held at the Garden Court Hotel from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Judy Kleinberg, Chamber president, praised the honorees. Of the new Athenas, she said, "Our two winners are perfect examples of the sort of professional women who should be recognized with this very special award."

Carol Larson, president and CEO of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, will receive the 2019 Athena Leadership award. Larson is an internationally recognized leader in strategic funding who has been at the Packard Foundation's helm since 2004, Kleinberg noted. Larson joined the foundation in 1989 and has worked in several other staff positions; she plans to step down from her leadership roles by the end of the year.

During her tenure as CEO, the foundation has averaged $300 million in annual grant-making and given $500 million in total mission investments around the globe to confront climate change. The foundation under Larson implemented sustainable fishing practices and established critical marine reserves in the world's oceans. She also championed quality reproductive health care and rights for women and girls in many countries, according to her foundation biography.

Domestically, the foundation contributed to the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital expansion, worked to provide children access to health insurance and quality preschool and transitional kindergartens and contributed to the protection and restoration of more than two million acres of open-space land throughout the western North America.

Larson received her undergraduate degree from Stanford and a law degree from Yale Law School. She received the 2019 American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley's John W. Gardner Award and a World Affairs Global Citizenship Award and is the mother of two grown daughters.

This year's Athena Emerging Professional Leadership Award will go to Lucy Wicks, director of Stanford's Office of Government and Community Relations.

Wicks has worked as a liaison between Stanford and government, businesses and neighbors located in and around the university's new 35-acre Stanford in Redwood City campus. For a decade, she has represented the university to the Redwood City community, working with local organizations to advocate on behalf of the community to Stanford during the planning of the campus, according to the San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce.

"The main thing is to be in the community, to be present, to show up and to get as many points of view as I can in order to deeply understand the fabric of what makes the community a true community," Wicks said in an email, speaking about her role. "Uncovering new voices and encouraging those who are often silent to get involved and speak up is particularly meaningful to me."

Wicks has also worked with local nonprofits and schools on health-related programs. She has served on the board of directors of the Redwood City Improvement Association since its inception. She was named a Redwood City "Person of the Year" in 2017 and was designated a "40 Under 40" of the most influential people by the Silicon Valley Business Journal in 2019.

Before coming to Stanford, she worked as the livable communities coordinator in the Office of Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley. She has also worked in land use, transportation and public health policy. She lives in Redwood City with her husband and two daughters.

The Palo Alto Chamber decided to create the Silicon Valley Woman of Wisdom Award this year to honor women in leadership positions that are not necessarily tied to Palo Alto, Kleinberg said. The award recognizes achievements that match "the focus and ethos of Silicon Valley" — not just in technology but also in biodiversity, climate protection, cultural diversity, spirit of innovation and other areas that are in keeping with the theme of Athena, who is the goddess of wisdom, she said.

"As a parallel of the idea of the Athena award, we want it to match what we think this community stands for and should celebrate," she said.

Celeste Ford, the first recipient of the award, is a Portola Valley resident and a pioneer in aerospace engineering. She is the founder and CEO of Palo Alto-based Stellar Solutions, a provider of engineering and program management for aerospace programs.

Ford graduated from Stanford with a master's degree in aerospace, aeronautics and astronautical engineering, according to her LinkedIn profile. She has provided engineering and program management of national, international, government and commercial aerospace programs through Stellar Solutions, and the company is the winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Her company has consistently been named by Fortune Magazine as one of the top 40 "great places to work."

Ford has worked with satellite communications company COMSAT and the Space Shuttle program and created QuakeFinder, a humanitarian research and development program dedicated to earthquake forecasting. She was inducted into the Silicon Valley Hall of Fame in 2011 and is affiliated with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the national Council on Foreign Relations.

"We're very proud to recognize all she stands for and has accomplished as a leader in her field," Kleinberg said.

Ford will be the keynote speaker at the Athena luncheon. Registration and networking will take place 11 a.m. to noon, followed by the luncheon, keynote speech and award presentations.

Tickets are $55 for Chamber members, $65 for nonmembers and $1,000 to sponsor a 10-guest table with preferred seating. Tickets are available on the Chamber's website, paloaltochamber.com. The Palo Alto Weekly is the co-sponsor of the event.

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