In the latest Around Town column, news about a 91-year-old Palo Alto woman who recently finished her bachelor's degree, the Stanford Dish reopening this Monday and posters calling attention to police brutality near City Hall.
FULFILLING A LIFELONG DREAM ... Notre Dame de Namur University's Class of 2020 includes a Palo Alto woman who is the oldest person to complete a bachelor's degree from the Belmont institution. Rosemary Finnerty, 91, completed her degree in human services last spring and was recognized with the "Inspirational Academic Excellence" award, which is the university's highest academic honor. "It's never too late to get a degree," she said. She also received a congratulatory message from Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, who heard about her accomplishment in recent media reports.
Finnerty spent the past five years attending night classes on several topics, including French cinema and Hispanic culture, which opened up her mind to new ideas and perspectives. In her senior seminar, Finnerty pursued a project where she provided seniors from her parish, St. Albert the Great, video recordings of weekly meetings normally held in person.
Before moving to Palo Alto in 1983, Finnerty lived in New Jersey and worked as an executive assistant for the Colgate-Palmolive Company in New York City, which paid for her associate degree in liberal arts. She became friends with her former boss, the company's CEO, Reuben Mark, who offered to pay for her bachelor's degree. Finnerty wanted to hold a big graduation party to celebrate the milestone with her family from the east coast (she has 23 nieces and nephews and 45 or more grandnieces and grandnephews), but the celebration has been put on hold due to current health orders that prevent large gatherings. Sheltering at home has prevented Finnerty from finding opportunities to practice her degree. In the meantime, she's working on her memoir titled, "My Secret to a Beautiful and Fulfilled Life," in which she's writing about her teenage years.
UNLOCKING THE GATES ... Local hikers and joggers can stretch their muscles again at the Stanford Dish starting Monday, July 6. The university plans to reopen the trail for regular summer hours, 6 a.m.-7:30 p.m. daily, with a series of new rules that adhere to local health orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Most of the changes aim to maintain 6 feet of distance between others seeking respite in the fresh air. The main 3.3-mile loop has been reconfigured to direct traffic one-way in the counterclockwise direction to allow for people to safely pass (that means people must commit to completing the loop). Visitors are also advised against touching surfaces such as gate entrances, fences, trash cans and signage. A full list of the rules can be found at dish.stanford.edu.
MAKING A STATEMENT ... On Tuesday, as 16 teams of artists painted a mural with the message "Black Lives Matter" written in large block letters on Hamilton Avenue outside of Palo Alto City Hall, an 18-year-old man was putting up posters that called attention to recent reports of police brutality. The man, who requested anonymity, was acting alone as he plastered the posters of quotes, many of which were published in local and regional newspapers, from lawsuits, Department of Justice investigations, local law enforcement officers and people of color who faced arrest dating from as far back as 1994 to this year.
Some lined a sidewalk facing the display, including one that read "he and another officer then grabbed (the man) & dragged him out of the window of (his) car," which was attributed to a complaint, which Mario Melendez filed in January against Mountain View Police Officer Benjamin Kroutil. "Kroutil became annoyed with Melendez during a traffic stop and dragged the man out of his car," according to the poster, which added that Melendez was hospitalized for his injuries.
Another poster included a quote from former Palo Alto police Sgt. Wayne Benitez, who was seen on video telling an unarmed, gay and Latino resident of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park that he's "going to be bleeding a whole lot more" as the former officer kept him pinned to the hood of a car. "Benitez later retired from PAPD keeping his $118K yearly pension," the poster stated. Other posters name-dropped Palo Alto police officers who remain employed after the alleged use of racial slurs and unlawful beating of a Black resident were reported.