"Time is our most precious asset, and the most important thing we do every day is decide how we spend it," longtime Palo Alto resident Peter Fortenbaugh once said.
Fortenbaugh understood this better than most.
Wealthy by his early 30s, he left a high-flying business career to lead the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula. In his 20 years there, he expanded it from a $2 million to $28 million organization — creating safe and nurturing places for literally thousands of local, low-income children to spend their after-school and summer hours.
Fortenbaugh died at 55 last week after battling cancer for eight years — and working until near the end. The married father of three called the Boys & Girls Club "my fourth child."
The tributes — pouring in from East Palo Alto community leaders as well as from Silicon Valley and national leaders — reflected his ability to bridge seemingly great divides with a focus on common values.
"Liberals are correct that systems are stacked against the poor," he once wrote. "Conservatives are correct that personal responsibility and incentives matter. I want to live in a community of shared understanding and compassion."
Fortenbaugh believed in the potential of every child, never patronizing them and always encouraging them to do their best. The annual "Youth of the Year" contest challenged kids to reflect on their lives and write a speech — to be rehearsed, polished and presented to judging panels that included the likes of Kevin Durant, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. Fortenbaugh knew that kids are worth that kind of attention and more.
"All youth deserve to have optimism about their future," he said. In changing the trajectory of thousands of kids' lives, Peter Fortenbaugh inspired many others and leaves a remarkable legacy.
Tennyson Avenue, Palo Alto
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