Commonwealth Club of California Honors 5 Distinguished Citizens

May 7, 2018 Updated: May 7, 2018

The Commonwealth Club of California held its annual Distinguished Citizen Award Gala on April 19. This award is presented to those who make the world a better place by providing strong and ethical leadership in fields such as education, government, technology, and philanthropy.

The celebration took place at the Club’s new permanent home, 110 The Embarcadero in San Francisco, which boasts panoramic views of the Bay. Proceeds from the gala benefited the more than 450 live programs held by the Club each year.

The Commonwealth Club of California is a nonprofit organization and the largest and oldest public affairs forum in the country. For over a century, it has provided forums for free speech and civic dialogue on many key issues of society.

In an address to the Club in 1997, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the Club “is to free speech what the Golden Gate is to bridges and fireworks are to the Fourth of July.”

Dr. Gloria Duffy, president and CEO of the Club, said: “Nothing is more valuable in society today than strong and ethical leadership, and we are honored to showcase some of the most outstanding and effective leaders the Bay Area has shared with the world.”

The five recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Citizen Awards are as follows:

Dr. Mary G.F. Bitterman

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Dr. Mary G.F. Bitterman (Photos courtesy of The Commonwealth Club)

Bitterman is president and trustee of the Bernard Osher Foundation, former president and CEO of KQED Public Broadcasting, and chairman of the PBS Foundation. She is also director of the Bank of Hawaii Corporation and former chair of The Commonwealth Club’s Board of Governors. She is an Advisory Council member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

Dr. John L. Hennessy

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Dr. John L. Hennessy. (Photos courtesy of The Commonwealth Club)

Hennessy was the 10th president of Stanford University (2000–2016). He is an academician, computer scientist, founder of MIPS Computer Systems, and board chair of Alphabet. Hennessy is a co-founder of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program, the largest fully endowed graduate-level scholarship program in the world. Among many honors, he was awarded the 2012 Medal of Honor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, its highest award.

Leon Panetta

The Honorable Leon Panetta is a co-founder of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, former Secretary of Defense, former White House Chief of Staff, former director of the CIA, and a former U.S. Representative. Panetta is renowned for crossing political boundaries in his many roles in government.

Sylvia M. Panetta

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Sylvia M. Panetta. (Photos courtesy of The Commonwealth Club)

Ms. Panetta is co-chair and CEO of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, which has the mission of inspiring young people to pursue lives of public service. She was appointed Deputy Director for Staff and Finance at the President’s Crime Prevention Council in Washington, D.C., in 1995. She serves as an advisor to the Chancellor of California State University.

Nancy E. Pfund

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Nancy E. Pfund. (Photos courtesy of The Commonwealth Club)

Pfund is founder and managing partner of DBL Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in companies that deliver top-tier financial returns and bring about social, economic, and environmental returns. She sponsors or serves on the board of directors of several companies, such as The Muse, Advanced Microgrid Solutions, and Primus Power. She also writes and speaks on the topic of impact investing.

According to the Club’s website, at least one million people listen to the Club’s weekly radio broadcasts, and its podcasts are downloaded about 2.5 million times per year. Its videos can be found on the California Channel, YouTube, C-SPAN, and

Lina Broydo writes about travel, art, entertainment, style, and sports. She worked for 22 years as director of public relations at a luxury hotel in San Jose, California, and is currently the president of STAR PR, Public Relations and Marketing Company. She lives in Los Altos Hills, California.