Movers and ShakersPersonalities

Movers and Shakers in San Francisco

Illustrations by Olivia Wise

High achievers on our radar this month, from Bay Area heavyweights to the next generation of power players

John Adams

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music will award Adams, a Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy-winning composer, with an honorary doctorate at its 2019 commencement ceremony. Adams taught at the conservatory from 1972 to 1982, since becoming one of the most prolific and respected living composers today. He’s held court at the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. “I’m thrilled to be coming back to SFCM to speak at this year’s commencement ceremony,” says Adams. “The years I spent teaching at the conservatory were some of my most formative for my early career, and the opportunity to share a little bit of my experience with this new generation of SFCM graduates is something that elicits both a sense of nostalgia and aspiration. I am truly honored.” John, that’s music to our ears!

Sonia Syngal

Old Navy and its dynamic leader are stepping out from the GAP Inc. shadow, spinning off into a fully formed company with Syngal at the helm. It’s a move that Fortune predicts will catapult her into the Fortune 500. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Syngal successfully worked her way through engineering and tech companies before reigniting her childhood fervor in fashion. In a No Limits podcast episode with Rebecca Jarvis, recorded at Old Navy’s San Francisco headquarters, Syngal credited her success to a breadth of experience, a willingness to take risks, and a steadfast commitment to Old Navy’s culture. “[This brand] is about equality … everyone’s equal and everyone has every opportunity,” she says. “Those are tenets that I try to live by and try to create awareness around, both in my leadership style as well as [in] how I try to affect the small moments.” Here’s to staying on brand!

Alexander Hong

Congratulations to Sorrel’s executive chef and co-owner — known for his tousled waves and sophisticated Cal-Italian fare — for being named a James Beard Award semifinalist in the category of Rising Star Chef of the Year. Since Hong opened the Sacramento Street restaurant in April 2018, he’s received no shortage of recognition for his unpretentious yet elegant menu of seasonal classics with a fresh, young twist. Soon enough, the San Francisco Chronicle christened Hong one of five culinary newcomers shaking up the City’s competitive food scene, while the Saucy Awards dubbed him Chef of the Year. San Francisco is a concentration of talent — there are 30 James Beard nominees in the Bay Area alone — so standing out is no easy feat. We can’t wait to taste what’s next.

Jeanine Nicholson

San Francisco’s newly appointed fire chief is a match for the City’s spirit: trailblazing, resilient and inclusive. Nicholson succeeds Joanne Hayes-White in her new role, becoming the second woman and the first openly LGBTQ person to serve as SFFD’s leader in its history. Mayor London Breed lauded the current deputy chief — also a breast cancer and burn survivor, former paramedic and 25-year veteran with the department — for her experience and character. Nicholson, with her stylish black frames and humble disposition, graciously accepted the new position, challenges and all. “I vow to work hard, to continue to carry out the mission and vision of the San Francisco Fire Department, and to keep moving us forward in a positive way,” she said during her speech. “Now let’s get back to work.” Nicholson officially starts her new gig on May 5.

Alicia John-Baptiste

As SPUR’s new executive director and president, John-Baptiste becomes the first woman ever to lead the association in finding solutions to the Bay Area’s urban conundrums. The Harvard grad has been prolific in the world of public policy, having served with the San Francisco Planning Department and the Municipal Transportation Agency before taking on the role of SPUR’s deputy director in 2015. She succeeds Gabriel Metcalf, who departs following a 13-year tenure. “From the earliest I can remember, I have always believed there is a better way we could be living, a better way we could construct our society that would produce more positive outcomes for people,” she says. Don’t you love the sound of cracks in the glass ceiling?

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