Bay Area high achievers on our radar this month hail from the arts and sciences
Steve Perdicaris and Margaret Gonzalez
In March, Steve Perdicaris and Margaret Gonzalez were honored with the Jefferson Award for making music accessible to children in the City through Music Mission San Francisco. Perdicaris, the president and executive director of the organization, performs as a trombonist with the Sacramento Philharmonic and teaches at the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music in Stockton. Gonzalez, who serves as Music Mission’s artistic director, is a professional musician hailing from Venezuela. They founded the Music Mission in 2015, providing free lessons to nearly 80 kids at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. (Amid the pandemic, the organization switched to virtual violin and cello lessons.) Gonzalez and Perdicaris see their work as a driver for social change — and in a year of social isolation, the rare opportunity for connection. “Children are going through all kinds of emotions, and music can take them away from some of the harsh realities they might be dealing with,” says Perdicaris.
Fire. Sweat. Tears. The second season of Netflix’s sweltering glassblowing competition show Blown Away had it all — plus a surprise for Bay Area viewers with Jason McDonald, a talented contestant from Oakland. McDonald, who memorably declared this season that he’s “not comfortable with being middle of the pack,” stood out for his laid-back nature and desire to inspire more diversity within the art form as a Black man. “It’s really rare to walk into a studio and see a person that looks like me,” McDonald said in an interview with the radio station KALW last month. “Folks just don’t expect you to walk into the glass shop with some melanin.” While McDonald didn’t win the $60,000 grand prize in the end, his time on the small screen is memorialized through his works, including Vessel of the Ancestors, a black-and-white glass vase modeled after an African gourd. McDonald is a student at California College of the Arts and an instructor at San Francisco’s only public glass studio and school, Public Glass.
KQED Forum with Mina Kim. Has a nice ring to it, right? Last summer, KQED split its two-hour flagship program helmed by longtime host Michael Krasny in two, focusing the 10 a.m. time slot on race and diversity with Kim, who was made a permanent host in July. Last month, KQED announced that more stations across California had picked up the show and its audience was expanding, thanks in no small part to Kim’s work. She’s interviewed everyone from authors Roxane Gay and Heather McGhee to journalist Soledad O’Brien and former HUD secretary Julian Castro. When Krasny retired earlier this year, a seamless transition was paramount for Kim. “I needed to make sure that it would continue to sound like Forum with Michael Krasny,” Kim said in an interview with KQED’s Priya David Clemens last month. “To learn to take that suit off and figure out who you are, and what are the types of stories that you tell, and what are the types of questions that you would ask, and to trust that those instincts are something that … other people will value hearing from. That is a transition I’ve had to make.”
Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie
Years ago, doctors at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford saved the life of Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie’s daughter. In February, the Palo Alto couple donated $80 million to the hospital and Stanford University School of Medicine as a belated thank you — making it the largest contribution Packard Children’s has ever received from individuals. Bruce is the co-founder of Benchmark, a well-known venture capital firm in San Francisco. His wife, Elizabeth, sits on the board at the Packard Children’s Hospital and chairs the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health. “My heart is full knowing that Elizabeth and Bruce’s gift embodies Lucile Packard’s intent for this hospital to be both a leading academic medical center as well as a community hospital available to all who need us,” said Paul King, president and CEO of Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford Children’s Health, in a statement. The donation will support mothers and babies at the hospital, transforming the first floor of Packard Children’s Hospital West and developing the Maternal-Fetal Medicine program at the university.
Somewhere on Nob Hill, there’s a doctor trying to treat coronavirus through the hypothalamus. In February, Dr. Christine Ichim, CEO of Florica Therapeutics Inc., was awarded $255,678 from the National Science Foundation to further her research on hypothalamus stem cell exosomes in treatment of COVID-19. A Nob Hill resident whose lab is in the City, Ichim’s passion for biomedical research is fueled by her mother, who was diagnosed with leukemia when Ichim was 10 years old. The scientist once rollerbladed 5,000 miles across Canada in support of cancer patients. “We believe that the only thing scarier than the unknown, is blindly following the already known, mistaking comfort for safety,” Ichim said to Business Wire of her work. The grant will help Florica Therapeutics develop drugs to prevent COVID-19 from escalating to acute respiratory distress syndrome by regulating the immune response. “To stand on the cutting edge, one must engage in high-risk, high-reward research,” says Ichim.