November Movers & Shakers

By Julissa James

Bay Area high-achievers on our radar this month include household names and the next generation shaking things up.

The Tree and Oski the Bear

There are rare times in history when even the most fervent rivals unite. This year, with both Cal and Stanford claiming two Nobel Prize winners each, the schools’ dueling mascots, Oski the Bear and the Tree, are coming to terms with the fact that — at least in the eyes of the Nobel Prize committee — they may just be … equals? In Stanford’s corner, the Tree is shaking its leaves for winning economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson. Over at Cal, Oski is twerking its tail for biochemist Jennifer Doudna and professor emeritus of physics and astronomy Reinhard Genzel. Meanwhile, USC’s Tommy Trojan was overheard by sources in Los Angeles trying to join forces with his own rival, UCLA’s Joe Bruin, to “take down those big-headed Northern California know-it-alls.” Reportedly, Bruin, celebrating his own school’s Nobel laureate this year (a prize shared with Cal), didn’t bite.

Taylor Jay

Hear ye! Hear ye! Prince Harry supports Black-owned businesses in Oakland. Last month, the Duke of Sussex was spotted wearing a “Champagne and Honey” face mask from local designer Taylor Jay, who opened a brick-and-mortar boutique last year with her daughter, Brenda Sheree. When the pandemic hit, the clothier quickly pivoted to selling cotton face coverings online, which earned fans from all over the Bay Area (and at least one from across the pond). On Instagram, @shoptaylorjay posted the image of Harry rocking a casual white polo, khakis and his Taylor Jay original as he posed with runners of the remote London Marathon in Los Angeles. He (or was it Meghan?) chose right: That Champagne and Honey colorway complements his famous ginger hair nicely.

Jose Montalvan

What’s it like to make a movie in a pandemic? For one independent film producer, not so different, actually. Last month, a feature-length drama called Adam and Eve became one of the first movies to be shot in the Bay Area since coronavirus shutdowns took hold in March. Jose Montalvan served as a producer on the movie, written and directed by (and starring) Brian Hooks, about an ex-Marine with PTSD who runs a pizza shop. San Francisco native Montalvan has been producing independent films with a small crew and tight budget for years, so the restrictions put in place by the S.F. Film Commission weren’t exactly out of the ordinary. “As an independent filmmaker, we’ve always had todo more with less,” he says.“It kind of played to our strengths in a sense.” Everyone on the production, including him, wore multiple hats. Not only did Montalvan’s Mill Valley shop Extreme Pizza serve as a shoot location, it was also the caterer for the crew. Still, preparedness aside, Montalvan counts himself lucky to be able to tell a Bay Area story in these strange times. “For me to be able to help Brian [who is from LA] portray this film in San Francisco meant a lot to me,” he says.

Fred M. Levin and Salle Yoo

The year was 1966. Fred M. Levin, then a young San Franciscan with a passion for art and culture, was standing in line with hundreds of others for the opening of the Asian Art Museum. Fast-forward nearly six decades later, and Levin is now stepping into his new role as chair of the Asian Art Commission and Asian Art Museum Foundation, joined by Salle Yoo as president of the foundation and vice chair of the commission. Along with being a staunch supporter of the arts with his late wife, Nancy Livingston, Levin has served as trustee for the museum since the early aughts and was veep of the Asian Art Museum Foundation Board from 2017 to 2020. Yoo is a corporate lawyer who worked for years in the tech sector. She joined the museum foundation board in 2018 and has been a supporter for years.

Carla Eckhardt

Last month, Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society welcomed a new executive director: nonprofit veteran Carla Eckhardt, who has a track record of advancing women’s health initiatives with the kind of innovative methods the university is known for. Eckhardt will be moving (back) to the Bay Area from Washington, D.C., where she was senior director of the Office of Global Women’s Health and Special Issues in Women’s Health at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Before that, she worked for Marie Stopes International, an organization dedicated to providing safe abortion and contraceptives across the globe, as country director for Ethiopia and Mexico. Formerly, Eckhardt also served as executive director of reproductive health think tanks at UCSF. She says: “In these extraordinary times of disruption and change, we must seize the opportunity to redesign and reimagine the systems that form our civil society.”

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