The FWC Woman of Distinction Award recognizes a California woman’s extraordinary achievement that results in a significant and enduring benefit to society. The awardee is chosen by the Past Presidents’ Panel, which consists of past presidents of the UCLA Faculty Women’s Club.
2021 FWC Woman of Distinction – Mary D. Nichols
Mary Nichols was chair of the California Air and Resources Board (CARB), California’s powerful air-pollution and climate regulatory agency, from 1975-1982 and then again from 2007-2020 (thus serving under three consecutive governors). Under her leadership, CARB enacted the first comprehensive cap on industrial greenhouse gas emissions by any major regulatory agency in the world. Nichols and CARB also crafted and enforced regulations that slashed air pollution from cars and light trucks by over 99%, paved the way for a new generation of advanced biofuels, and created the roadmap for a transition to a fully electrified transportation system.
Throughout her 50-year career, Nichols has been profiled in industry and disparate popular periodicals alike: appearing in Rolling Stone as one of the “12 Leaders Who Get Things Done” and in Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People” (of 2013). She has been bestowed many laudable titles since coming to Los Angeles as a young Yale-educated lawyer in 1971: “The Queen of Green,” a legend, a game-changer, California’s clean air leader, and the most influential environmental regulator of all time.
Nichols currently is Professor-in-residence at UCLA’s School of Law, Fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, and Vice Chair of the California-China Climate Institute at the University of California.
2020 FWC Woman of Distinction – Elizabeth Benson Forer
Elizabath Benson Forer is CEO and Educational Director of the Venice Family Clinic, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Begun as a volunteer-led free clinic in 1970, the Venice Family Clinic, under Ms. Forer’s leadership since 1994, has expanded its reach from 10,000 patients annually in one small location to nearly 28,000 people in need each year in a comprehensive medical home of 12 sites with nine street medicine teams in Los Angeles. Over 4,000 of the patients are homeless, and many others cope with increasingly untenable rent payments. A key component of the 50th anniversary strategic plan is to expand the revolutionary model of care to address socio-economic disparities affecting health. Ms. Forer and her leadership team are initiating innovative new programs to address issues like food insecurity and homelessness, including food distribution events and more street medicine outreach.
Ms. Forer’s influence also extends outside the Clinic, as she encourages community involvement in the work and educates government officials and the public in effective health policy and the needs of the medically underserved. She was recently quoted in local and national media, including an op-ed published in the LA Times, about the need to recognize the homeless crisis in Los Angeles as a health care crisis. Today, the Clinic’s partnerships throughout the community and California include hospitals, universities, government agencies, nonprofits, advocacy groups, foundations, businesses, and like-minded individuals. The affiliation with UCLA deserves special attention because through it, Venice Family Clinic has not only trained thousands of medical residents, but has also spread its values far and wide as residents are inspired in their own practices.
Ms. Forer holds masters’ degrees in social work and public health from Columbia University. Prior to joining Venice Family Clinic, she served for five years as Executive Director of Settlement Health and Medical Services, a nonprofit community health center in East Harlem, New York. She also directed a department at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City, where her mission was to make the hospital more accessible to local residents. She has been honored with leadership awards from the Durfee Foundation and the UCLA Fielding School’s Health Policy and Management Alumni Association Leader of Today Award.
2019 Woman of Distinction – Claire West Orr
The accomplished Claire West Orr, mother, businesswoman, founder of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) is our 2019 FWC Woman of Distinction!
Claire says that she works with the “homed and the homeless.” Interiors by Claire West, her business founded in 1978, specializes in all facets of residential and commercial Interior decorating (hence, the “homed”).
For those not so fortunate, Claire has been active in church and community work since her children were small. In their Chicago suburb she was on race relations committees and treasurer of UNICEF. In the 70s, Claire and her four children moved to Pacific Palisades where she became an elder in the Presbyterian Church and helped organize their first Hunger Walk.
In 1983, she married Charles Orr, senior pastor of Westwood Presbyterian Church. On their honeymoon, she asked Charles if he would see if his church’s Hunger Committee could help the people she saw foraging in neighborhood dumpsters for something—anything—to eat. On November 18, 1983, Charles wrote to community leaders, pastors, and rabbis asking them to meet on December 7 to explore what might be done. He reasoned, “together we can convert our concern into coordinated action.”
From that initial meeting of 60 caring individuals, PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) was born. Since then, PATH has been giving a “hand up, not a hand out” to those in need. It started with distributing food and clothing to people living on the streets and grew to providing medical and mental healthcare, employment training, and ultimately to arranging housing. Since 2013, PATH has connected more than 7500 people to permanent homes. PATH’s reach has expanded beyond Los Angeles and is now in 140 cities from San Diego to San Jose.
Combined, Claire and Charles have six children and 18 grandchildren—with two more on the way! Claire loves playing tennis, walking, reading, fashion, NBA basketball (see photo above), and keeping track of all the family birthdays—quite a list for a very busy Woman of Distinction!
2018 Woman of Distinction – Jeanne Pritzker
Jeanne Pritzker, founder and chair of Foster Care Counts is our 2018 Woman of Distinction.
Jeanne’s interest in foster care ignited through personal experience. Fifteen years ago, Jeanne, mother of six, opened her home to the daughter of a friend who needed an alternative living situation. Jeanne was surprised how difficult it was, even for a child from a loving home, to live away from parents, and how challenging it was to parent someone else’s child.
This experience sparked an interest in helping children who, through no fault of their own, were growing up without their parents. Jeanne drew on both her studies in psychology and her former career as an investment banker to identify and bring together the best minds and resources to create life-changing programs for foster parents and children.
In 2012, Jeanne founded Foster Care Counts, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and provides financial support to local agencies working to help this underserved population. On May 13th, Foster Care Counts hosted 2,500 foster parents and children at its 10th annual Foster Mother’s Day. Foster Care Counts also gives grants to local organizations that support transition-age foster youth. Foster Care Counts has raised funds to donate 3,000 laptop computers to college-bound foster youth and also provides clothing, school supplies and holiday and graduation gifts for foster youth in college.
Jeanne serves as a director of the Anthony & Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation and Pritzker Foster Care Initiative, which provides financial and philanthropic support to key social service, education, environment, and arts-related organizations in our community.
Jeanne earned a BA in psychology from the University of Michigan and an MBA in finance from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Two years ago, she received her PsyD in Clinical Psychology from the Chicago School for Professional Psychology.
2017 FWC Woman of Distinction – Emada E. Tingirides
Los Angeles Police Lieutenant Emada Tingirides is nationally recognized and lauded for her community-based police work in East Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, and Watts. Los Angeles magazine named her one of LA’s most influential women, and Michelle Obama invited her to the 2015 State of the Union address.
Emada joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1995, serving in various city divisions until 2007, when the Southeast Area Community Police Station sought to overhaul their community relations program. Thus Emada returned to her neighborhood to better it. She worked with LA Attorney Connie Rice on the Community Safety Partnership Program (CSP), assigning dedicated officers to public housing developments. CSP’s primary purpose is relationship-based policing that addresses quality-of-life issues in housing communities and nurtures relationships with the residents, particularly the kids. A first welcome step was providing safe passage for kids to and from school.
CSP has been a tremendous success. The communities now have Scout troops and sports teams, residents are hired to work community events (heretofore nonexistent), and crime is down. Emada’s goals were to change how people viewed law enforcement, to improve the culture of policing in these communities, and to show the families “there is something better out there.” That she did, and now she would like to expand the program throughout the city.
Also, while she was working full-time, Emada returned to college and earned her degree in criminal justice. She and her husband, Deputy Chief Phil Tingirides, have, as she proudly says, “a beautiful blended family of six kids.”
2016 FWC Woman of Distinction – Andrea Ghez
The 2016 FWC Woman of Distinction, is Andrea M. Ghez, the Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics in UCLA’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. The renowned astronomer and expert on black holes is familiar to many for her TED talk on “The hunt for a supermassive black hole,” and her appearances on Nova or the Discovery and History channels.
Professor Ghez earned her B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. She distinguished herself scientifically even before earning her doctorate when she discovered that most stars in the universe are born with a companion, so that a majority of solar systems have two “suns” instead of one.
Professor Ghez’s current research uses high spatial resolution imaging techniques, such as the adaptive optics system at the Keck telescopes, to study star-forming regions and the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
Professor Ghez’s curriculum vitae details a long list of publications and awards, including tthe Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy—awarded early in her career— the MacArthur Award, the prestigious Crafoord Prize for Astronomy, and the recently awarded Bakerian Medal by The Royal Society of London.
A mother of two, Professor Ghez co-authored the children’s book, “You Can Be a Woman Astronomer,” part of a book series by Judith Love Cohen that encourages girls to pursue STEM and athletic fields.
2015 FWC Woman of Distinction – Lucy Jones
Seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones is renowned for her cutting-edge earthquake research and her role in spurring communities, particularly those in southern California, to be better prepared should an earthquake occur.
Dr. Jones has been a seismologist with the US Geological Survey and a visiting research associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech since 1983. She is the Science Advisor for Risk Reduction in the Natural Hazards Mission of the US Geological Survey, leading long-term science planning for natural hazards research and the application of hazards science to develop resilience in communities.
Dr. Jones created the SAFRR (Science Application for Risk Reduction) Project to innovate the application of hazards science to protect the safety, security, and economic well-being of the nation. Major products of SAFRR include the ShakeOut Earthquake Scenario and the first Great ShakeOut, a public emergency preparedness event with 5 million people in southern California in 2008; the ARkStorm scenario, a model of a great storm in California; and the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario. In 2014, she served in a special assignment as Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti’s Science Advisor for Seismic Safety, applying the results of the ShakeOut Scenario to increase the resilience of the city.
Dr. Jones has authored over 100 papers on research seismology with primary interest in earthquake statistics and integrated disaster scenarios, especially in Southern California. She has received numerous awards: the Ambassador Award from the American Geophysical Union, Alquist Award from the California Earthquake Safety Foundation, Meritorious Service Award from the Department of the Interior, the Shoemaker Award for Lifetime Achievements in Science Communication from the USGS, and the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal.
Dr. Jones received a BA degree in Chinese language and literature, magna cum laude, from Brown University in 1976 and a Ph.D. in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981. A fourth-generation Southern Californian, Dr. Jones currently lives in Pasadena with her husband, Dr. Egill Hauksson, research professor of geophysics at Caltech.
2014 FWC Woman of Distinction – Gail Abarbanel
A UCLA alumna, Gail Abarbanel is the founder and director of the nationally recognized Rape Treatment Center (RTC) at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, the most comprehensive center of its kind in the nation.
The RTC pioneered a model for victim care that is used in hospitals and other victim service agencies throughout the United States. The Center provides free, state-of-the-art care for sexual assault victims (both adults and children), including emergency medical care, forensic services, professional counseling, and other support services 24-hours a day. In 1988, Ms. Abarbanel created Stuart House, an innovative, internationally recognized, model program serving sexually abused children. In 1999, she established the Verna Harrah Clinic, a unique 24-hour emergency care facility designed to serve the special medical/forensic needs of sexual assault victims that serves as model for the nation. In 2006, she partnered with the California attorney general to create an innovative Fast Track Forensics program in response to the “rape kit” crisis.
Ms. Abarbanel has improved the treatment of rape victims nationwide by educating police, prosecutors, judges, medical, and mental health personnel across the country. She has produced educational films and written educational materials that are disseminated throughout the United States. She has also developed innovative prevention programs, including the Center’s school-based programs for high school and middle school students that reach 20,000 children each year.
Inaugural Recipient of the FWC Woman of Distinction Award, 2013 – Ruth Pearl
Ruth Pearl, founder of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, was the inaugural recipient of the FWC Woman of Distinction Award in October 2013.
Ruth Pearl is the mother of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was abducted and murdered by extremists in Karachi, Pakistan, in early 2002. In his memory, Ruth, together with her husband Judea and daughters, Tamara and Michelle, founded The Daniel Pearl Foundation to promote tolerance and understanding through journalism, music, and education.
The Daniel Pearl Foundation provides fellowships for foreign journalists and editors from South Asia and the Middle East to spend six months in US newsrooms, thereby experiencing a free press environment. The Foundation also sponsors “Pearl Youth News,” preparing secondary school students to become ethical, truthful journalists and supports The Annual Daniel Pearl Lecture Series in Journalism and International Relations here at UCLA and at Stanford University.
Ruth has served in all aspects of running The Daniel Pearl Foundation since its inception in 2002—as executive director, then executive vice president for many years, and as CFO from Day 1. She is also co-editor of the 2004 National Jewish Book Award for Anthologies winner, “I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl,” which provides a panoramic view of how Jews define themselves in the post 9/11 era.
Ruth is married to UCLA computer science professor Judea Pearl, recipient of the A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery—an award often called “the Nobel Prize of Computing