A wide range of community organizations to salute Gerald Freeny, first African-American president to be named to head the historic organization
Published : Tuesday, August 14, 2018 | 6:29 PM
With the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Board of Directors’ naming of Gerald Freeny as president for the 2018-2019 Tournament of Roses year, the organization has reached new heights of diversity, say local civil rights activists and community leaders.
Freeny was selected in January as the first African-American to hold the position and will preside over the Rose Parade presented by Honda and the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.
In celebration, an open house and party to honor Freeny will be held on Thursday, August 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses headquarters.
“This is a historic event in the history of the 128 year history of the Tournament of Roses,” said Martin Gordon, chair of the Pasadena Committee Coalition, on Tuesday.
“There are a number of important things here. Number one is what’s happened with the actual hiring of an African Americans there, and the diversity of the entire Tournament of Roses, which has been dominantly white over the last 130 years,” Gordon said. “We appreciate diversity at every level, and we’re for better involvement with our diverse community in terms of volunteerism, job, vendors, and the funding of programs.”
Freeny himself told Pasadena Now that he is “very humbled and very honored to have received this, being the first African American president, and I’m truly blessed by all the outreach, and all the support that I’m getting from the community.”
Acknowledging the significance of his selection, Freeny added, “We at the Tournament of Roses are committed to being diversified and we are making changes, but like any organization, we can always do better and we’re striving to do better. This opportunity that has occurred for me has shown that the Tournament of Roses had made great strides to diversify and represent the community at large.”
But, says Freeny, who has worked for the Tournament of Roses for more than thirty years, “I try to be humble. My family keeps me humble. My wife and my family, they keep me down to size.”
Freeny continues his own share of community work.
“I do also love the community and I speak to the kids,” he said. “I go to John Muir High, I’ve gone to other schools and I’ve been able to read to some of the other young minority children, and let them know to set goals for themselves.”
“‘Have visions,’ I tell them. ‘Know that you can reach that, and, maybe one day you’ll be president of the Tournament of Roses, or you’ll be the president of a big company, or who says that you might not be president of the United States.’”
To hammer home the theme of diversity in Feeny’s selection, Thursday’s celebration will be presented by a group of community organizations, all of whom share the goal of diversity—The Pasadena Community Coalition, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Pasadena Armenian Coalition and Organization for Chinese Americans, Greater Los Angeles (OCA-GLA).
Rick Eng, program director for OCA-GLA), said Tuesday, “The Tournament of Roses is such an international brand, recognized around the globe. The viewership of the parade is in the billions and of course, everyone looks forward to which teams play in the tournament of roses, the Rose Bowl. I think (Freeny’s selection) is very significant, at such a time where our climate around the country is very contentious. There’s discord and obviously that manifests into sometimes racial, attacks and, and bigotry. So it’s encouraging sometimes to see things like the recognition of Mr. Freeny still go on, and still remind us that our society is very multiracial, and multicultural.”
Ramon Miramontes, president of the Pasadena chapter of the League of United Latin-American Citizens (LULAC), also emphasized the need for community organizations to stand together in victories like these.
“We wanted to impress the importance onto the Pasadena Board of Directors from the Tournament, that this is a milestone where we should all as a community celebrate, no matter how long the journey has taken, and that it benefits everyone to understand that we’ve reached it,” Miramontes observed. “And because the Tournament has such a global reach, it has more than just an immediate community positive effect, it’s global. It’s global and at a time where there may be some negative messages about our country, this is more of a true testament about the values of our country, and it goes beyond just the boundaries of America.”
Freeny has been a volunteer member of the Tournament of Roses Association since 1988. In addition to his many years of service in the Tournament of Roses, his community involvement has included; president of the San Gabriel chapter of NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives), the Pasadena Police Foundation Board, Pasadena Police Citizens Academy, Pasadena Rose Bowl Aquatics Board, University Club, Pasadena YMCA Board, Black Support Group at Cal State LA, Urban League Board of Governors, United Way Fundraising Committee, Toast Masters and the Pasadena NAACP. Freeny has been on the Advisory Board of the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation since 2016, and is also a member of Legacy’s Museum Committee.
He attended Pasadena Christian School and John Muir High School in Pasadena, and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from California State University, Los Angeles. Freeny is a member of both the Kappa Alpha Psi and Gamma Zeta Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi fraternities.
Gerald resides in Altadena with his wife, Trina, and their daughter, Erica.
The Community Open House and Celebration will be held on Thursday, August 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.
Tournament of Roses is located at 391 S. Orange Grove Blvd. in Pasadena.
Reservations are required.
For more information, contact Martin A. Gordon, Chair Pasadena Community Coalition at (626) 786-5204 or email email@example.com.