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Assembly Majority Floor Leader Chris Holden to Honor 41st District Unsung Hero and Women of Distinction

Published on Thursday, February 25, 2016 | 5:00 pm

In celebration of Black History Month and Women’s History Month in March, Assembly Majority Floor Leader, Chris Holden will recognize the 41st Assembly District’s Unsung Hero and Women of Distinction on Thursday, March 3rd at his District Office Open House, 600 N. Rosemead Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107.

With over fifty nominations throughout the district, centenarian Marilee Scaff, Ph.D. from Claremont has been named the 2016 Woman of Distinction for the 41st District. Scaff celebrated her 100th birthday last November. She has been active in the local League of Women Voters where she was President and received their Ordway Award for “performing outstanding service to the community.”

Honorees from throughout the district include Ruth Hopkins (Altadena), Valerie Bires (Alta Loma), Devorah Lieberman, Ph.D. (La Verne), Janie Duncan (Monrovia), Cynthia Olivo, Ph.D. (Pasadena), Theresa Bruns (San Dimas), Kristine Lowe (Sierra Madre), Dr. Marina Khubesrian (South Pasadena), and Wendy Dean (Upland).

“Congratulations to Marilee Scaff of Claremont and all the Women of Distinction,” said Assembly Majority Floor Leader Chris Holden. “Their contributions to our community have truly made a positive impact.”

On February 12th in Sacramento, Danny Bakewell, Jr. accepted the 41st Assembly District Unsung Hero Award on behalf his father Danny Bakewell, Sr. Bakewell, Sr. is an American civil rights activists and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of the National Black United Fund and served as president of The Brotherhood Crusade for over thirty years.

“It is my honor to present the Unsung Hero Award to a man who, at a time when very few minorities were involved in community projects, had the courage to step up when duty called,” said Holden.

The District Office Open House is open to all constituents. More information can be found at

Short Biographies for the 2016 41st District Women of Distinction:

Marilee Scaff, Ph.D., Claremont – Marilee Scaff celebrated her 100th birthday last November when she received greetings from over 700 Girl Scouts nationwide recognizing her role as a former Scout Leader. She has been active in the local League of Women Voters where she was president and received their Ordway Award for “performing outstanding service to the community.” She also dedicated 30 years to volunteering and organizing the Botanic Garden’s volunteer organization while serving nine years on its Board of Overseers.

In the years leading up to World War II, Dr. Scaff found her calling as an advocate for peace while working as a teacher at a remote mountain village in the Philippines. After hiding in the mountains for two years, and being captured by Japanese soldiers during a mountain raid, she found herself spending two years in the internment camps of Santo Thomas and Los Banos. She was rescued by the 101st Airborne Division, and returned home stateside in May of 1945, settling in Claremont two years later.

Ruth Hopkins, Altadena – Ruth Hopkins is the owner and publisher of the Pasadena Journal, a local African American news publication serving the San Gabriel Valley. For more than 25 years, the Pasadena Journal has been an invaluable source of information covering issues of most concern to the African American community. The Journal highlights events, activities, educational opportunities for students, and serves as a directory and advertising vehicle for small businesses.

Valerie Bires, Alta Loma – Valerie Bires has worked in elementary education for 23 years and has been a nurturing, instructional leader. During her time in Monrovia at Bradoaks Elementary, she received numerous awards including the Golden Apple and Golden Oak awards from the PTA, and was awarded the First Year Sallie Mae Award by Monrovia Unified School District. In the Alta Loma School District and at Hermosa Elementary, she has implemented new programs and continued meaningful events, including Watch Dogs and a school-wide Veteran’s Day program.

Devorah Lieberman, Ph.D., La Verne – Dr. Devorah Lieberman has dedicated her personal and professional life to three goals: educating and cultivating future leaders through higher education, promoting inclusivity among all while honoring diverse cultures, and leading by example with integrity. Lieberman has been able to cohesively blend her personal values with the mission of the University of La Verne as its 18th and first female President in the institution’s 124-year history.

Janie Duncan, Monrovia – Janie Duncan is known city-wide as someone who can and will help those in need. As co-founder of Monrovia’s Foothills Kitchen, Janie and her team provide meals to anyone in need every Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at the United Methodist Church. She also helps with jobs, housing, clothing and other needed items.

Cynthia D. Olivo, Ph.D., Pasadena – Cynthia Olivo has worked to make sure youth in the Pasadena community, especially those in Northwest with a large under-served community of color, have the knowledge and support necessary to attend and succeed in college. Dr. Olivo has provided the vision and leadership to nurture Pasadena Community College faculty, staff and community leaders to move forward with a plan for outreach and recruitment and serves as an advocate and leader for student services that have a positive impact on student retentions, persistence, and success.

Theresa Bruns, San Dimas – Theresa Bruns has been an outstanding public servant for the City of San Dimas and its citizens for over 25 years. She currently serves as Director of Parks and Recreation. In this capacity she has received numerous awards and honors. She is a past president of the Southern California Municipal Athletic Association, and a recipient of their Service, Citation, and Merit Awards. Under her leadership, San Dimas has been honored with the Golden Shield award three times for contribution to the Parks and Recreation profession.

Kristine Lowe, Sierra Madre – Kristine Lowe is a well-loved member of the Sierra Madre community. As a retired Captain for the Sierra Madre Volunteer Fire Department (SMVFD), she served the community for over 15 years. She continues to volunteer her time to her community through charitable events such as the Public Library Wine Tasting Fundraiser, Wisteria Festival & the Fire Association. Kristine is currently a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, and the coordinator for the Public Safety Academy at Hoover High School, a program which certifies youth for disaster preparedness and emergency response.

Dr. Marina Khubesrian, South Pasadena – Dr. Khubesrian was elected to the South Pasadena City Council and served as mayor in 2014. Under her leadership, the city developed cost sharing partnerships with the Five City Alliance and Tri-City Fire Chief programs, enacted plastic bag and e-cigarette ban ordinances, launched South Pasadena Host Town for Special Olympics World Games, helped secure more open space and parks for residents, and sparked public art projects in the City’s commercial districts. She co-founded Connected Cities and Communities (C3). In 2015, the C3 developed and advocated for sustainable and environmentally responsible transportation networks and projects in the San Gabriel Valley.

Wendy Dean, Upland – Wendy Dean is an entrepreneur, author, motivational speaker and advocate for forgiveness. In 1999 she founded the non-profit Forgiving for Living, Inc. for the purpose of empowering women through forgiveness. As a child she was a victim of sexual abuse but later developed strategies for healing that allowed her to break down the walls of hurt and pain and eventually learned how to forgive. She shares how to embrace happiness, experience joy, and live a fulfilled life without hatred. She learned how to go from victim to victorious and her mission is to help others do the same. To date she has helped close to 3,000 girls.

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