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Reviewing the history of LEAD San Diego

LEAD San Diego has become a San Diego institution. But how did this organization, which has produced more than 1,300 community leaders in the last 20 years, get its start? A review the organization's archives and history shows that it was born out of the same spirit that drives so many of its graduates: a desire to make San Diego a better place.

The formation of LEAD San Diego was prompted, in part, by a desire to breathe new life into its successor organization, the San Diego Community Leadership Development Program, also known as CLD. While the goals of the CLD, which was formed in 1976, remained relevant, by 1981 the organization had lost its momentum.

Several of the individuals and organizations close to the CLD felt it was time to launch a new organization with a clearer mission. The objectives were to "exploit the vast resources of existing, but underutilized, talents and leadership abilities" in the San Diego region and to "develop the potential of emerging leaders."

In many ways, the process of forming LEAD lived up to its name. It required leadership and collaboration from a number of organizations, a group of individuals who were willing to devote time and resources to the effort and an unyielding commitment to a common goal. The core group of founders included representatives from five sponsoring organizations:

* United Way of San Diego County

* San Diego Community Foundation

* COMBO

* Junior League of San Diego

* CLD Alumni

As Phil Klauber, LEAD's first president, recalled, "In hindsight, it can be seen as a major milestone for these groups to work together."

With leadership programs of their own and concerns about giving resources and control to a new organization, it would have been very easy for any of these groups to resist the formation of a new entity. Through the commitment of the sponsors, collaboration prevailed. On Dec. 3, 1981 the Articles of Incorporation were signed and on Sept. 16, 1982, after six months of tireless work by the founders and with 50 budding leaders, the first LEAD seminar was held. It was entitled "An Overview of San Diego County."

LEAD's founding was also assisted by the financial contributions of many organizations in the region. Each of the five sponsoring organizations made significant monetary or in-kind contributions. Other founding contributors included Fitness Resorts Inc., Home Federal Savings & Loan and The Parker Foundation.

"We designed the original curriculum to give an issues and place overview of San Diego. To inspire people to become active, so they will be useful, knowledgeable volunteers with a sense of the big picture," said Libby Carson, one of LEAD's founding directors. "LEAD is still doing that today. It is fun to start something then see, 20 years later, that it is still doing what it was designed to do and even better than when we started."

Featuring a packed schedule and some of the region's most prominent leaders, those first LEAD seminars looked a lot like they do today. Notable speakers in the first year included: Police Chief Bill Kolender; Reverend George Walker Smith, president of the Board of Education, San Diego City Schools; Neil Morgan, editor of The San Diego Tribune; County Supervisor Roger Hedgecock; City Councilman Leon Williams; Dr. Mary Walshok, dean of University Extension; Tom Page, president of San Diego Gas & Electric; and City Councilman Dick Murphy, to name a few of the more than 100 speakers who addressed the LEAD class in the first year.

In fact, the agendas were so full, it prompted Klauber, after the first year, to note that: "The chief frustration we had was the shortage of time during seminars to accomplish all we wanted to do, and deciding how to divide the precious time between the presenters' talks and the discussions by the class."

Ask any recent graduate about today's LEAD seminars and you will probably get much the same response. Twenty years later, LEAD San Diego is still creating meaningful and substantive programs about the most important issues facing the San Diego region -- and packing it all in to make the time spent with participants as informative and productive as possible. Through it all, the goal has remained the same: Make San Diego a better place by engaging, informing and empowering San Diego's leaders.

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LEAD San Diego Founders

Robert W. Arnhym

Renee V. Walker

Elizabeth C. McClendon

Sharon L. Glassman

Michael Lewis

Philip M. Klauber

Nancy J. Graves

Jerry K. Lynes

Sophia D. Gorham

Michael Ibs Gonzalez

Elizabeth H. Carson

James H. West

Kim Fletcher

LEAD San Diego Presidents

1982 to 1984 Philip Klauber

1984 to 1986 James F. Mulvaney Sr.

1986 to 1988 William B. Kolender

1988 to 1989 William Rick

1989 to 1990 Philip C. Blair

1990 to 1991 Ronald H. Kendrick

1991 to 1992 Yvonne Larsen

1992 to 1993 John C. Raymond

1993 to 1994 Judy McDonald

1995 to 1996 L. Clark Siebrand (84)

1996 to 1997 Linda Katz (90)

1997 to 1998 Charles H. Dick Jr. (78)

1998 to 1999 Steve Espino (90)

1999 to 2001 Marilyn Allen Sawyer (84)

2001 to Present Cynthia P. Olmstead (91)

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