Honoring Prominent Community Leaders in San Diego

Written by: Claudia Chow, Digital Marketing Manager, UWSD

United Way of San Diego County (UWSD) ‘s Virtual Centennial Celebration brought together business and community leaders to celebrate the 100-year legacy United Way has across the San Diego region. For 100 years, UWSD has aligned with partners and leveraged resources to transform lives. The focus continues to ensure that every child and young adult, regardless of zip code or income, is prepared to succeed in school and life, from cradle to career, and those families have the support needed to ensure that success.

More than just a celebration, the virtual event included honoring our past, celebrating the present, and redefining and reimagining the future. Sentiments for the organization’s monumental milestone were highlighted, local artists charmed the audience with delightful entertainment, and four local community leaders in the education, business, and philanthropy sectors were acknowleged and praised for their commitment to our community.

Award recipients were honored in the following categories:

The Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Solar Turbines, a 93 year old company that has been giving back to San Diego every step of the way. For decades, Solar Turbines has been UWSD’s leading corporate partner, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Many thanks to the employees who make this happen and donations are matched dollar for dollar by the Caterpillar Foundation.  From the shop floor to the executive team, there is a passion for giving back that is in their DNA. Solar Turbines became the first partner to raise over $1M for United Way and other local charities.  Only one company has raised more…and it was Solar…the following year!

Recipient: Director of Global Supply Chain for Solar Turbines and current Board Member of United Way Leslie Oliver on behalf of Solar Turbines

The James F. Mulvaney Community Leadership Award
The James F. Mulvaney Community Leadership Award was awarded the Hunter Family.  Named after James (Jim) Mulvaney who was active on numerous nonprofit boards and organizations for 50 years, the award commends those who demonstrate long-lasting, exceptional service to the San Diego community. The Hunter family has been partnering with United Way for nearly 35 years and, every step of the way, has been a leader in all that they do for this community. Whether it be donating their time, talent, or treasure, the Hunter Family has a rich history of giving back that you could say is in their DNA.

Recipient: Ann Hunter Welborn on behalf of the Hunter Family

The Philanthropic Partner of the Year Award
The Philanthropic Partner of the Year Award was awarded to San Diego Gas and Electic (SDG&E). For decades, SDG&E’s contributions to the community have been unparalleled.  Their generous support of local nonprofits, from education and the environment to healthcare and STEM, provides a safety net for our most vulnerable residents. Most recently, it has been an honor to partner with SDG&E and others on the COVID-19 Community Response Fund. SDG&E has been United Way’s strongest ally. The company has contributed more than $4.47M over the past 15 years to help San Diegans pay their utility bills, including more than $400K most recently through the Worker Assistance Initiative.

Recipient: Vice President of State Governmental Affairs and External Affairs for SDG&E, Eugene “Mitch” Mitchell, on behalf of SDG&E

The Community Partner Award
The Community Partner Award was awarded to Sylvia McGrade who, before her retirement, was the beloved principal at Adams Elementary School in City Heights. Sylvia was a key partner in the  Every Student, Every Day initiative, a collaborative effort effort that aims to ensure kids stay engaged with new forms of learning and supports their families with basic needs. In partnership with UWSD, parents, and students, Sylvia came up with creative ways to get kids to school on time. She even gave extra recess to children who had perfect attendance for an entire month, and you can imagine how popular that was! Sylvia served as an invaluable partner to help us and our attendance team tackle drilling down on the vital factors that would positively impact families.

Recipient: Sylvia McGrade, Principal, Adams Elementary School (ret.)


From local leaders – business and government, education and nonprofit – to philanthropists and community partners, we want to thank you for the vital role you play in making San Diego’s future brighter– because #UnitedWeCan!


Thank you to our co-chairs and the Mulvaney Family for recognizing these four prominent community leaders in the education, business, and philanthropy sectors in San Diego.

And thank you to our sponsors who helped make this all possible.