The College of the Canyons Foundation Board of Directors revealed Tuesday its choice of Rita Garasi, long-time community volunteer, as the recipient of the coveted “Silver Spur” Community Service Award for 2007.
Garasi, Santa Clarita’s 1990 Woman of the Year, has long been one of the community’s most active volunteers, providing leadership to a string of nonprofit groups and local agencies. In recent years she has also dedicated herself to supporting the college’s success.
“Rita’s record of service speaks to her visionary leadership and selfless devotion to issues that benefit the entire community. From supporting Santa Clarita’s city-hood, to the performing arts, healthcare and education, Rita has lent her time, talents, and resources to making the Santa Clarita Valley the wonderful place that it is. Her remarkable contributions deserve to be recognized and we are proud to salute her as our 2007 Silver Spur honoree,” said Dianne Van Hook, College of the Canyons Superintendent-President.
The Silver Spur Award committee is co-chaired this year by two couples: Gary and Myrna Condie and Jeff and Kiki Hacker. The chairs plan to announce the date and location of the annual Silver Spur Celebration shortly. “We are so proud to be organizing this gala event to honor Rita and plan to make it an evening everyone will fondly remember,” said Gary Condie.
Garasi’s support for College of the Canyons has involved numerous major projects, most recently serving as campaign chair for the 2006 “Yes on Measure M” bond campaign that will bring $160 million to the college for capital improvements.
She is a supporter of the University Center capital campaign, and also was co-chair and campaign manager for the college’s 2001 “Yes on Measure C” campaign. She served two terms on the Measure “C” Citizens Oversight Committee, including one as Vice Chair; is a current member of the COC Foundation; and serves on the college’s Canyon Country Campus Advisory Committee.
Previous to her involvement with the college, Garasi served on the Santa Clarita Valley Planning Advisory Committee, participated on the Santa Clarita City Formation Committee, and served on the City of Santa Clarita Planning Commission, for which she served as chair and also as a planning commissioner. She has been a board member and chair of the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Board of Directors.
In addition to running the college’s bond campaigns, in 1987 she provided leadership to Santa Clarita Valley elementary & high school districts’ funding measures as chair and campaign manager. She also has served on the UCLA Chancellor’s Task Force on Rural Development Standards and the Los Angeles Countywide General Plan Committee.
“Above all else, Rita is a person of character,” said Van Hook. “She adheres to the highest standards of integrity and is unwilling to compromise her beliefs. Coupled with her talent and quick wit, she is a true original and one of Santa Clarita’s gems. Our community is lucky to have had the benefit of her leadership, foresight, commitment and courage over the years.”
The Silver Spur Celebration was originally the brain-child of LaVerne Rosa Harris, a member of the COC Foundation Board of Directors who became the 1996 Silver Spur honoree. The very first gala was held at the Gene Autry Museum in 1989, with Cliffie Stone as the recipient. The Foundation Board of Directors at the time wanted to create a signature event for the COC Foundation and also to reflect the western heritage of the Santa Clarita Valley.
The event remains today one of the most popular elegant evenings for the community traditionally held at historic museums, clubs and Los Angeles landmarks.
Other previous recipients of the award include Aggie Agajanian, Scott and Ruth Newhall, Tom Dierkman, John Hoskinson, Robert Ormsby, Dick Luechtefeld, Roberta Veloz, Michael Berger, Lou Garasi, Tom Lee, Jay and Joyce Rodgers, Gary Cusumano, Charlotte and Frank Kleeman and Tom Veloz.