Golden Acorn Awards recognize local leaders

Sheryl Sandberg talks about community service, life in Menlo Park

With pauses every few minutes to observe the muffled screeching of a Caltrain passing nearby, Menlo Park's 40th annual Golden Acorn Awards ceremony proceeded otherwise without interruption on Tuesday night, Sept. 20, at the Stanford Park Hotel.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, author of "Lean In," and proud resident of Menlo Park, offered the keynote address and presented one of the four awards.

The awards program, which recognizes community and business leaders in Menlo Park, was resurrected this year after a four-year hiatus.

This year's award winners are:

● Public Service: Menlo Park Police Chief Robert Jonsen.

● Community Service: Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation, which raises funds for the Menlo Park City School District.

● Innovation & Technology: Women's Startup Lab in Menlo Park.

● Business Excellence: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Menlo Park venture capital firm.

Keynote speaker Sheryl Sandberg made note of the city's "very strong sense of community." For her and her late husband, Dave Goldberg, who died unexpectedly in May 2015, the choice to move to Menlo Park was a careful and conscious one. "This community meant so much to him, as it does to me," she said.

It was also a careful choice to move Facebook to Menlo Park, she said. "It's a larger company than the city has had before," she acknowledged. (Facebook currently has plans to build nearly a million square feet of additional office space and a 200-room hotel on its property in eastern Menlo Park.)

"We believed in what the community could bring to Facebook," she added. "We believed we could give back to the community." She cited several examples of Facebook's community-serving initiatives, such as its internship program with local teens, and discussed her own involvement with local nonprofit Second Harvest Food Bank.

"When we volunteer, we connect to the community and the best parts of who we are," she said.

Ms. Sandberg announced the Innovation and Technology award winner: Women's Startup Lab. "I believe there's an entrepreneur in all of us," she said.

The award was accepted by Deanna Kosaraju. "Supporting female founders is not just the right thing to do. It makes business sense," she said.

Ted Schlein of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers accepted the Business Excellence award on behalf of the venture capital firm. He said he personally has been a Menlo Park resident since 1990 and sent his children to Menlo Park schools. The venture capital firm has enabled him to work with entrepreneurs, build companies and create jobs.

"We've had the fortune to work with great entrepreneurs around the world," he said. "It's so rewarding."

Menlo Park Police Chief Bob Jonsen, who received the Public Service award, joked, "Police officers don't like to say a lot: license, registration, proof of insurance." He managed, however, to gather a few more words for the occasion: "I accept this acorn on behalf of everyone," he said. "I do believe that one day we can make this the safest city in America."

Susannah Hill, who accepted the Community Service award on behalf of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation, gave thanks to the organization's volunteers, local parents and the school board.

"We'd also like to thank everybody who supports public schools, whichever district you're in," she told the audience.

The event was hosted by the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by a number of local businesses.

See the Almanac's earlier story with details about the four award winners.

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