Mary Lowther Ranney Distinguished Alumna Award
Each year, from a list of women nominated by fellow alumnae, a Distinguished Alumna of the Year is chosen to be honored at the annual alumnae luncheon. The first recipients were chosen in 1988 and were two members of the Westridge student body from its founding in 1913.
The 2019 Mary Lowther Ranney Distinguished Alumna Award recipient is Sigrid Burton '69.
The citation for the award reads as follows:
To honor Mary Lowther Ranney the award is given annually by Westridge School to an alumna whose life embodies the spirit of the Westridge motto, Surgere Tentamus, and who, by her commitment to her chosen path, her dedication to lifelong growth and learning, and her habits of heart, mind, and action is an example and inspiration to the Westridge community.
Class of '21, 1988 Recipient
Marian studied sculpture at the Arts Student League in New York and in Santa Barbara under the direction of Ettore Cadorin. She later moved to Sonoma where she established her studio. Marian exhibited at the National Academy of Art and Design, The Whitney Museum and the San Francisco Museum. Her principal works include statues for the National Cathedral in Washington, DC and sculptures for churches across the country. Ms. Brackenridge designed a bronze plaque honoring Westridge founder Mary Lowther Ranney and the delicate leaves that have come to symbolize Westridge are her design. She is a founding family member of Westridge School.
“Art, like morality, begins with drawing a line somewhere…”
Class of ‘21,1988 Recipient
Musician and founding family member of Westridge School, Margaret is the namesake of the original music room. It is because of Margaret’s initiative and purposeful action that music is such an integral and core part of the Westridge curriculum today. We all thank Margaret for the sounds of music that continue to bring joy and illumination to the Westridge campus.
Class of 27, 1989 Recipient
A late blooming and highly successful author, Harriet often hid her background as the granddaughter of railroad tycoon Henry Edwards Huntington. She attended Smith College and Stanford University but left one year shy of a degree to marry engineering student, Albert Edward Doerr. She raised two children, shuttling between Pasadena and rural Mexico where her husband’s family had mining interests. Not until after her husband’s death, did Harriet finish her degree at Stanford and go on to publish her best-selling novel based on her life in Mexico, Stones for Ibarra, at age 74. Harriet was a National Book Award winner and wrote two more highly acclaimed books “Consider This, Senora” and “Tiger in the Grass.”
“I like to think Westridge helped me to be a non-conformist”
Class of ‘27, 1990 Recipient
Anne served as president of the Planned Parenthood Clinic of Pasadena and was avidly involved in the Community Chest (United Way) organization and the Fellows of Huntington Library. Her philanthropic work through the Junior League was extensive and legendary. Anne’s sense of personal responsibility to the community and to Westridge, as both an alumna and parent, as well as her lifelong dedication to volunteerism make her an alumna whose life and work exemplify the Westridge motto, Surgere Tentamus.
Class of '53, 1991 Recipient
Gwen has served as a director of the Los Angeles Times, board member of the Huntington Library, a Polytechnic School trustee and board member of the Florence Crittendon Home. She is a genealogist, gardener, wife and mother. She has also served on the Westridge Board of Trustees and acted as Class Representative for over 35 years.
Class of '45, 1992 Recipient
Actress of stage and screen, Joan studied acting with legendary teachers Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg. A member of the famed Actors Studio, she debuted on Broadway and performed in regional theatres across the country. Joan co-starred in many television sitcoms, most notably as Oscar’s girlfriend Nancy on “The Odd Couple.” Her film credits include “Breezy” opposite William Holden, “Ode to Billie Joe” and “Legacy” which she also wrote. She co-authored a manual for actors entitled, “No Acting Please: Beyond the Method” which is used in colleges and conservatories throughout the country.
“At Westridge I relaxed. I could feel. I could think. And I could know what I was feeling and thinking. What a sweet sensation, this permission to be me. I would pursue it the rest of my life.”
Class of ‘57, 1993 Recipient
Joan, a self-described former “cream puff” is a world-class marathon runner and one of America’s top women distance runners. She is a graduate of Harvard Medical School, where she was one of only eight women in a class of 160. She is a pioneer in the field of sports medicine and psychology and the author of several books, including the classic, Women’s Running, Running Free and The New Women’s Running.
“Westridge made me feel independent. We at Westridge grew up knowing that we could do anything.”
Class of ‘64,1994 Recipient
Jessie is a physician nationally recognized for her research on premature infants and young children with serious heart or lung diseases. She is the director of the Neonatal High Risk Follow-up Clinic at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
“We who sit in this room are some of the most fortunate people on this planet. As a physician who has spent over 20 years caring for underprivileged children, I have learned that it is only through education that we can begin to heal the problems of our society.”
Class of ‘42, 1995 Recipient
Jae was a painter, sculptor, poet, photographer, independent film producer,
teacher stained glass artist and Renaissance woman. She founded and served as head of the production design department at the University of Southern California’s famed School of Cinema. She also established cinema classes at Pasadena City College and worked in stage design for the Pasadena Playhouse.
“There is a very special spirit at the heart of Westridge, the quest for knowledge, the pursuit of excellence and standing tall and straight.”
Class of ‘65, 2005 Recipient
A professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill specializing in African-American History with an emphasis on race, law and social movements.. Genna Rae MacNeil was the first Afrian-American to graduate from Westridge. Genna earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She has served as chairperson of the Department of History at Howard University and taught at Roosevelt University, Hunter College and Howard University School of Law. Her publications include scholarly articles and four books including the definitive biography of Charles Hamilton Houston, mentor of Thurgood Marshall, for which she was awarded the distinguished Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association.
Class of ‘69, 1996 Recipient
A highly successful Silicon Valley engineer, Julia has been on the forefront of design and marketing of high technology. She left the all girls institution of Westridge for the all male electrical engineering department at Stanford where she received her Masters Degree. Julia went on to design “fast math” programs for Hewlett Packard and to market leading edge computer technology to Fortune 500 companies.
Class of ‘44, 1997 Recipient
Jean devoted her life to family and community. She earned her B.A. in history from Scripps College and an M.A. in human development from Pacific Oaks College. Jean has served on the board of Mothers’ Club Community Center and been a trustee of Pacific Oaks College.
Class of ‘40, 1998 Recipient
Philanthropist and lover of humanity, Audrey supported the arts and education through the Harry and Grace Steele foundation. She made significant contributions to her community and worked to make the world a better place. Audrey’s dedication to Westridge was profound, and she gave the first 1 million dollar gift from an alumna to the Westridge endowment through the family foundation.
Class of ‘45, 1998 Recipient
Polly served on the Board of Trustees at Westridge for many years. During her board tenure, she brought her quiet wisdom and unswerving commitment to the financial aid program, chairing the Financial Aid Committee. Poly’s dedication to Westridge and her desire to ensure a bright future for the school and for young girls in our community led her to leave a planned gift of 1 million dollars to the school’s endowment. Polly’s kind of generosity of spirit and commitment has been the lifeblood of Westridge.
Class of ‘67, 1999 Recipient
Helen is nothing short of a true heroine. A nurse practitioner and epidemiologist, Helen has led an extraordinary life of service improving the quality of life for women and children in some of the world’s most under-served populations. She worked with refugees in Thailand who were escaping the brutality of the Khmer Rouge, training healthcare providers and immunizing hundreds of thousands of refugees. In Afghanistan, during war with the Soviet Union, she developed a natural, easily accessible treatment for childhood diarrhea, the leading cause of childhood death, saving untold numbers of lives. Helen has worked with NGO’s, the UN, UNICEF and is a graduate of Stanford University.
“If we are to improve the health and welfare of women and children in the less developed world, it will be by investing in women’s education.”
“I felt an obligation to spread my good fortune around a bit”
Class of '52, 2000 Recipient
Athlete and mother of four boys, Dorothy exemplifies a lifelong commitment to the values of Westridge. Dorothy is an individual who has set an example of determination to be the best she could be in every endeavor. Her dedication to Westridge and the enormous positive impact she had on the school represent community service at its best. She is happy to have three granddaughters attend Westridge.
Class of '51, 2001 Recipient
Activist and philanthropist, Joan is the great-granddaughter of James Irvine, founder of The Irvine Museum in Orange County. She was instrumental in organizing and funding the National Water Research Institute whose mission is to create new sources of water through research and technology. She founded, along with her mother, the Joan Irvine Smith & Athalie R. Irvine Clarke Foundation, a private grant-making foundation that has teamed up with Christopher Reeve to pursue research in the treatment of spinal-cord injuries. Joan has published nine books and all her life has “given with purpose” to improve the worlds of education, health and the environment.
Class of ‘36, 2002 Recipient
Adelaide is a philanthropist who is outspoken in her commitment to social justice and fairness. She has served on the board of American Way, Planned Parenthood, Pacific Oaks College, Foothill Family Services and Mothers Club. She has given generously to community and a wide array of educational institutions. She is known, loved and respected for her forthright opinions, her generosity and her true internal compass.
Class of ‘58, 2003 Recipient
Margaret is an Episcopal priest and has served in pastoral care at All Saints Church in Pasadena. She holds an MA from UCLA and also attended Vassar College and UC Berkeley. She has a longstanding commitment to equality for women and for other underserved populations in our society. Before becoming an ordained priest, Margaret taught high school English at Polytechnic School.
Class of '71, 2004 Recipient
Feminist philosopher, arts enthusiast and longtime Westridge advocate, Linda served as a trustee of the Long Beach Museum of Art and was a founding member of the Westridge Women in Action Task Force. She served on the Westridge Alumnae council and was an alumnae representative. She was known and respected for her intellectual excellence and compassion.
Class of ‘68, 2006 RecipientA Superior Court judge for Kings County, Palmer has specialized in complex civil law cases involving product liability, insurance and employment law. She has been an advocate and protector of at-risk children and underserved people. Palmer attended Stanford University and holds a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of Law
Class of ‘57, 2007 Recipient
Researcher and professor of African American History at John Hopkins University, Sara teaches courses in history, anthropology and is affiliated with the Center for Africana Studies. She is the author of several books and many academic articles. Sara is the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Scholars Program, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Bunting Institute from Radcliffe College. She received her M.A. and Ph.D in economics from the University of Michigan and her B.A. in history from Radcliffe College. Sara has held academic positions at Northwestern, Princeton and Boston University and is a noted scholar and advocate for social justice and economic change in Africa.
Class of ‘47, 2008 Recipient
Known to her friends as “Joanie” or “Tauf,” Joan has been a class representative for sixty-one years! Her dedication to the class of ’47 and her sense of building and keeping the fabric of community alive and well is legendary. The entire class of ‘47 knows her for her enthusiasm, her creativity and her ceaseless hard work and positive energy for all things Westridge.
Class of ‘75, 2009 Recipient
International businesswoman and director of several public and private organizations in the United Kingdom, Bonnie is a tireless advocate and mentor to women in business. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Relations from Stanford University and a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard University. Bonnie is an avid traveler and has an abiding interest in Asian cultures, which she acquired while doing a study abroad program in Thailand while at Westridge. She credits Westridge School for her lifelong success.
“Westridge is the finest school I have ever attended. The Westridge standards are the highest I’ve ever experienced, but were combined with a mature and considered level of support.”
Class of '58, 2010 Recipient
Elizabeth is professor emerita at Occidental College and author of several books, including the award-winning, Women’s Work: The First 20,00 Years, named one of the “100 Best Science Books of the Century” by Sigma Xi and her most recent, When They Severed Earth from Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth. She is the pre-eminent authority on prehistoric textiles and acclaimed in the fields of linguistics and archeology. “Betchen,” as she is known, received her Bachelor’s Degree in Archeology and Greek from Bryn Mawr College and her doctorate in Linguistics from Yale University.
Class of ‘69, 2011 Recipient
Award-winning writer and filmmaker, Nan is an independent spirit with a commitment to the environment and a deep caring for her community. Her joy of storytelling has led her to write numerous books about her home state of Alaska. As a filmmaker, photographer and adventurer, Nan has traveled 1,200 miles by dog sled across America along the Iditarod race trail, directed film crews on board Japanese fishing boats in the Bering Sea , descended into the coal mines of Appalachia and traveled to the Himalayas to tell the story of a legendary Alaskan climber who died beneath Mt. Everest.
“By profession, I am a writer and filmmaker. By nature, I am an adventurer.”
Class of ‘72, 2012 Recipient
Renowned scientist, researcher, professor and author, Alissa has served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Southern Oregon University. She is world renowned for her expertise in the physiology of animals living in challenging environments and has been on eight deep-sea submarine dives and twenty-two oceanographic expeditions. Her discoveries have been recognized in internationally distinguished scientific journals and by the national media. Alissa, a natural leader and student body president at Westridge, earned her Bachelors Degree in Biology from Sonoma State University and her Masters and Doctorate in Biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Class of '72, 2013 Recipient
Owner and operator of one of New York City’s finest galleries, Joni earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from Stanford University. She began her career in the arts with the renowned Los Angeles artists’ workshop and print publisher, Gemini G.E.L (Graphics Editions Limited) where she served as director of sales. She opened her own gallery, now in its 28th year, aptly named Gemini G.E.L at Joni Moisant Weyl. She shares her life’s passion for the visual arts and her globetrotting involvement in the international art world with her husband and Gemini Co-founder, Sidney Felsen.
Nancy, known as Ophelia in England, where she has lived for nearly 50 years, credits Westridge for her lifelong passion for intellectual and physical exploration. Since graduating from Westridge, Nancy has maintained an unwavering quest for knowledge and deep appreciation for literature, archaeology, art and architecture, education, travel and adventure. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in English from Northwestern in 1962 and her master’s in comparative literature from Columbia in 1963, Nancy completed a second MA in 1968 from Claremont Graduate School, all while raising her first child, Daena, teaching, and pursuing her passion for drama.
In 1968, Nancy made a life-changing decision to obtain her PhD in classics at Kings College, London, unaware that she would never return to the U.S. By the time her son, Saul, arrived in 1972, she had founded The Dolphin School, a K-8 English preparatory school, and her ties to the UK were solidified. As Head of Dolphin, initially also teaching English, History, Latin, Greek and Classics, she is credited with making it one of the most successful schools in the UK.
Always true to her Westridge roots and spirit of Surgere, Nancy has remained steadfast in her belief that girls should have the same opportunities as boys. At a time when most heads of school were male, Nancy wasn’t intimidated; she was simply unwilling to accept the unequal playing field for women. She developed a unique cross-curricular field trip program that has been copied world-wide, became a trained Mountain Leader, devising a pioneering mountain walking program for Dolphin and teaching adult classes in subjects ranging from Renaissance art to mediaeval castles . Though technically retired, she serves as Chair of Governors, Editor of the Delphic Oracle, organizer of the Old Delphinians, and leader of the art and architecture trip to Italy for which she wrote the handbook, in addition to supporting numerous philanthropic and community endeavors.
She lives a music-filled life with Brian in a historic Tudor house, regarding herself as its ‘keeper,’ where she has entertained loyal classmates, and enjoys the company of her children, Daena, Saul, Morgane, Thea, and her grandchildren.
Travelling extensively during the past 25 years, Nancy has documented her treks in far-flung places, sharing stories (via her blog http://threepenguins.wordpress.com/zanskar/) about being stranded in the Sahara, discovering untouched Buddhist cave art in remotest western China, dodging avalanches at Annapurna base camp, and visiting the 2000 year old civilization of Zanskar while traversing the Himalaya at 18,000’+, literally striving to rise. Westridge School applauds Nancy’s adventurous spirit and values the many contributions she has made as an educator. She is truly the epitome of lifelong growth and learning.
When Tizzie Oldknow was living in London with her family in the 1990s she co-founded a non-profit whose mission was to provide assistance in health and education in the new countries of the former Soviet Union. Her work quickly shifted to Bosnia, its recovery from civil war, and the politics of “sustainable” development. Through this work she collaborated with the U.S. State Department’s USAID and United Nations groups. These collaborations led to her becoming an expert resource in community health for both the U.S. government and the United Nations Global Fund, and eventually UNAIDS. Flash forward to 2004. Tizzie heard of an idea for a cure for human schistosomiasis, a water parasite disease that infects 250 million people a year with 790 million at risk. Schisto is a chronic disease that makes it hard for children to grow healthily or to complete school. A UCSB marine scientist had discovered that freshwater shrimp eat the snails that harbor the schistosomiasis parasite. The goal of his research was a scientific paper. But Tizzie decided to translate that research into a cure. It took three years to get funding, but finally she was awarded two grants from the very highly regarded “Grand Challenges in Global Health” of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a program seeking out-of-the-box ideas for cures for global diseases. She identified the most affected place in the world, Senegal, West Africa, and went there to test her idea of river shrimp farming as a cure that, once established, could be sustainable without ongoing donor support. In the process of getting started, she discovered that before schistosomiasis, there had been freshwater shrimp in the River Senegal, so her project took on the aspect of restoring an indigenous species of shrimp — to solve a human health problem. Five years later, she had conducted two studies, launched shrimp aquaculture, and local village populations that had shrimp in their water points along the river had 60% fewer cases of schisto than control villages. She adds the results can be improved when shrimp are restored and ubiquitous.
Dr. Pidcoke was also recently named Colorado State University's first chief medical research officer and Translational Medicine Institute associate director of research. In this role, she oversees the translational medical activities, ensuring that clinical solutions are broadly tested and shared between animal and human researchers.
Julie Frantz ’67, a Westridge ‘lifer’, graduated from Stanford University, followed by law school in Oregon where she was one of five women in her class. She has been a trailblazer, visionary leader and mentor in all realms of her life. Dedicated to strong advocacy for the indigent, she became the first woman to head the Portland office of the Metropolitan Public Defender, and subsequently the first woman partner in the civil litigation firm of Schulte, Anderson et al. She led the Oregon Law Foundation which provides funding to organizations that support access to justice and civic education. In 1992, Julie was elected the first woman President of the Oregon State Bar in its 57 year history. She was appointed to the Multnomah County Circuit Court in 1994, where she became one of its presiding chiefs, and elected President of the Oregon Circuit Judges Association by her statewide colleagues.
In 2014, Julie was named President of the National Association of Woman Judges, the first from Oregon, an organization whose mission is to ensure access to and equal treatment in our courts, protect individual rights under the rule of law, and promote the advancement of women and minorities in the legal profession. Human trafficking, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and the importance of a independent judiciary are among the key issues addressed. Last spring, Judge Frantz was the recipient of the Justice Betty Roberts Award by Oregon Women Lawyers for her pioneering efforts, mentoring of women, and service to the community. On a different note, Julie was the first State of Oregon women’s racquetball champion in 1977.
In recognition of her dedicated service and collaborative leadership, Julie has received the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus ‘Hero’ award, the Distinguished Graduate Award from her law school, her county’s bar association Award of Merit, the Fred A. Stickel Public Sector Award, and Oregon Episcopal School’s award for trustee excellence for her leadership as board chair during a time of transition.
Julie has been a passionate community volunteer, serving on the boards of Habitat for Humanity, I Have a Dream Foundation, Meals on Wheels and her children’s school. She has actively engaged in delivering meals to seniors for two decades, building houses locally and internationally in Ethiopia and El Salvador, coaching high school mock trial teams, and annually organizing Take Your Child to Work mock trials for hundreds of kids from diverse backgrounds and through NAWJ’s Color of Justice program. To celebrate her 60th birthday, Julie invited 35 women friends to help build a Habitat house in Portland.
Julie, who recently retired from the bench, lives with her husband in Oregon where she enjoys outdoor adventures, theater, bicycling, kayaking, travel and time with her grown children and her broad family of friends. She continues with her volunteer activities as well as an active mediation practice. As part of her ‘rewirement,’ as she refers to it, Julie is preparing for a Habitat build in India.
Sigrid Burton ’69 is an artist known for her paintings, mixed media works on paper, and use of color. She credits Westridge with instilling a lifelong love of learning and travel. The opportunity to study with teachers who were also practitioners prepared her for a life in the arts. Sigrid tutored at Head Start and was a counselor at Open Future, programs instituted by Libby Herrick that inspired a deep commitment to social justice and community.
Since the mid-1970s, Sigrid’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. In 1977 she received the Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, given to a young artist of distinction who has not had due recognition. Her works are in numerous public and corporate collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and at Westridge.
After graduating from Bennington College in 1973, Sigrid moved to New York to work as a studio assistant to Helen Frankenthaler, and Jules Olitski. Travel has always informed her work, and in 1985 Sigrid received a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study Center fellowship in Italy. A 1990 trip to India fueled an interest in Indian art forms and aesthetic theory; in 1994, she received an Indo-American Senior Fulbright Research Fellowship.
Sigrid has been a visiting artist at Delhi College of Art, UC Santa Barbara, University of Arkansas, and Virginia Tech. She worked for LEAP, Learning through an Expanded Arts Program, teaching in the New York City school system, and serving on LEAP’s Board of Directors.
During the late 1980s AIDS crisis, Sigrid volunteered for AIDS service organizations, and wrote The Caregivers Companion: A Guide for Those Caring for Persons with AIDS. As a community activist, she was appointed to Manhattan Community Board 2 from 2007-2012.
In 2013 Sigrid returned to Pasadena with husband, Max Brennan, and their dog, Jasper. Her upcoming exhibitions include a one person show in early 2020 at Tufenkian Fine Arts in Glendale and Out of the Blue at LAX. She is involved in numerous organizations and is furthering her devotion to Westridge by serving on the Board of Trustees. Sigrid has worked tirelessly with classmates to start The Forever Fund, a fundraising initiative for financial aid, ensuring that future generations of qualified students have the opportunity to attend Westridge.