Sandy Widener, co-founder of Westword and the paper's first managing editor, was killed in a horrific car crash in December 2007 that also took her husband, John Parr, and the couple's daughter Chase. The only survivor was then seventeen-year-old Katy. But Sandy and John also left behind quite a legacy of civic leadership, and last week that legacy was celebrated at the eighth annual presentation of the John Parr and Sandy Widener Civic Leadership Award at the Denver Foundation.
"They were role models who inspired others to be leaders in the community," said David Miller, the Foundation's head who was a close friend of both Sandy and John, and presented the award — for the last time, since he's leaving the organization. "This occasion is both bitter and sweet," Miller noted.
Adding to the sweetness was that this year's honoree was another longtime friend and colleague who got her start in Colorado causes before she moved to Washington, D.C.: Katherine Archuleta, most recently the embattled director of the Office of Personnel Management for the Obama administration, but with a resume of good works that stretches back four decades, starting with teaching and then moving into the political sphere when Federico Pena became mayor of Denver in 1983. "I can't tell you how much it means to me to be back with all of you building a great city that is rich in civic engagement, in culture, and is continuing to care for the people who live here and have the most need," Archuleta said in accepting the award. "I had the pleasure of working alongside John and Sandy for many years, and to be recognized in their reflection is a great honor indeed."
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The Parr/Widener award is a relatively recent addition to the Swanee Hunt Leadership Awards, which the Denver Foundation has administered for the past two decades, honoring community members who make major contributions to improving life in metro Denver. This round, Anna Jo Haynes presented three awards on behalf of former Ambassador Hunt.
The 2015 Hunt Emerging Leaders Award went to Blanca Trejo and Jesse Ramirez, co-founders of INSPiRE, which is designed to empower young people to be change agents in their schools, families and communities; the non-profit currently works in nine Denver metro high schools.
And the Swanee Hunt Individual Leadership Award went to Representative Rhonda Fields, who ran for the Colorado House of Representatives in 2010. She became a public leader after her son, scheduled to testify in a murder trial, and his fiancee were themselves murdered a decade ago. Fields dedicated her award to those who advocate for the victims of crimes: "Everything I do is with you in mind," she said.
Find out more about the awards at Denverfoundation.org.