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Riki Rafner

The Commonwealth Club Of California Celebrates 29th Annual Distinguished Citizen Gala: “Shaping the Future”

Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St, San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO, California  The Commonwealth Club celebrates 114 years with its annual Distinguished Citizen Gala held at the Fairmont Hotel San Francisco on Friday, March 3, 2017, with a cocktail reception at 5p.m., and dinner and program at 6:45 p.m.  The Distinguished Citizen Award is presented to those who have devoted their lives to making the world a better place.  This year each of the honorees embodies the Club’s commitment to leadership and citizens who work to improve society and shape a better future.

The 2017 honorees are:

  • John R. Farmer, Chairman of The Commonwealth Club and former General Partner at Goldman Sachs;
  • Lata Krishnan, CFO of Shah Capital Partners and Chairman of the American India Foundation;
  • Megan Smith, President Barack Obama’s United States Chief Technology Officer, along with her colleague,
  • Alex Macgillivray; President Barack Obama’s  Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer
  • Bernard J. Tyson, CEO and Chairman of Kaiser Permanente.

“In our current societal environment, the Club’s role as a platform for free and open, non-partisan and well-informed debate is front and center.  We are thrilled to celebrate these distinguished citizens, each of whom is shaping our future in the Bay Area and beyond,” said Dr. Gloria C. Duffy, President, and CEO of The Commonwealth Club. “Our annual gala is a celebration of these Distinguished Citizens who embody the goals and values of the Club, as well as an opportunity to gather our community and our devoted network of supporters.”

The event, emceed by Dan Ashley, anchor at ABC7 News, will benefit the nonprofit with funds supporting the Club’s 450 dynamic and compelling programs each year. The gala begins with a cocktail reception where guests will rub elbows with the movers and shakers of the Bay Area. Following the reception guests will be seated for dinner and enjoy an engaging program with remarks from the recipients of the Distinguished Citizen Award, and a live auction.   Jaleh Daie, Ph.D., Managing Partner of Aurora Equity is this year’s Gala Chair.

For the past century, the Club has fostered free speech and civic dialogue on wide-ranging topics, addressing key issues in society, culture, politics, the economy and more.

More than one million people listen to The Commonwealth Club’s weekly radio broadcasts on more than 230 public and commercial stations across the country. The Club’s podcasts are downloaded more than 2.5 million times each year. The Club’s videos also appear on the California Channel, C-SPAN,, and YouTube, where they have been viewed millions of times.

Tickets to the event are $500 and table sales and sponsorship begins at $10,000. For more information about purchasing tickets or tables please contact (415) 597-6737.

29th Annual Distinguished Citizen Gala location and logistics:

•           When: Friday, March 3, 2017

•           Where: Fairmont San Francisco Hotel, 950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108

•           Time: Cocktails: 5:30 pm; Dinner: 7 pm; (press must arrive and check in by 5 pm)

•           For tickets and information contact Kayley Abrams: (415) 597-6737

Media interested in attending should please RSVP to


For more information, visit:

Please join us in paying tribute to:

John R. Farmer

John Farmer has spent his entire business and professional career in the investment banking and securities industry retiring from Goldman Sachs as a General Partner. Currently, John serves on the Board of Trustees of Occidental College, Los Angeles, where he recently served as Chair for four years and has been a Trustee since 1995. John and his family lived in London for 16 years, returning to California in 2004. He spent 13 years as a Trustee of The American School in London serving eleven of those as Chair of the Board from 1993 to 2004. He has been involved in higher education serving as a Trustee for 10 years of Washington and Lee University.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, John, has been a California resident since 1969. He served two years as an officer in the US Army and graduated from Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia in 1961.   John and his wife, Tawna, have four children and eight grandchildren, and currently reside in Tiburon.

Lata Krishnan

Lata Krishnan is CFO for Shah Capital Partners. She was a co-founder and Chief Financial Officer of SMART Modular Technologies, a publicly held company recognized as one of Fortune Magazine's 100 Fastest Growing Public Companies. Lata has also held corporate accounting and finance positions at Montgomery Securities, Arthur Andersen & Company LLP, and Hill Vellacott & Company in London, England.  She is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.  Lata is a Board Member of the Silicon Valley Bank Financial Group. She is also the Chair of the American India Foundation (AIF) since being involved in its founding in 2001. AIF is a premier foundation with a long-term commitment to accelerating social and economic development in India and strengthening the bonds between the US and India. AIF is chaired by President Clinton and includes luminaries from the community on the Board. AIF has three offices - Silicon Valley, New York and India. Her community activities include: The Commonwealth Club Board Member and a Fellow of the American Leadership Forum.  She received a B.S. with honors from the London School of Economics.

Alex Macgillivray

As Deputy United States Chief Technology officer, Alexander Macgillivray focuses on a portfolio of key priority areas for the Administration, including Internet policy, intellectual property policy, and the intersection of big data, technology, and privacy. Macgillivray is an internationally recognized expert in technology law and policy, most recently serving as General Counsel and Head of Public Policy at Twitter from 2009–2013. Prior to Twitter, Macgillivray was Deputy General Counsel for Products and IP at Google and a litigator with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. He is an actively practicing developer and coder, contributing to his ability to formulate creative and sensible technology policy and understand its ramifications. Macgillivray holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a JD from Harvard Law School.

Megan Smith

In September 2014, President Obama named Megan Smith the United States Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In this role, she serves as an Assistant to the President. As U.S. CTO, Smith focuses on how technology policy, data and innovation can advance the future of our nation. Megan Smith is an award-winning entrepreneur, engineer, and tech evangelist. She most recently served as a Vice President at Google, first leading New Business Development -- -- and later serving as a VP in the leadership team at Google[x] -- where she co-created the company’s “WomenTechmakers” tech-diversity initiative and worked on a range of other projects. Megan previously served as CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBT online community in the early days of the web.  Megan was part of designing early smartphone technologies at General Magic and worked on multimedia products at Apple Japan. Over the years, Megan has contributed to a wide range of engineering projects, including an award-winning bicycle lock, space station construction program, and solar cookstoves. She was a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student team who designed, built, and raced a solar car 2000 miles across the Australian outback. Megan has served on the boards of MIT, MIT Media Lab, MIT Technology Review, and Vital Voices; as a member of the USAID Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid; and as an advisor to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Malala Fund, which she co-founded. She holds a bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, where she completed her master's thesis work at the MIT Media Lab.

Bernard J. Tyson

Bernard J. Tyson is the chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, one of America’s leading integrated health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. With annual operating revenue of more than $60 billion, Kaiser Permanente serves more than 10.6 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Tyson assumed the role of chairman in January 2014 and has served as CEO since July 1, 2013. His career at Kaiser Permanente has spanned more than 30 years. In 2016, Modern Healthcare named him the second most influential leader in health care – marking the third consecutive year he has been the top-ranked executive on the list. He serves on the board of directors of the American Heart Association and is a member of AHA’s CEO Roundtable, which is focused on workforce wellness. He is a deputy chairman of the International Federation of Health Plans and is on the board of America’s Health Insurance Plans. He is a steward of the World Economic Forum’s Global Challenge on the Future of Health. Tyson recently served as co-chair of the World Economic Forum Health Governors’ Community and as chair of the Executive Leadership Council. He was awarded the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Educational Fund’s 2014 National Equal Justice Award.  A San Francisco Bay Area native, Tyson earned a master’s of business degree in health service administration and a bachelor’s degree in health service management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He earned a leadership certificate from Harvard University.

Honorary Gala Co-Chairs:

Bill & Phyllis Draper
Pitch & Cathie Johnson
Dr. John Hennessy
Jillian Manus
The Honorable James  C. Hormel & Michael P. Nguyen
Nan & Chuck Geschke
Janet Napolitano
The Honorable Tad Taube