In praise of Les and Judy Vadasz
It is a sign of noble character not to seek recognition for good deeds, and one of the criteria for Sonoma’s annual alcalde award is that honorees “do not seek public accolades or recognition for work done.”
Other criteria include:
A broad spectrum of voluntary community service to Sonoma Valley.
Service in a leadership role in at least one nonprofit organization.
Having spearheaded at least one community-serving project without compensation.
Being well known for consistent behind-the-scenes good deeds.
Adhering to a high standard of moral and ethical values.
Combine those qualities into a prototypical character profile and you have Les and Judy Vadasz, who have been living as far below the radar of public recognition as they could get since arriving here in 1997.
Staying publicly invisible is a tricky achievement since, by one recent estimate (not theirs), they have been involved at one level or another in as many as 25 local charities, if not more.
Les Vadasz, as many people know, was part of the founding management team at Intel, serving variously as head of engineering, executive vice president, president of Intel Capital and as a longtime member of the Intel board of directors.
When he retired in 2003, Les had the means to do and have virtually anything he and Judy wanted. They chose, as one of their principal priorities, to serve the community of Sonoma Valley, and the imprint of their service is everywhere, especially in our schools.
“Education is the great equalizer,” Les likes to say, “we must do a better job for our kids.”
Both he and Judy have been directly involved with the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance and Judy, a former school counselor, spearheaded creation of the Plein Air Foundation that has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into Valley arts education.
The Vadasz fingerprints are all over Sonoma Valley schools. The Vadasz Family Foundation provided start-up funds for the innovative and highly successful Exploratorium Science Project that has ignited fires of learning excitement throughout the school district, and they provided the funding for introduction of free pre-school classes at El Verano School, a pilot program they hope to see spread throughout the district. They have supported extensive technology improvements in the schools, including the Earn While You Learn professional development program for school district teachers.
And they provided leadership for the Teacher Support Network and Linked Learning Pathways, becoming important partners with the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation in countless education ventures. Foundation Executive Director Laura Zimmerman describes their commitment to Valley education as simply “remarkable.”
But Vadasz giving isn’t defined by their wealth. They are keen and critical judges of new initiatives, they coax and challenge the organizations they support, looking always to invest in long-term futures, not short-term results and to ask what will best help the students.
We know these words will embarrass them, and we apologize for the pain they may inflict. But there could not be a better set of choices for Sonoma Alcalde and we congratulate Les and Judy for are all the good deeds they have done.