By Kirsti Correa, Allison Hata, Kristin Lee Jensen and Sharon Stello | Photos by Jody Tiongco
By definition, “to influence” has a few nuanced meanings—for our purposes, it’s the power to affect someone or something. The nine people selected this year by Newport Beach Magazine as the city’s Most Influential People have harnessed that power and used it to create positive change. Each person selected has made a marked difference in the community over the last 12 months: Some are raising critical funds to fight for the needs of those less fortunate, while others are helping to raise the city’s stature as a culinary and retail destination.
As always, this year’s list is by no means exhaustive. In a city filled with talented people, these individuals have set themselves apart from the crowd by taking their passion projects to new, unprecedented heights. From youth advocates to health care innovators to entrepreneurs and beyond, turn the page to meet Newport Beach Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2015.
Sandy Segerstrom Daniels
Founder of the Festival of Children Foundation and managing partner of C.J. Segerstrom & Sons
When it comes to children’s advocacy in Orange County, it’s difficult to think of a more influential voice than Daniels’. As founder of the Festival of Children Foundation, a nonprofit that brings together charities, companies and individuals in support of youth across the country, she’s responsible for heading innovative fundraising events and programs. One initiative spearheaded by Daniels’ foundation is the Carousel of Possible Dreams event; in its first year (2009), it raised nearly $80,000 as community leaders rode the carousel at South Coast Plaza for two hours. Money raised is earmarked for specific charities to help realize their dreams in support of children. This November, the organization opened the event up to 60 charities (45 participated) and exceeded its goal of $600,000, tripling fundraising efforts from last year’s event, which included 10 charities and raised $200,000. Daniels also received recognition in November at the National Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon, receiving the Legacy Award for her passion in supporting children’s causes.
Her major success this year shows she hasn’t slowed down since creating the foundation 12 years ago. Across the country, more than 500 member charities collaborate on fundraising events and programs, including the annual Festival of Children held at South Coast Plaza that provides families with access to educational arts activities, workshops and performances. Daniels is also instrumental in lobbying the local, state and federal government to designate every September as National Child Awareness Month, bringing attention to issues affecting America’s youth.
Cindy Galardi Culpepper
CEO and chairman of Wienerschnitzel
A Newport Beach resident, Galardi Culpepper is leading the fight against illiteracy through her support of local nonprofit, The Literacy Project (TLP), which offers a comprehensive instructional program for second-graders performing below English proficiency standards. A TLP board member, Galardi Culpepper spent the last year attending classes and graduations (along with Wienerschnitzel hot dog mascot, The Delicious One), and garnering support for expansion. After she introduced the program to Wienerschnitzel’s Los Angeles-area franchisees earlier this year, the group gave $50,000 for TLP to launch the program in local schools for the 2016-17 school year. “You can feed a child and that’s a temporary relief, but if a child can read, it can last them the rest of their lives,” Galardi Culpepper says.
For her efforts, Wienerschnitzel was honored at The Literacy Project gala in September as its presenting sponsor; Wienerschnitzel contributed to the $125,000 raised at the sixth annual event to benefit the organization that has helped more than 3,700 struggling readers in Southern California. Recently charged with helming TLP’s development division, Galardi Culpepper hopes to institute a store-level book exchange program for participating students by the start of the 2016-17 school year. “I’ve come to believe that my being here has a relevance and that’s to serve,” Galardi Culpepper says. “We’re redefining our company from a company that sells hot dogs and franchises to a company of service.”
President of Orange County Community Foundation
Under Hoss’ leadership since 2000, the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) has boosted annual grants and scholarships from $5 million to more than $47 million and increased the assets it oversees from $43 million to $230 million.
OCCF, which marked its 25th anniversary in 2014, matches philanthropists with local charities that need funding. “This is a sort of community that has deep and entrenched poverty juxtaposed right next to some of the wealthiest communities that you would find anywhere in the nation,” Hoss says. “So that always drives me. … I think there’s so many resources here, there’s so many people who could really make an impact and how do we keep those opportunities to give in the forefront for people.”
One successful way the foundation achieved that goal was by launching the inaugural iheartOC Giving Day, a 30-hour online giving marathon that raised more than $1.8 million for 347 OC nonprofits this past April; a second edition of the donation drive is planned April 27-28, 2016.
Hoss also guided the foundation in commissioning a study, conducted by the University of Southern California, looking at the needs of military men and women returning to civilian life in OC—in response to a lack of information when donors asked how they could help. Based on the results earlier this year, OCCF awarded $500,000 to nonprofits seeking to assist these veterans, with plans for more grants in the future. As Hoss says, “It will be a long-term commitment by the Community Foundation until, I hope, we create such a robust network of services for our veterans that our leadership is no longer needed because the nonprofits will be strong and capable, and the veterans themselves will have found their footing … and we’ll begin to wrap our arms around that population and meet their needs.”
Founder of the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival
This past October saw the return of the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival, proving the event wasn’t a one-hit wonder in 2014. Thousands of people flocked to the Newport Beach Civic Center to sip wine, savor small bites and celebrate Orange County’s culinary scene. The mastermind behind the spectacle is Salem, who says the festival welcomed attendees from all over the map to Newport. “There were people from Canada, the East Coast, a lot of people from Chicago, some from Virginia,” she explains. “It has always been a goal from day one to turn this into a national event and eventually a global event. … The dream is slowly becoming a reality.”
In order to create a festival on par with other major coastal events across the country—and establish Newport as a must-visit destination on the culinary map—Salem makes it a point to bring big-name celebrity chefs as well as those helming the kitchens at OC’s finest restaurants so attendees can learn and interact with their culinary idols. Throughout the weekend, interactive events included book signings with Rick Bayless, Rick Moonen and Hubert Keller, as well as a “Top Chef” Home Cook Challenge, featuring local alumni from the show like Shirley Chung, Louis Maldonado, Brooke Williamson and Brian Huskey.
“[For 2016], we’re planning on growing in many ways … ,” Salem says. “With celebrity chefs coming to town, it’s a great opportunity to host dinners at local restaurants. We’re planning several of these kind of events this year.
“Overall,  was a huge improvement from year one and year three is going to be even better than year two,” she continues. “Now I understand why people say it takes three years to perfect an event.” Mark your calendar for the 2016 fete, which will take place Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.
Executive Vice President of The Innovation Institute and Innovation Lab
With Stofko at the helm, the Innovation Lab—opened in fall 2014 in Newport Beach—helps medical workers and the general public bring to fruition their ideas for improving patient care. “To be able to … unleash the creativity of the physicians and employees who see these problems on a daily basis is really what inspires me,” Stofko says.
The lab was established by The Innovation Institute and works with both local and national providers like Mission Hospital, Hoag, St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and Bon Secours, as well as partners such as Cleveland Clinic, Boston Scientific, Deloitte and Dell to bring these inventions to market through the research and development process.
Two new products are already in use: an aquatic exercise device for treating back pain and VisuFlow, a software program that simplifies health care process diagrams, with others now in pilot tests. In the works: a sling to keep the hand comfortably elevated above the heart as required after hand surgery; a device to protect workers from getting pricked by used needles and scalpel blades; and a tool to help patients properly strengthen muscles following ankle injury.
While many inventions will be narrowly focused, Stofko also keeps an eye on the broader horizon—figuratively and literally—as the office near Fashion Island features inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean. “Ultimately, we want to bring thought leaders together … to talk about how do we change bigger components of health care,” he says.
Partner at Burnham Ward Properties
After developing South Coast Collection (SoCo) and The OC Mix in Costa Mesa, Bryon Ward and his partners have turned their attention to other forgotten shopping centers in the area, reinvigorating the region’s commercial landscape.
Ward serves as point person for their latest project, renovating Castaway Commons near Westcliff and Dover drives in Newport Beach. “My business partners Scott Burnham, Steve Thorp and I recognized, early on, the potential of Westcliff/17th Street to become a hub for some of the most exciting retail, restaurant and other consumer concepts in Orange County,” Ward says. “ … The building had great bones but needed new energy both from an architectural and tenancy standpoint.”
The revitalized site is bringing exciting tenants to the city including Gratitude—a local installment of the trendy, plant-based Café Gratitude in LA and the Bay Area—as well as Ra Yoga and Lavender Salon & Boutique, set to open shortly after the first of the year. The upper floor houses existing medical offices including that of Dr. Terry Dubrow, the plastic surgeon on “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”
Eco-friendly construction is another focus for the team, which has incorporated sustainable materials, water- and energy-saving measures, and drought-tolerant landscaping at Castaway Commons. Other local plans are on the horizon: As Bryon says, “We always love working on projects in our backyard and will be starting yet another project in Newport Beach, which will be announced in the coming weeks.”
Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki and Marshall Moncrief
Moncrief is Hoag’s director of neurobehavioral health and oversees operations of Hoag Addiction Treatment Centers and SolMar Recovery; Brant-Zawadzki is senior physician executive of Hoag Hospital and executive medical director of Hoag Neurosciences Institute
Moncrief and Brant-Zawadzki led the charge for Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian’s newest addition, SolMar Recovery, a 21-bed residential substance abuse treatment center. The first in California to be located on an acute-care hospital campus, SolMar offers stays of 30, 60 and 90 days, and accepts insurance at a time when the Affordable Care Act requires coverage of drug and alcohol abuse treatment.
“The realization that addiction is rooted in the brain—in brain chemistry and brain connectivity—makes the point that simply a behavioral model, or peer-to-peer treatment model, which is how the rehab industry and rehab treatment philosophy grew up, is insufficient by itself,” Brant-Zawadzki says. “It needs to be coupled with modern neuroscientific knowledge, and its input to management of this brain disorder.”
From the most advanced brain imaging techniques to specialized experts in neurology, psychiatry and psychology, the 10,000-square-foot facility has the full backing of the hospital’s resources, including emergency care and inpatient and outpatient services and facilities. According to Moncrief, “There’s a message inherent in Hoag integrating addiction treatment into the Neurosciences Institute: that this is a brain disease that is worthy of, deserving of, needing the same compassion and clinical caliber that has established Hoag as a national health care leader.
“We didn’t talk about breast cancer … [and] AIDS for a long time because of stigma and sensitivity,” Moncrief says. “[But] when the health care community wrapped its arms around those two things, it helped de-stigmatize them and we made advances. That’s what we’re modeling here. … I think mental health and substance abuse [are] next in the public’s evolutionary embrace of complex health disorders.”
Chief Financial and Administrative Officer of Squar Milner and founder of Leadership in Heels
On top of her CFO and CAO roles, Jackson established a philanthropic team at Newport Beach-based Squar Milner, partnering with organizations like Girls Inc. of Orange County and the American Heart Association. “Squar Milner has been an outstanding firm as they’ve afforded me the opportunity to not only serve as CFO and CAO but to serve the community as well,” Jackson says.
In 2015, she created her own way to support others by founding Leadership in Heels, a speaker series that encourages women to lead by example and share their success stories. “After speaking on panels and at various events periodically, I decided to launch my own Leadership in Heels and bring a place where women can come together and inspire, motivate and pivot lives forward,” Jackson explains.
In addition to a different keynote speaker and topic at each event, a portion of the proceeds is donated to various causes and organizations. The inaugural event, which was held at Pacific Club in Newport Beach, benefited Human Options, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. The second installment, held in November at the Center Club, supported Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County; Pernille Spiers-Lopez, former president and CEO of Ikea North America, was the speaker and encouraged attendees to rethink how you “Design Your Life,” the name of her book.
“I want to be able to bring world-renowned speakers together to speak for the sole purpose of making the difference in the lives of others,” Jackson says. “… My goal over the next years is to be able to take Leadership in Heels beyond Orange County and into other counties and communities to reach as many women as we possibly can.
“Women have been filled with a level of knowledge that if we utilize it in the right way and channel it in the right direction, we have the power to make a difference and change this world,” she continues. “Not only that, but we are mothers and wives so that means we have the ability to influence lives for generations to come. If I can just play a small role in making that happen then it’s really an honor and a blessing.”