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Among 49 "Unsung Heroes of Compassion"
Dalai Lama Honors San Rafael Dominican

San Francisco, CA, April 26, 2009 – His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the honored guest at a luncheon at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco on Sunday where he acknowledged and thanked 49 individuals, including Sister Gervaise Valpey, OP (San Rafael) of San Domenico School, who were named the 2009 Unsung Heroes of Compassion.

The honorees—25 women and 24 men—range in age from 12 to 77, hail from 13 countries, and come from a variety of ethnicities, cultures, religions and backgrounds. Gathered from the far corners of the earth, each demonstrates the timeless and universal human goodness celebrated by every wise culture.

Sister Gervaise Valpey, OP, President Emerita of San Domenico School in San Anselmo, has for 35 years served its students, pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, and the school’s entire community as a source of spiritual strength and model for service and Dominican values. The reach of the service programs at San Domenico is both local and world-wide, connecting students with projects in China, Argentina, India, Vietnam, Kosovo, and beyond. “I love cheering on individuals – especially our young women students – to take risks, be bold and impact the world. Working in a school where our commitment to social justice, sustainability, and service are the hallmarks of our everyday life, I see that our students truly understand their responsibility to make our world a better place.” Sister Gervaise personally established the Sustainability program in 1994 and today San Domenico is a foremost leader in the area of environmental education within the Bay Area.

“These individuals have been selected as representatives of the tens of thousands of people worldwide who quietly serve the disenfranchised and work to improve our communities through their personal efforts,” says event chair Dick Grace, founder of Grace Family Vineyards and board chair of Wisdom in Action, the organization hosting the unique celebration. “We don’t see them or hear about them in the daily news, but they exemplify a humanism and heroism to which we must each aspire.”

Other Bay Area honorees acknowledged were:

  • Emily Arnold-Fernandez, who founded Asylum Access, ensures that the rights of refugees in the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 are upheld.
  • Steve Emrick, coordinator of the Arts in Corrections program at San Quentin State Prison.
  • Christopher Laub, who’s inspirational attitude while fighting leukemia made him a local hero in his hometown of Tiburon.
  • Judy O’Young, founding medical advisory board member to Smile Train, a nonprofit organization that provides free surgery to children worldwide who suffer with cleft lips and palates.
  • Steve Preminger, director of Union Community Resources at Working Partnerships USA exists to address the widening gap between rich and poor in Silicon Valley.
  • Caroline Kornfield (honorable mention), 2003 San Domenico graduate, who expresses her commitment to human rights by volunteering with agencies that protect and defend refugees and that seek nonviolent solutions to international conflicts.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the exiled leader of the Tibetan people and a Buddhist teacher. The 1989 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Dalai Lama is an outspoken proponent of nonviolence and compassion, and is loved and revered internationally. Wisdom in Action (WIA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of compassion in action. WIA hosted Unsung Heroes of Compassion 2009, the third event of its kind since 2001, to raise awareness that it is each individual’s obligation to help the disenfranchised among us and to acknowledge that each act of compassion makes an important difference to the world.

Co-hosting the event was Dick Grace, internationally renowned author Isabel Allende, actor Peter Coyote, 2001 Unsung Heroes of Compassion honoree Dr. Grace Dammann, and teacher and author Jack Kornfield.

San Domenico is a foremost leader in the area of environmental education within the Bay Area.



“I love cheering on individuals – especially our young women students – to take risks, be bold and impact the world."