History was made at a Rotarian lunch last November when local residents Brian and Kathy Sullivan were presented with the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Man and Woman of the Year awards.
The event marked the first time in the 60-year history of the awards that a married couple was honored with the prestigious awards during the same year.
During this history making lunch the Rotary “sheriff” called Kathy up to the stage and then requested that her husband Brian come up and join her. After the couple took the stage a crowd of chamber members, including President and CEO, John Horner, joined them.
Horner explained to the confused couple, and the crowd, that he’d hijacked the luncheon for a very good reason.
Following Horner’s announcement, he presented the Woman of the Year plaque to Kathy, 74, and then presented Brian, 75, with the Man of the Year award.
“Both of us were totally shocked,” Kathy says. “It’s the first time that husband and wife have been in the same year. I say that’s a good thing because then neither one of us can hold it over the other one.”
The Sullivans, who met more than 46 years ago at an apartment complex in their home state of Michigan, will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary this June.
“He claims I went after him and I claim he went after me,” Kathy says with a smile.
They have two children, a son in Michigan and a daughter in Indiana, and two granddaughters.
Brian’s career in computer and quality engineering landed him a transfer from Michigan to California in 1980. The couple resided in Saratoga until 2000, when Brian’s mother, who lived in Michigan, moved in with them.
“We ended up looking for a place where the cost of living was less and the quality of life was good,” Kathy says.
That move brought them to Morgan Hill. After having spent the previous 15 years as a home economics teacher in Michigan, Kathy utilized this time in her life to pursue a new career path.
After a great deal of research Kathy set her sights on a newly formed company called Apple Computers.
After interviewing with them she was told her lack of computer experience was the only reason she wasn’t hired. Kathy immediately went in pursuit of that experience. The same day Apple turned her down she secured a job at ComputerLand, a computer store with a branch in Los Altos at the time.
A few years and a great deal of computer and sales experience later Kathy changed jobs once more, this time her new employer was Apple Computers.
“I tend to in my life, to look at these doors that open in front of us and you can say no I can’t do that, or you can look at it as an opportunity,” Kathy says. “I sort of always look at it as an opportunity.”
Brian also decided to switch career paths after the move. This change led to an entrepreneurship with an executive recruiting company. Fifteen years ago, he switched again, to his current career in the insurance industry.
“I guess for one means or another I’ve always been involved in something,” Brian says. “I was a union steward back in Michigan, in 1966. Then I went into management.” Before moving to California, Brian says he was even a member of the district school board in Michigan.
Kathy admits she and Brian have trouble when it comes to saying no, which explains their long legacy of community contributions over nearly two decades in Morgan Hill.
“Volunteering you meet all these great people, you learn all these things and you get engaged and you find out that there are things that you can still do that benefit you and the community,” Kathy says. “I think we will probably always stay active as long as we can.”
Among her many activities, Kathy is a charter member of the South Valley Quilt Association, the AAUW, the Institute of Mathematics, as well as a participant in Friday Night Music Series, and the Mushroom Mardi Gras, to name just a few.
After volunteering as a docent for the Morgan Hill Historical Society for years she moved into the president’s role in 2015.
“I’m the kind of person that if something needs to be done, I’ll figure out a way to get it done,” Kathy says. “It was clear that someone needed to step up and take the position and so I said I would do it.”
Back in 1992 the Historical Society was granted the title to the Villa Miramonte property, which they’ve maintained over the years. Unfortunately, on the property’s back half, a full acre and a half has been left undeveloped and Kathy feels it detracts from the beauty of the historical structure.
“It’s one of the few houses in the country that still exists that was built by the namesake of the community,” Kathy says.
A passion project of hers is a renovation of the historic property, which would include a paved parking lot, a lawn with a covered pavilion including space for catering services, and a multipurpose meeting room.
“It’s one of the things that I said, ‘this is something we need to do,’” Kathy says. “First of all, we can make more money to help pay for the facility, and secondly, our community can use it.”
Brian’s list of contributions is equally impressive starting with his joining the chamber of commerce the year the couple moved to Morgan Hill. Three years later, 2003, he was asked to join the board.
“I worked my way up and I was chairman of the board in 2010, and I left in 2011,” Brian says, adding that he admires what the organization has achieved in the last few years. “It’s become more dynamic and more forward thinking and more inclusive of the community. The leadership has done a fantastic job. It’s made a tremendous difference.”
Brian is proud of the fact that during his time on the chamber they were able to reinstate the Friday Night Music Series.
“It brings more inclusiveness into the community for all generations,” Brian says.
His departure from the Chamber left time for additional community organizations, including, the Associated Building and Contractors of California, and the Silicon Valley Association Health Underwriters, among countless others, including his involvement with the Aquatics Center Review Committee.
“They were going through a renovation, an improvement at the time, and trying to figure out how to do different functions and so we sat as a committee to do that for the city,” Brian says. “The aquatic center is great. I think it’s a legacy for one thing for former Mayor Kennedy. He was the one who helped put that through.”
Brain has spent a decade being involved in the Charter School of Morgan Hill, (CSMH), and has worked closely with CSMH’s Executive Director, Paige Cisewski.
“Brian is committed,” Cisewski says. “He truly cares about children and their success in school. Another strength is his generosity. Brian is always willing to give his time to others and willingly helps out wherever and whenever he is needed. He has a gift for putting people at ease and always sees the good in people.”
Brian stepped down last August from the numerous boards he was associated with—five in all—to make room for new members.
“You need new fresh blood. I don’t think a person should stay on a board forever,” Brian says. “I wasn’t going to join anything else and then I was asked to join Rotary. I got off the board for the Charter school and then I just got asked in December to join the foundation board for the Charter school, so I just joined that board. And then I’ve been asked to join another board but I can’t announce that till later.”
For the Sullivans their involvement in the community only adds to their enjoyment of the place they call home.
“It’s a great place to raise kids, great environment for older people, it’s all inclusive,” Brian says. “We have a great police force, and a great fire department.”
“Looking back at communities we lived in I can’t ever imagine having gotten this involved in a community because this is so small and so it’s tight knit, that once you get engaged you start meeting people,” Kathy says. “To know the mayor and the police chief and hug them hi. It just pulled us in.”