"The program gave me a close-up view of political, business and social issues and trends, information that is invaluable to me as an entrepreneur and active participant in the success of our great state. The speakers were incredible� they inspired us and stretched our minds. The opportunity to connect with successful and dynamic California women leaders was a main highlight. Being part of Leadership California is like being part of a powerful sisterhood."

—Ursula C. Mentjes, M.S., ACC
President and Certified Business Coach
Potential Quest, Inc.
"I have enjoyed my involvement with Leadership California. Our trip to the state capitol was most enlightening. As a result I have gotten involved with the Los Angeles African American Women's Political Action Committee. Thank you, Leadership California, for sparking a genuine interest in the political process."

—Shawn Farrar
Director Corporate Diversity
Sempra Energy
"The CIT program brings together successful women from all over California, and gives them the opportunity to build a network with other successful women. It's a way to learn about the important issues in our state, and to get ready to take the next step in your professional life."

—Isela Vilchis Hoenigmann
"Leadership California has provided me a panoramic view of issues, challenges and opportunities for this lovely state that I live in. The program was my introduction to women of unbelievable talent, experience and passion who are set to make a difference. The feeling to want to be more, to accomplish more, is simply contagious. I hope to know these women for the rest of my life."

—Rosario Montes-Arena
Manager, IBM Software Executive Briefing Program
Silicon Valley & Worldwide Briefing Program
"As a young immigrant woman working in the nonprofit sector, it was inspiring to see women leaders in action, to be able to network with them, and talk about the issues that are relevant to our communities and our state. I feel honored and privileged for the opportunity to participate in such an awesome program that weaves women leaders from different sectors and geographies of California to engage in a conversation about the social, political, and economic fabric of California."

—Winnie Hui-Min Yu
Development Associate
Asian Law Caucus
San Francisco
"I've spent half of my work life in the corporate world, and the past ten years in the nonprofit world, but neither taught me how to be who I am at work�the whole pastiche of talent and spirit. I found role models who excited me, the true state of our state of California (which frustrated me), work partners continually learning like me, and friends."

—Peta G. Penson, Ed. D.
Oakland Unified School District
"Leadership California sessions feature influential speakers and lively discussion on timely issues shaping the economy and workforce. The session on work-life balance struck a chord with me, where key leaders advised us to map out a personal career plan. Networking with other women was invaluable. Leadership California is an engaging and downright fun experience."

—Roberta Tinajero-Frankel
Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Dept.
Healthy Eating, Active Living Project Manager
"Simply put, Leadership California is time well spent that will benefit me personally and professionally for years to come. I've not only kept in contact with my fellow classmates on a social level, but have had opportunities to work with some of them on business projects as our professional paths crossed. The sessions gave in-depth looks at the critical social issues that many Californians face, inspiring me to get more involved in my community�s outreach programs."

—Teena Massingill
Manager of Corporate Public Affairs
Safeway Inc.








Monday, May 2, 2016
2016 Legacy of Leadership
Trailblazer Award

WORKING FOR SUCCESS OF WOMEN AND GIRLS – Lois De Domenico will be honored with a Trailblazer Award at Leadership California's Legacy of Leadership celebration on May 2, 2016 in San Francisco.

LOIS DE DOMENICO is a philanthropist who has made significant contributions, financial and otherwise, to numerous Oakland and Alameda County nonprofits, including the East Bay Community Foundation and Girls, Inc. of Alameda County. She is also known for being the co-creator of Rice-a-Roni. She is bright, active and committed at 80 years young and teaches yoga.

For more than 50 years, Lois De Domenico has served many community organizations benefitting Alameda County residents, providing her time, expertise and financial support. As a member of the Girls Inc. board of directors, Lois was co-chair of the $11 million capital campaign to fund a new Girls’ Resource Center in Oakland. She has helped achieve a 33 percent rise in donations and recruited a diverse mix of community leaders to its board. Most importantly, Lois has positively influenced scores of underserved girls in Alameda County, teaching them yoga and helping to develop their self-confidence.


Philanthropist and Co-Chair, Capital Campaign, Girls Incorporated of Alameda County

Lois De Domenico: A Lifetime Path
of Educating and Inspiring Women and Girls

by Carol Caley
February 22, 2016

Q: Lois, you’ve served the community as a philanthropic leader. You have given your time, effort and expertise to organizations that benefit youth, including co-chairing an $11 million capital campaign to fund a new Girls’ Resource Center in Oakland. You’ve been a champion of women’s leadership. These are significant accomplishments. Yet who among us could claim to have invented a popular dish that appears on dinner tables across America? And who has served as a judge in a cooking contest featuring retirement home chefs? And written a memoir? And is an octogenarian yoga teacher? If we had a “Diverse Life Experience Award,” you would certainly be receiving it! Of all your accomplishments, interests and passions, tell us about what matters most to you now.

A: OVER THE YEARS, I’ve seen that women and men do not receive equal treatment in many areas. So what matters most to me now is women’s rights. I lost my father at an early age during the heart of the Depression. I saw how my mother struggled to keep our family together as the head of the household. This is one reason that I give most of my time and resources to Girls Inc. of Alameda County. Through places like Girls Inc., I am so glad that girls today are learning their rights and are given the same opportunity as boys to succeed.

Q: So you believe that women’s leadership really begins with girls.

A: IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME to help young girls get ahead. At Girls, Inc. our programs begin in kindergarten. We start with literacy in grammar school. We make sure the girls learn STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in middle school.  And in high school we help them prepare for college. Long-term programming really makes a difference!

Q: You’ve said that as a youth, you did not have a lot of opportunities. So you have walked in the shoes of some of the young people you’ve helped. Tell us more about your early life.

A: THERE WERE NOT A LOT OF WOMEN ROLE MODELS during my youth. No opportunities existed like Girls Inc. I look at these young girls today, and I am happy they have a beautiful and safe place to learn and receive guidance to help them succeed in life.

  I look at these young girls today, and I am happy they have a beautiful and safe place to learn.

Q: Was there a person who influenced you or an experience that changed things for you?

A: WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG, nineteen years old and newly married, my landlady was an Armenian woman, Mrs. Captanian. She told me her life story, how she was in the horrible Turkish-Armenian war in 1919, and saw her husband and brothers killed, and to escape she walked out of Armenia. She came to the United States and made a success of her life, all through her own hard work. She rose above the extreme trials in her life. That was an awakening for me about strong women can overcome severe difficulties.

Q: Philanthropy is key for you now. But people are still curious about your long-ago connection to Rice-a-Roni. Can you share what you learned from that experience that has stayed with you, something that might have changed the way you look at the world?

A: AS I MENTIONED, MRS. CAPTANIAN showed me that it was possible to succeed under the worst circumstances imaginable. She beat the world against all odds. She is the one who taught me Mediterranean cooking, and my family especially liked her rice pilaf recipe. My husband and his brothers owned a pasta company, and we adapted the recipe, and it ended up to be Rice-a-Roni. That really made the fortunes of our company.

Q: You’re an avid yoga practitioner and instructor. At your home, you have taught a weekly women’s class. You’ve also held a weekly class for middle school students. Tell us more about that.

A: I STARTED PRACTICING YOGA IN THE 1960S when most people knew very little about it. An interesting remark during that time was, “Beware of Lois, she practices yoga!” That still makes me smile today. Yoga has stayed with me for most of my life. I live by its principles. I eat all fresh food. I keep my mind clear of turmoil.

I LIKE TO FILL MY LIFE WITH TRANQUILITY, and things that make me feel relaxed and happy. I play classical music in my home. I read books and I listen to KQED at 6 p.m. The rest of my time is in my garden and serving on boards where I can make a difference.

AND I DO TEACH YOGA. I’ve been teaching for over 20 years to four students. We have a wonderful bonding session every Monday morning at 7:00 a.m. in my home, where I have a room devoted to yoga. I taught yoga to middle-school students for a few years. It was a wonderful experience, watching thirteen-year-olds come into a gym, and be so quiet for one hour that you could hear a pin drop.

Q: The poet Mary Oliver said, “Make room in your heart for the unimaginable.” What would you imagine for women’s leadership in the years ahead?

A: I IMAGINE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES of America will be a woman—and I hope that is not imaginary—I hope it is reality in November!



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