He has served on Mushroom Mardi Gras board for 25 years and with the Teachers Aid Coalition

Published in the January 18 – January 31, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Photo by Marty Cheek
Ron Woolf, the 2017 Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year, with the Mushroom Mardi Gras mascot and festival director Sunday Minnich, who nominated Woolf for the award.

Stunned disbelief suddenly crossed Ron Woolf’s face as he sat next to his wife Peggy at a table in Mama Mia’s banquet room. His good friend Sunday Minnich had just made a surprise announcement: Woolf had been selected as the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Man of the Year.

“Ron is one of the pillars of our community. He has dedicated his life to education,” Minnich told the attendees of the chamber’s December member breakfast. “He’s the scholarship coordinator for the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras. He’s been on the board of directors for more than 25 years. He’s also on the Teachers Aid Coalition and on the committee to plan the chocolate and wine for teachers to get supplies in the classroom. He’s a great guy, and I love to see him every day at the office.”

Looking a bit flabbergasted still, Woolf took the microphone. “I usually know what Sunday is up to. But this is a total, total surprise,” he said. “Thank you very much. I appreciate it.”
The executive director of the annual Mushroom Mardi Gras event, Minnich nominated Woolf for the Man of the Year. He and five other honorees will be spotlighted at the 2017 Celebrate Morgan Hill gala, which will be held Feb. 25 at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center.

Besides his working volunteering with the Mushroom Mardi Gras and the Teachers Aid Coalition, Woolf serves on the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Trustee since his election in November 2014. He served as board vice president in 2015 and 2016. He worked for many years in education, serving as a math teacher at Britton Middle School and as principal of the MHUSD’s Adult Education program.

Minnich described Woolf as a well-liked member of the Morgan Hill community who does much for the young people in the community, the main reason she nominated him.
“Ron is a great guy. He’s very loyal and does a lot for everyone. He’s there when you need him,” she said. “It’s great coming to the (Mardi Gras) office and having things to work on with him. He comes in almost every day as a volunteer and does a lot. I couldn’t do it without him.”

Photo by Marty Cheek — Ron Woolf reacts upon learning he is the 2017 Man of the Year during the December Chamber of Commerce Breakfast. Seated next to him is his wife, Peggy. Tickets for the Feb. 25 Celebrate Morgan Hill event that honors all award winners are available at www.morganhill.org.

During an interview chat in the Mardi Gras’s headquarters office, Woolf recalled with a chuckle the Machiavellian manner a quarter century ago he found himself getting involved with the fungus-themed food and arts fair held Memorial Day weekend every year. He was a teacher with the MHUSD in the early 1980s.

“The Superintendent at that time said, ‘Hey, Ron, there’s a Mushroom Mardi Grass meeting tonight and I need some to go and represent the school district and find out what’s going on,’” he said. “I thought it was just a one-shot meeting kind of thing. Then when I get there, Bill Brown, who was the president at that time, gets up and say, ‘We’d like to introduce the newest member of the board tonight, and that’s Ron Woolf.’ And I said, ‘Holy mackerel! What did I get myself into?’”

After seeing the dedication to the mission of the board members that night and the hard work the festival does to raise funds for local student scholarships, he thought it would be a “perfect fit” for him, he said. Since 1984 when the festival first started giving scholarships, Woolf has helped oversee the presentation of more than $1 million in scholarships to 1,000 students attending community colleges, four-year universities and trade schools.

“We’ve got many, many great students in our community, and that includes all the high schools,” he said. “And then when you interview the students, that really restores your faith in the youth. We’re in good hands.”

Woolf was born in Pennsylvania and grew up there. Two weeks after marrying Peggy, the couple moved from the Keystone State to California. Before moving to Morgan Hill, Woolf was an assistant principal for five years in Lemoore High School in the San Joaquin Valley.

Minnich said that among the many qualities she admires about Woolf, standing out is his exceptional memory for recalling the names of his past students — even more than 20 years ago. He can recall the names of students he interviewed for the Mardi Gras scholarships as well, she said.

“A lot of people are teaches and they just teach,” she said. “Ron remembers every person who got a scholarship and all his students.”

Among his former math students is newly re-elected school board member Tom Arnett who graduated from Live Oak High School in 2001.

Woolf enjoys staying connected with many of the people he taught in school.

“You’ll be surprised with LinkedIn and all that stuff that you find out what they’re doing,” he said. “They might want a recommendation maybe.”

Besides the Mardi Gras, he stays active volunteering with the Teachers Aid Coalition, organizing the annual Chocolate & Wine for Valentine event to raise money to purchase supplies for classrooms. This year’s event will be held 2 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center. (Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at BookSmart, Drs. Jon Hatekeyama and Don Nguyen’s dental office, and the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce.

Woolf said Morgan Hill has a special spirit among members of the community where people give of their time and talents to make life better for local residents.

“There are so many good people in Morgan Hill, and so many people who volunteer,” he said.