The new president and CEO of Pier 39, who succeeded Taylor Safford after the latter’s retirement on December 31, has fond memories of visiting his future workplace with his grandmother shortly after it opened in 1978. “I remember the excitement, the shops, the arcade and having a wonderful day with family,” says Gentner, who grew up in San Jose and Salt Lake City. After earning a business degree from UC Berkeley, he worked in London and San Francisco before joining Pier 39 — which includes the Blue & Gold Fleet — as its chief financial officer in 2012. Now living in the Oakland Hills, Gentner tells the Gazette his favorite time to visit Pier 39 is in the morning: “Listening to the sounds of the sea lions on a quiet, beautiful, clear morning with the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz in the background is breathtaking, no matter how many mornings I see it.”
The former attorney and author of the critically acclaimed The Year She Left Us shares that she has “a special place in my heart” for the Outer Sunset, the setting for her latest novel, The Chinese Groove. (With the immigrant story, Kirkus Reviews noted her ability to “twist a plot in unexpected, deeply satisfying directions.”) Ma lives in the Richmond District with husband Sanford Kingsley, an attorney-mediator with whom she shares three daughters, and has taught creative writing at San Francisco State and the University of San Francisco. A Stanford alumna who holds a law degree from Cal, Ma is also an avid theater supporter, with high regard for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland — where Kingsley proposed to her on a playgoing trip — and, among Bay Area venues, A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, for its support of younger playwrights. “Asian American playwrights like Lauren Yee and Julia Cho are creating my favorite kind of complex family stories,” Ma notes. She plans to appear at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley in May.
It took three decades for the Berkeley filmmaker to complete his animated feature Mad God, released in 2022, but the wait was worth it, according to the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle. The group of film journalists gave Tippett its 2022 Marlon Riggs Award, which rewards “courage and innovation in the world of cinema” and is named for the late Oakland auteur, a Black gay filmmaker whose boundary-pushing documentaries included Tongues Untied and Ethnic Notions. Tippett founded Tippett Studio in Berkeley in 1984 with his wife, Jules Roman, after winning a special achievement Academy Award for visual effects for 1983’s Return of the Jedi — one of two eventual Oscar wins and six other nominations. As for the nightmarish, elaborately produced fantasy of Mad God, Tippett told Variety magazine, “It’s the story I wanted to tell, and I told it the way I wanted to tell it.”
UC Berkeley’s new police chief hails from the U.S. Capitol Police, where she served nearly 20 years before becoming the first woman and first Black officer to lead the force. Pittman stepped into the interim role two days after the attack on January 6, 2021, and helped institute new programs and reforms before a permanent replacement was named six months later. She grew up in Cambridge, Maryland; graduated from Morgan State University in Baltimore with a degree in psychology; then earned a master’s degree and started work on a nearly finished doctorate in public administration from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Pittman’s plans for Berkeley will also involve reforms and building on what she calls the campus’ “phenomenal history,” according to the Berkeley News. She and husband Leroy McKinney, who attended her official swearing-in at Sproul Hall on February 1, share two sons who live on the East Coast.
Drs. Brian Lowery and Tomás Jiménez
Stanford University has tapped two faculty members as founding co-directors of its new Institute on Race, designed to draw on existing programs that study race and its effects on society and create practical solutions for regional and global issues of equity. Jiménez, a professor of sociology and comparative studies in race and ethnicity, has local roots: He grew up in Santa Clara, majored in sociology at Santa Clara University, and worked as a legislative aide in U.S. Representative Mike Honda’s office in 2005, while completing his PhD in sociology from Harvard University. He shares two sons with wife Nova Jiménez, a musician and lecturer in voice at Stanford. Trained as a social psychologist, Lowery is a professor of organizational behavior in the Stanford Graduate School of Business and arrived on campus from UCLA, where he earned a PhD in 2002. “Problems associated with race weaken the bonds that allow societies to serve all of its members, and, in doing so, weaken the fabric of the society,” Lowery expressed to the Stanford Report.