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Former Member
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More than 500 philanthropists, supporting businesses and community leaders, came together at the 2016 PACT (People Acting in Community Together) Leadership Luncheon on Thursday, October 13 to honor John Tortora, COO, San Jose Sharks for his work as a top community builder. Scott Leatherman, COO, SAP Labs, US, gave an entertaining introduction for John in which he compared various Sharks players, including Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, and Joe Thornton, to John’s impact as a board member of the Sharks Foundation. The Sharks Foundation supports well over 100 charitable organizations and has given nearly $10 million since their inception in 1994.

As John accepted the leadership award, he thanked Scott for his warm introduction, and relayed his respect for the work Scott, Jonathan Becher, Chief Digital Officer, SAP and their colleagues at SAP contribute to the Silicon Valley from a technological standpoint, but also in terms of giving in support of the community. The leadership of Hasso Plattner, Co-Founder of SAP and Sharks majority owner, was acknowledged by John as he relayed, “all of his entities must include community fundraising and giving as a core responsibility for the organization.” This responsibility to the community permeates both the Sharks Foundation and SAP and is evident in their respective contributions in the Silicon Valley and beyond.

On a personal note, John thanked his wife Debra for her daily encouragement to support the Sharks Foundation. He quipped that he is “only a lawyer, while Debra is both a lawyer and a nurse,” who serves with pride. Debra’s dedication to serving the community is particularly evident in respect to her work to enrich and protect the lives of student athletes as the Associate Athletic Director at Valley Christian Schools.

As an example of the impressive work of the Sharks Foundation, John called attention to their largest contribution in partnership with SAP, to Valley Medical Center’s Women and Children’s Center. The Sharks Foundation and SAP allocated $750,000 over three years to fund the redesign of the pediatric floor. This support allows for a groundbreaking achievement in San Jose, the first of its kind to offer affordable, high-quality healthcare in an inviting and educational environment. John proudly conveyed a number of additional Sharks Foundation programs designed to benefit underserved children in San Jose and Santa Clara Counties.

John concluded his address with the story of a faded, typewritten speech he rediscovered only a week earlier, written when he was in eighth grade. He was volunteered by his teacher, Sister Eileen, to take part in a speech competition on the subject of Serving with Pride. Finding that speech was a reminder to John that at that formative age, serving with pride was a priority because of the care, guidance, and leadership of his elders. As he related to the audience, humans are not naturally wired to give and it is only through the support of many adults over many years that a child adopts the learned habit of a willingness to give.

John left attendees with a call to action inspired by the word pact. While PACT is an acronym for People Acting in Community Together, the word pact also carries a stronger connotation as a promise and commitment. John encouraged others to join him in honoring a pact as adults to educate children in the benefits of giving and supporting their community, and to pay forward the value of serving with pride to future generations.