John Daly

Santa Barbara Foundation has named John Daly as Person of the Year. 

Former Carpinterian John Daly has been named Person of the Year by the Santa Barbara Foundation in the 78th year of the tradition. Daly has been honored alongside Judy Stapelmann, also named Person of the Year, for volunteer contributions and service to the community. 

Daly was happily living in Carpinteria until about four years ago, when the owner of his rental home put the property on the market, he said. After six years of living “a wonderful life in a house near Vallecito . . . where we had planned on living for a long long time,” Daly and his wife Marti moved to the Samarkand neighborhood in Santa Barbara. 

“We hated to leave, as a matter of fact,” he said. 

Daly was nominated because of his leadership in the Santa Barbara community, Catherine Remak, former recipient and radio show host, said. 

“Since he and his family made Santa Barbara their home in 1991, his commitment to philanthropy has made a significant difference in the lives of many residents, especially youth,” Remak said. 

Daly has served on the boards of United Way of Santa Barbara County, Partners in Education, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the Anti-Defamation League, the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and Fighting Back Mentor program. 

In addition to nonprofit board service, Daly has mentored local youth and young men whose ages range from toddlers to men in their 30s, and he keeps in close connection with each of them. He has also mentored foster children for 11 years as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate for CASA. Daly was awarded the Penny Jenkins Mentor Championship Award for his work with the Fighting Back Mentor Program. 

When Daly retired 11 years ago from his 44-year-career producing international events and advising Fortune 100 corporate clients, he founded The Key Class, an accessible and practical guide to social and business skills for students – elementary to college – that helps ensure their preparedness for a career and other life pursuits.

“Curriculums are built around respect, handshakes, how to go into a conflict resolution, how to write a resume and a cover letter and interview properly,” Daly said. “All the things that kids are not learning in school.”

Daly has since provided the program to nearly all public schools in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Oxnard, and engaged with The Workforce Investment Board for the state of California. 

The impetus for founding The Key Class was an observation Daly made one night while out for dinner with a mentee. “I had started to notice that my mentees had atrocious table manners,” Daly said. 

“I was out to dinner with one of my mentees and I said, ‘I think I can teach you something that will help you for the rest of your life.”

That night over dinner, Daly went on to show him how to hold a fork and knife, fold a napkin, ask for something from the waiter, and so on. 

“I wasn’t sure if the kid would love me or hate me, but when we walked out the door, he put his arm around me and said, ‘Thank you – nobody has ever taken the time to show me that.’ He was 15 years old, and he had been living in group homes his whole life.”

Daly realized that night what he would devote the rest of his life to: “I wanted to teach people how to have social skills that are meaningful.” 

“John founded two organizations: Key Class and Social Skills of America – to address what he saw was an inability of youth to interview confidently and have skills for career success,” said Catherine Brozowski, executive director of the Audacious Foundation. 

“He recognized that students were missing soft skills to navigate their career paths and designed these programs to address those gaps.” 

Daly and his wife Marti have five children, five grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. He said winning the award brought up two types of emotion: “I’m very, very proud and also very humbled. Just to be put alongside the names of the other people who have received the award – I can hardly believe they are saying my name in the same sentence.” 

Daly was honored in a virtual event held by the Santa Barbara Foundation on Oct. 6.

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