A first event is unique and may set a precedent, but the second annual event establishes a tradition—especially when it exceeds the first.
This was the case October 8 when the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley hosted its second annual Swedish Bay Area Achievement Awards banquet and ball at the prestigious City Club. The event honors members of our community in three categories: cultural achievement, women’s achievement and business achievement.
Guests arrived at 7 p.m. for an hour of cocktails, wine and hors d’ouevres, and time with friends and those they had met last year. In the reception area were the tastefully decorated stands with the silent auction items. Initially people had to survey the treasures and determine their winning bidding strategy, but first they had to put in a better bid than those before them.
By 8 p.m., Master of Ceremonies Ted Olsson invited all to take their seats as the program was beginning with Brett Ruona, an operatic soprano of the Bay Area. Reading her audience well, she performed several pieces from "The Sound of Music," and an encore, which had some in the audience mouthing the words with her.

"Welcome to the Awards"
Nils Welin, chairman of the local chamber, officially welcomed everyone and thanked the Consulate General of Sweden and the Swedish Trade Council for supporting this event which recognizes entrepreneurs who strengthen the collaboration between the U.S. and Sweden. Welin appreciated how many had returned from last year’s event and welcomed newcomers to keep in touch with the vitality of the entrepreneurial spirit celebrated during an entire year of events.
Then May-Britt Malbec and her husband, of Malbec & Malbec vintners—and exclusive wine purveyors for the evening—explained the wines we were enjoying, particularly their distinctive Alienor blend of fine red wines, honoring Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of kings both of France and of England, and master of some of the finest wine producing lands of France. One lucky attendee won a special 3-liter bottle of Alienor wine.

Cultural Achievement Award
During the first course Consul General Barbro Osher was introduced to present the Cultural Achievement Award. In addition to being Consul General, chairman of the Bernard Osher Foundation and President of the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, she has also received numerous recognitions for her outstanding work. Her typically warm remarks about each of the finalists garnered recognition for each.
The finalists for the Cultural Award were: Ragnar Bohlin, director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus; The Scandinavian School in San Francisco; and, SWEA-San Francisco. With the suspense mounting, she opened the envelope and awarded the prize to Kristina Bünger, Annika McCrea, Johanna Nilsson and Mimmi Skoglund of the local Scandinavian School. The winners spoke of the early times of starting the school and of the now prospering classes for children and adults.

Former Governor and the evening's guest speaker
When all had been served their first course, the evening's keynote speaker came forward—Jennifer Granholm, once the highest Swedish-American government official in the nation as the governor of the state of Michigan. A native of the Bay Area, she is currently lecturing at UC-Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Her mother and Swedish father, Shirley and Ivar, were also introduced to very warm applause.
Governor Granholm is a pioneer with a boldly creative yet fixedly fair Swedish spirit. She was inaugurated just after the reckless spending of previous administrations came due in the nation’s automobile manufacturing heartland. She spoke of the lessons she learned in those circumstances, and how the state—and her family—persevered through that difficult time.

Women’s Achievement Award
Consul General Barbro Osher presented the Women’s Achievement Award. The finalists this year were the four women of the Scandinavian School; Stina Ehrensvärd, a Swedish entrepreneur newly returned to her native Bay Area; and, UCSF Professor of Pathology Britt-Marie Ljung. Once again the the praise was generous for all but only one could win, and that was Britt-Marie Ljung. She has had a very distinguished career here in San Francisco, winning the vote of her colleagues to become president of the Medical School for a two-year term.
For a change of pace, the MC introduced a new Swedish import. For her debut U.S. performance, this year’s winner of Sweden’s Melodi festivalen prize—acknowledging her as the most accomplished of her peers in contemporary Swedish music—Anna Bergendahl performed with her accompanist, Joakim Tidermark. She regaled the company with half a dozen of her own songs in both Swedish and English, which brought people to their feet.

Business Achievement Award
A simple but delicious dessert was served and people still lingered over wine as May-Britt Malbec presented the Business Achievement Award. This year’s finalists were: Accelion, which provides enterprise-class secure file sharing solutions, data security and compliance for companies and governments; Prezi, software that allows online collaboration on dynamic digital presentations; and, Retail Solutions, which empowers retail execution management by converting a retailer’s downstream data into actionable visibility in the store. The winner was Retail Solutions.
After thanks to many volunteers and sponsors for making the evening a success, there were still a dozen superb prizes—such as an SAS flight for two to Stockholm or a night at the Ice Palace—and the winners of the silent auction to be announced ... and after that an evening of dancing and drinking in the ballroom.
If you missed the event but want to glimpse its glitter and glamour, or you want to whet your appetite for next year’s gala, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rYMqXSEmSQ>. A fitting successor to last year’s event, this one guarantees next year’s gala. Mark your calendars now and don’t miss it!

For more info on the San Francisco Swedish Chamber of Commerce, see SACC San Francisco/Silicon Valley