When about 250 gathered at the annual Fernando Award dinner Nov. 5 at the Skirball Cultural Center, only one knew who the award recipient would be. (That one person was a representative of the accounting firm that handles the secret balloting). But everyone knew the honoree would be a woman.

That’s because for the first time in the award’s 62-year history, all five finalists were women. The recipient turned out to be Diana Sanchez, the public and community relations director of Van Nuys airport. She said that the spirit of volunteerism ran strong in her upbringing. She is or has been involved with numerous local chambers and other nonprofits.

Another first at the banquet was the involvement of the Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, who are indigenous to the San Fernando Valley and in whose likeness the Fernando award was based. Rudy Ortega, chief of the band, and Mark Villasenor, vice president, performed a traditional land acknowledgment chant toward the beginning of the evening. Villasenor also has become a member of the Fernando Award’s 11-person board of directors.

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