Patrick Marcus, an engineer who advocates for high-paying local jobs, and Sahra Hirsi, a former Somalian refugee who founded businesses to help others settle here, were named Thursday as the 2014 Man and Woman of the Year among Tucson’s young leaders.
The two were honored along with 38 other up-and-coming community leaders at the 10th annual “40 Under 40” awards ceremony, sponsored by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Daily Star and Snell & Wilmer, and attended by about 600 people at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort.
“You are our future leaders, who can put us on a stage where people want to invest in Tucson, raise their families here, retire here,” said the ceremony’s keynote speaker, University of Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, who was a 40 Under 40 winner himself last year.
Byrne related the story of meeting with Rich Rodriguez three years ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to talk about bringing him to the UA as football coach. “Greg, I just want to be someplace where everyone is pulling the rope in the same direction,” Byrne recalled, describing that as an apt description of Tucson and its leaders.
Then, to extra applause, Byrne noted that he was about to fly to San Francisco to watch Rodriguez’s team play Oregon tonight for an outright Pac-12 championship.
H.T. Sanchez, the superintendent of Tucson Unified School District, also spoke, sharing wisdom he received from a mentor: “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.”
That mentor also urged Sanchez to write down his core beliefs: standing for professional accountability, creating a culture of success, being a model of lifelong learning, and promoting organizational soundness.
“You all have amazing and important core beliefs,” Sanchez told the honorees. “The résumé of what you’ve accomplished is impressive.”
Sanchez presented the 2014 40 Under 40 Mentor of the Year, Jennifer Lohse of Tucson Foundations, who was nominated by two of this year’s winners for dedication and passion.
Looking out at the crowd of achievers, Lohse enthused, “I have lots of boards of directors to put you on.”
“Tucson is a magical community and I’m so grateful to be part of it,” she added.
Woman of the Year Hirsi said she came to Tucson nine years ago “without knowing anyone” and became “who I am because of who mentored me.”
Hirsi’s family was displaced from their native Somalia by the collapse of the central government in 1991, so she grew up in Kenya and came to the United States as a refugee in 2006.
She is completing a master’s degree at the University of Arizona and is the founder of Hirsi Enterprises, whose agencies include Arizona Language and Transportation Services, Amani International Preschool and Childcare, Arizona Tender Hands Home Care Services and Tucson Nomad Cafe.
She said she stepped up to the challenge of helping other refugees and migrants by, among other things, providing day-care services 24/7 so parents could take any job. “We wanted to make Tucson a welcoming city,” she said. “We will all make a difference together.”
Man of the Year Marcus is the president of Marcus Engineering LLC, and serves on advisory boards for the University of Arizona and Pima Community College, while also devoting time to Startup Tucson, the Arizona Technology Council, Ideafunding and Maketopolis.
Noting that Tucson was named one of top five emerging hubs by Entrepreneur Magazine, Marcus praised “the truly transformative” Tech Launch Arizona, which works to transfer US technology to the commercial sector, and Startup Tucson, which creates a “startup ecosystem.”
“Inspire others, help everyone around you succeed, and our community will be great,” he said.