Introducing the 2019 Courage Award winners

Meet the six disruptors stepping up, speaking out and making a difference

It’s not often comfortable being courageous. Supporting a belief or a cause means taking a stand, speaking out and holding firm. It means advocating for others and tirelessly educating. It takes fearless determination and steadfast patience. Not everyone is up for the challenge. Luckily, some are.

Meet six individuals boldly leading and selflessly serving — all for the greater good. Crosscut’s 2019 Courage Award winners, nominated by the community and selected by an independent panel of community leaders, will be honored at the Crosscut Courage Awards breakfast Thursday, Oct. 17 in Seattle. Tickets can be purchased here.

Bobbe Bridge, founder of the Center for Children and Youth Justice and retired Washington Supreme Court Justice

David Brewster Lifetime Achievement Award

Eying retirement in 2005, Bobbe Bridge had a lot to look back on. She spent 14 years as an attorney in private practice, 10 years on the King County Superior Court, and eight more as a state Supreme Court justice. Still, Bridge felt she had more to contribute.

Bridge founded the Center for Children and Youth Justice in 2006, a nonprofit designed to rethink society’s approach to juvenile justice and child welfare, and spent the next 12 years reforming both.

Bridge officially retired earlier this year but continues to serve on community and public agency boards.

Louise Chernin, CEO of the Greater Seattle Business Association

Courage in Business

It was 1974 and Louise Chernin was a widow with two children — her youngest only 4 months old — when she realized her identity had died with her husband. Suddenly without a Mr., she had few rights because she was no longer married to a man. She was unable to get a credit card in her name, and the phone company needed a deposit on a phone she’d had for three years.

“It plunged me into a rage about the second-class status of women,” said Chernin, the self-described lesbian feminist who took the helm of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) in 2002.

In the years since Chernin ascended to CEO, the GSBA has grown to be the largest LGBTQ chamber in North America, and one of the largest chambers of any kind in Washington state.

Delbert Richardson, founder of the “Unspoken” Truths American History Traveling Museum

Courage in Culture

Many of the artifacts in Delbert Richardson’s “Unspoken” Truths American History Traveling Museum are scarring reminders of a sadistic past, such as a runaway slave collar and a branding iron. But just as many are meant to inspire.

When Richardson speaks to rooms full of young people or groups of teachers, he likes to point to posters of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, video game technology designer Jerry Lawson, and other prominent Black people who have contributed significantly to modern American life. He’s not surprised to find that few people have heard of them.

“My goal is to share information in a way that creates curiosity,” Richardson said. “Hopefully it encourages them to embark on their own journey of self-discovery.”

Richardson’s museum has grown in popularity through the years, and his youth-centric presentations have evolved to include workshops and trainings for adults.

Rex Hohlbein, founder of Facing Homelessness and BLOCK Architects

Courage in Public Service

Rex Hohlbein had moved his successful residential architecture firm to space along the Ship Canal in Fremont when his career took a dramatic turn.

Spending his days designing high-end homes for multi-millionaires, Hohlbein watched people experiencing homelessness struggle just outside his door. He started visiting with them during his coffee breaks. Before long, his office had become the unofficial hub for folks seeking a cup of tea, a snack or a place to dry off and regroup.

Hohlbein eventually quit his job as a designer and launched the nonprofit Facing Homelessness, which has served as an umbrella organization for community cleanup events, the Just Say Hello campaign and, most recently, The BLOCK Project, which brings together homeowners and unhoused Seattleites to create permanent backyard living spaces.

Mary Yu, Washington Supreme Court justice

Courage in Elected Office

Justice Mary Yu holds a lot of “firsts”: first Latina-American, first Asian-American and first openly LGBTQ member of the Washington State Supreme Court. While she discounts her notoriety as a matter of opportunity and timing, she knows her firsts come with a heavy responsibility.

Yu worked in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office before moving to King County Superior Court. She spent 14 years as a judge there before her appointment to the Washington Supreme Court.

“The pressure is on, in a sense, that being first means making sure someone else is going to be a second and a third. It’s making sure others can look at me and say, ‘I have a shot at the Washington state Supreme Court too,’” said Yu, who is most proud of the high court’s decisions that have brought justice to the underserved and underrepresented.

Kieran Snyder, CEO and co-founder of Textio

Courage in Technology

Kieran Snyder held project leadership roles at Microsoft and Amazon before founding Textio, an “augmented writing platform” that works like an automated writing coach. Snyder is passionate about introducing girls to technology — and making sure they continue to flourish in the field as they enter the workforce.

“Lots of girls like math, learn to code, and even enter college with plans for STEM majors,” Snyder said. “It's what they encounter later on that slows them down.”

Snyder aims to close the gender gap in the technology sector and empower girls to reach for the stars. She has served as a girls’ basketball coach for 30 years, and is one of several mentors with The Ella Project, a comic book series (featuring Ella the Engineer) created to encourage young kids, specifically girls, to pursue careers in coding, science, engineering, arts and entrepreneurship.

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About the Authors & Contributors

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Sheila Cain

Sheila Cain worked as an editor at McGraw-Hill for seven years, and now focuses her efforts on the construction, lifestyle and general business industries as a freelance writer. Her stories have appeared in numerous national and international trade magazines, as well as in local publications. She lives in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood with her husband and 15-year-old son.