Two Mesa leaders, one academic and the other spiritual, have been named the city's Man and Woman of the Year.
Both have built communities within Mesa. Albert McHenry helped create Arizona State University East at the former Williams Air Force Base and is its dean of technology and applied sciences, while Rabbi Bonnie Koppell has grown the congregation of Temple Beth Shalom from 67 families to about 200 since becoming Arizona's first female rabbi.
Beyond that, each has donated his or her spare time to causes ranging from activities for the elderly to children in crisis. Recruited in 1990 to serve on the board for Mesa Senior Services, the nonprofit that runs Mesa's senior centers, McHenry, 62, said the centers' patrons are a resourceful group.
"One of the fastest-growing population groups in Mesa are above 80 years old, and one of the things that always impresses me about them is their ability to help each other and the community, and how well they get along, in many instances when they've outlived their families and friends," he said.
McHenry has brought technology instruction from his school at ASU East to help seniors adapt to changes around them. His desire to do this stems from the philosophy imparted by his parents, who started a community credit union in their living room in Louisiana and ran it for 50 years.
"Basically, people are what it's all about, and you use whatever knowledge and wisdom you have to help them," he said. McHenry has also served on the board of Mesa United Way, as chairman of the technology committee for the East Valley Partnership, and is a member of a committee creating a new YMCA in east Mesa. Koppell, 47, Temple Beth Shalom, currently in Chandler, which draws people from across the East Valley, since 1987.
Her spare time is gobbled up by a mosaic of committees and service organizations, including Mesa's East Valley Child Crisis Center, where she served eight years on the board before term limits forced her off.
"These are people working to save children who don't get the love and care they deserve, and they not only comply with state regulations, they go above and beyond the call of duty," she said. "How can you not be moved by that?"
Koppell, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve chaplaincy, helped make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a Mesa city holiday, and belongs to numerous civic and religious organizations, including the Greater Phoenix Board of Rabbis.
McHenry and Koppell will be honored Feb. 18 at a luncheon sponsored by the Mesa Man and Woman of the Year Committee, which is made up of past winners.