Rancho Santa Fe family receives Millennium Award for decades of service at Balboa Park

By Kristina Houck

For three generations, the Gildred family has helped shape Balboa Park and the San Diego region.

In recognition of 78 years of leadership, stewardship and volunteer service in Balboa Park, the Friends of Balboa Park honored the family with the Millennium Award during the 13th annual awards luncheon Oct. 29 at the Balboa Park Club.

Interim San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and County Supervisor Ron Roberts presented the award, and Friends of Balboa Park Founder Betty Peabody was a featured speaker.

“It was a pleasant surprise and a privilege,” said Rancho Santa Fe resident Tom Gildred, who accepted the award on behalf of his family.

Gildred’s grandfather, Philip L. Gildred, came to San Diego with his brother, Ted Sr., in 1925. The brothers were on their way from South America to San Francisco when their ship docked in Coronado and they decided to stay.

“They got here on a trip to San Francisco that they never completed,” Gildred said. “What a great place to land. How lucky are we that he did?”

They built the Fox Theatre, now Copley Symphony Hall. Philip then helped found Sharp Hospital by donating 12.5 acres of land in Kearny Mesa for the construction of Donald N. Sharp Memorial Community Hospital, now Sharp Memorial Hospital.

In an effort to promote the park and the city during the Great Depression, he also served as managing director of the California Pacific International Exposition, and was the co-founder of the House of Pacific Relations’ International Cottages, which opened during the exposition.

Additionally, Philip, as well as Gildred’s other grandfather, artist Tom Stephens, served as board presidents of the San Diego Museum of Art, which opened as The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego in 1926.

“It all started with my grandfather,” said Gildred, who was named after both of his grandfathers. (His first name is Philip and his middle name is Tom.)

“He did a lot of great things for the city of San Diego and that carried on down to his two sons — my father and my uncle — and my entire family. He instilled a culture throughout our family of being involved in the community and giving back.”

Gildred’s father, Philip L. Gildred, Jr., and uncle, George L. Gildred, as well as their respective wives, Lyn Stephens Gildred and Alison Frost Gildred, also assumed leadership positions at several institutions in Balboa Park.

Philip Jr. was a founding board member of the San Diego Automotive Museum and a longtime board member of the San Diego Historical Society, now San Diego History Center. He and his wife have also served as board presidents of the San Diego Museum of Art.

“It’s a lot of history,” said Gildred, whose parents live in Rancho Santa Fe. “Speaking on behalf of the third generation of the Gildred family in San Diego, now we’re trying to make our own difference. I believe my grandfather, father and uncle have done great things for the city. Now it’s time for us to find our ways to positively affect the future of the city.”

With a passion for making a difference in businesses and organizations throughout the region, Gildred has built companies and serves on the board of several organizations.

He is founder and CEO of Emerald Textiles, a commercial laundry service for health care providers. He is also founder and board chairman of FMT Consultants, and board chairman of his family’s commercial real estate business, The Gildred Companies.

Like his parents and grandparents, he is a longtime board member for the San Diego Museum of Art and has served as board president. He is a founding member of the Downtown Breakfast Rotary Club and Vistage Group 3080, and has served on boards for Sharp HealthCare, Mission Valley YMCA and San Diego State University’s College of Business Administration. Gildred also worked on the Plaza de Panama proposal for Balboa Park.

“For as much as I’ve given, I’ve gotten so much more out of it,” said Gildred, who was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst & Young and “Most Admired CEO” by the San Diego Business Journal.

“My grandfather felt like it was not only our responsibility, but it was our privilege to be involved. It’s an honor to be involved and help shape the future of the city. We all should be trying to do that.”