Five Heavy Hitters Making Our World Wiser, Safer, and More Beautiful

Five Heavy Hitters Making Our World Wiser, Safer, and More Beautiful


It's Indian summer in San Francisco, and temperatures are on the rise. As are the local luminaries in our annual Hot 20, er . . . Hot 30. That's right. We were so impressed by the crop of talent and brains moving the needle this year—in fields as diverse as technology, music, education, sports, and arts—that we added 10 bright stars to our list.

Khan Academy Founder, Salman Khan

What does it take to make Time's list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World?" Three MIT degrees, a Harvard MBA, a past life as a hedge fund analyst, and a founder's role in the world's largest online school. Introducing Salman Khan.

Known as Sal, the founder of the nonprofit Khan Academy hit on something in 2006 when he began tutoring his cousins via videos he posted to YouTube. Those videos caught on. And in 2010, funding started to flow. Then Bill Gates called Khan a “pioneer" and the Academy “the start of a revolution." The rest is history.

While tech-based education isn't new, Khan Academy is distinguished by its reach—5 million unique views per month. Ten thousand teachers utilize Khan lectures in classrooms across the globe. “We're the first to get mass scale," Khan says.

With its go-at-your-own-pace philosophy, the academy's 3,300 videos and exercises in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and the humanities target students from kindergarten through graduate school. “You could be 50 and have trouble with fractions or a precocious fifth grader who's ready to learn calculus," Khan explains. Despite his wild success, Khan continues to record much of the material himself at his Mountain View home. —Chloe Roth

SFPD SVU Investigator, Andrea Weyl

You've heard of dirty jobs. SFPD Officer Andrea Weyl is about to take on the most unpleasant, and one of the most important, jobs of all—taking down child pornographers.

After stumbling upon a suspicious van at a playground in the Western Addition in 2010 and subsequently cracking the largest child pornography case in the history of the SF police department, Weyl started on her path toward the Internet Crimes Against Children division in the Special Victims Unit. Until that time, soon-to-retire veteran inspector Ken Esposto had been a one-man department, capable of taking on just 50 cases per year. Weyl saw an opportunity to help. This spring, Esposto began training Weyl as his replacement.

The job is gruesome, involving hours upon hours of viewing images and videos of children being raped and abused in the quest for any insight that might lead to a suspect. To cope, Weyl, a humble resident with a natural sense of humor, says she tries “to maintain a healthy life outside of being a cop, with a supportive partner and friends." —C.R.

A Band of Wives Founder, Christine Bronstein

When Christine Bronstein welcomed a small group of successful Bay Area women to pay tribute to Gloria Steinem and the 40th anniversary of Ms. Magazine earlier this year, her genuineness was clear: This is a woman's woman who is answering the call for a new generation.

This September, Bronstein was recognized as the 2012 Women's Human Rights honoree for community building, by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The award acknowledges the Kentfield mother's work as the founder of A Band of Wives (ABOW)—a social network for women launched in 2009 (Kamala Harris and Amanda de Cadenet are members).

This month marks the publication of ABOW's first-annual anthology of writings by women. Called Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God, the premier edition is all about female connections. Authors, including Joyce Maynard and Deborah Santana, discuss everything from motherhood to racism. Since Bronstein believes all women must have a voice, the book's website will allow users to submit their stories and order custom copies with their words in print. “My philosophy is to support the women in our own backyard," she says. —Anne Sage

SFMoMA Director, Neal Benezra

At age 10, Neal Benezra saw Clyfford Still's abstract expressionist works in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It was the moment, he says, that first “piqued his interest" in the career that would one day be a “dream come true."

Four decades later, the Bay Area native and museum director is dedicated to the “SF" part of MOMA's name, embracing the city's tech legacy—SFMOMA was the first museum to release its annual report for the iPad—local talent, and works relevant to SF, such as his acquisition this year of Robert Arneson's controversial bust of Mayor George Moscone. “We want to be distinguished by the quality of the works, not just internationally but locally as well," Benezra says.

Since Benezra's appointment in 2002, SFMOMA has doubled its collection. Now to accommodate the 28,000 total works, the museum will break ground next summer on an estimated $555 million expansion. Under Benezra's direction, the build-out, designed by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, will add nearly 148,000 square feet of public and exhibition space. —C.R.

SF Arts Commissioner, Dorka Keehn

“I want this city to become known for its public art," says Dorka Keehn. And soon it will be, thanks to her. When the Bay Bridge springs to life in the glow of 25,000 LED lights in 2013, Keehn will be largely to thank: The SF Arts Commissioner raised $6 million to support artist Leo Villareal's much-anticipated Bay Lights project.

“It's going to bring unparalleled attention to San Francisco from around the world," says Keehn, who is also preparing an arts festival, in collaboration with ArtPadSF director Maria Jenson, to coincide with the America's Cup races next year.

While Keehn's endeavors achieve international significance, they also play an important role in the cultural vibe of our city. The expert multitasker is also on the committee to select public art for SFO and for the city's new Central Subway, which is expected to be complete in 2019.

Passion for art usually stems from creativity. An artist herself, Keehn is at work on a second collaboration with artist Brian Goggin—a marquis for a SoMa high-rise called Caruso's Dream. Their first—the North Beach installation Language of the Birds—was named among the country's best public works by Americans for the Arts. —C.R.

Plus, the guys who immortalized them in tin:

Photobooth Photographers, Vince Donovan (right) and Michael Shindler (left)

Owners of the world's only tintype and Polaroid portrait studio, Vince Donovan and Michael Shindler can barely keep up. Their year-old Mission mecca to all things analog has quickly caught international attention: One enthusiast recently flew in from Singapore to have his portrait taken. Next up: a Brooklyn pop-up shop and, eventually, a brick-and-mortar store in Brooklyn. “It's very gratifying to have this weird thing that we're doing appreciated," says Shindler. —A.S.

This article was published in 7x7's October issue. Click here to subscribe.

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