Anne Otterson touches many people’s lives through kindness, caring … cooking

Anne Otterson was born in Minnesota, graduated from the College of St. Catherine in St Paul, and was a Fullbright scholar in Germany. She worked as a chemist for Chevron Research in San Francisco where she met her late husband Bill Otterson.

Otterson is a 40-year resident of La Jolla, and served as the grand marshal of the 2009 La Jolla Christmas Parade. The honor was given to her, in part, for her role with Responsibility, a nonprofit that provides education and medical aid to the poorest street children of Tijuana. To date, the organization has served some 3,500 destitute children.

In addition to her work on the UCSD Foundation, Otterson has served on the Board of

Directors of the Friends of the Library, she is member emeritus of the Moores UCSD Cancer

Center Board, and serves on the Advisory Council of The Rady School of Management, another of her husband’s legacies.

Otterson is a topnotch cook who for many years taught classes as director of the Perfect Pan School of Cooking on Goldfinch Street in Mission Hills. She turned that talent into gold for UCSD Cancer Center by founding the annual Celebrities Cook gala.

Otterson is active with the Carmen Pampa Foundation in Bolivia, and also benefitting from her involvement is Project Concern’s International Relief, The Monarch School, La Jolla Music Society, San Diego Opera, San Diego Museum of Art and College of St. Catherine.

What brought you to La Jolla?

My late husband, Bill, was asked to turnaround a San Diego hi-tech company that was in financial difficulties. When we came to La Jolla, we immediately fell in love with its charm.

What makes this area special to you?

Certainly its beauty and climate made La Jolla attractive … at that time, La Jolla had a nostalgic air of Europe, which I liked. It also had a diversity of people who the university was recruiting to the area.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I would use my historical architecture background to prevent the loss of character the village had, and I don’t mean saving humble shacks.

Who or what inspires you?

People. Most people have a personal approach to life, in a variety of ways, most inspiring and amazing. Those who do not let fear interfere in their lives and risk change, perhaps, appeal to me most.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

That is a difficult question, for one thinks of great minds of the past. But as I reflect on the question, I think that I would arrange a fascinating dinner party with local San Diegans and La Jollans. Such persons as Deborah Sekeley, who reaches across the border in her eleemosynary efforts and supports changes in lives and attitudes on both sides; Lucy Kilea, who achieved remarkable accomplishments in her life, one being the establishment of the International Community Foundation; Abby Silverman, a brilliant lawyer and friend, who works pro bono on many women’s issues and serves on several community boards involved with the arts, health, social issues and the San Diego Library; Dr. Constance Carroll, a scholar in Latin and Greek, who is chancellor of 200,000 students in the community colleges; Mary Walshok, for stirring UCSD Extension to have a world-wide influence, and who is a cofounder of CONNECT; Dick Atkinson another CONNECT cofounder who had the vision to make UCSD one of the major research universities of the world; Nobel Laureate Dr. Chen, a distinguished researcher at UCSD engaged in search for the cure for cancer; and Malin Burnham, a civic leader in many areas, including great support for the Burnham-Sandford Institute.

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

Titles of novels, I rarely remember, but I did just read “Ransom,” a fictionalized story of King Priam’s attempt to retrieve the body of his son, Hector, written by an Australian author I like very much, David Malouf. I also just read Laurence Bergreen’s “Marco Polo,” a scholarly investigation of the various manuscripts of Marco Polo’s travels, including those where he is mentioned in court records of the Kublai Khan. I am now reading about another Italian in 17th century China, Matteo Ricci, and the establishment of Jesuit missions that existed for over a century, 300 years after Marco Polo.

What is your most-prized possession?

Of course what I treasure most are my three children and six grandchildren!

What do you do for fun?

As my friends know, I love to cook, read cookbooks, and, of course, break bread and drink good wine with my friends!

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

My greatest accomplishment would be raising three reasonable, responsible and delightful children. John, the oldest, is a partner of SVB Capital, the founder the UCSD Cancer Center Luau, and is involved with both the Preuss School as well as Project Concern International. Eric, my other son, is vice-president of business development for Cooley, and is active on the Board of the French School and on the Board of The CONNECT Foundation. My daughter, Helen, a ceramic sculptor, is director of the ceramics department at the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach. She gives workshops and exhibits her work throughout the country.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Laugh at yourself, be curious and care about others, and listen to the world about you — whether is it the babbling brook, the melodious sounds of a flute, or the plaintiff cry of oppressed people.