STOCKTON — With Christmas bells jingling and smiles bright, more than a dozen people burst into a meeting room at the Community Foundation of San Joaquin.
Duane Isetti was surprised, then elated as confetti fell and the gravity of the interruption sunk in.
On Thursday, the Central Valley Association of Realtors and the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce named the Stockton native the 65th Stocktonian of the Year.
Isetti has spent his life serving the community, especially nonprofit agencies.
“I remember listening to a person who said the most valuable thing we have isn’t necessarily money, it’s our time,” said Isetti, who was presented with a commemorative football signed by those in attendance. “And so I kind of bought into that idea of giving back and using your time to provide service.”
Fitting was the location of the presentation, as Isetti said his proudest achievement was establishing the Community Foundation of San Joaquin some 10 years ago to help foster the needs of nonprofits.
“I saw the need to have one in our county. We were one of the few that never had one,” Isetti said. “To get this going was a dream that I’ve had. To see what it’s doing now and how it’s growing and impacting our society makes me feel good.”
The foundation grants hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to nonprofits. At its recent Evening of Gratitude, the foundation awarded more than $300,000 in grants.
“Duane is the consummate Stocktonian,” said Linda Philipp, former CEO and president of the Community Foundation of San Joaquin. “He has given back his entire life to this community and he continues to keep giving.”
Former San Joaquin County Supervisor Moses Zapien, the foundation’s CEO and president, said Isetti has been a “great asset to the community in so many ways.”
“I could think of no bigger cheerleader for the nonprofit sector than Duane,” Zapien said.
Isetti, 76, was born and raised in Stockton and played football at St. Mary’s High School and University of the Pacific, where he graduated cum laude. In 1965, Isetti earned a master’s degree in physical education at Pacific and was a teacher and football coach at Gustine, Franklin and St. Mary’s high schools for 14 years.
In 1979, Isetti went to work for New York Life, where he was an associate general manager, sales manager and field underwriter. From 1994-99, he represented District 5 on the Stockton City Council and was an assistant athletic director at Pacific and executive director of the Pacific Athletic Foundation. From 1999-2008, Isetti was the director of planned giving at Pacific.
During his professional career and in retirement, Isetti has served on a litany of boards, including United Way of San Joaquin, where he is a past president, San Joaquin Regional Transit District, YMCA, San Joaquin Council of Governments, Stockton Sports Commission, Children’s Museum of Stockton, Stockton Estate Planning Council, Stockton Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Insurance and Financial Planners, Financial Planning Association, Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Crime, Rotary Club of Stockton, Stockton Parks and Recreation Foundation, American Cancer Society, Stockton Visitors and Convention Bureau, Board of Education/Catholic Diocese of Stockton, Pacific Tigers Athletic Foundation, Mediation of San Joaquin, St. Joseph’s Medical Center, Jacoby Center at Pacific, A.A. Stagg High School Awards Committee, Alpha Psi Foundation, Community Foundation of San Joaquin and Pacific Athletic Hall of Fame Committee.
Isetti earned a place on the Million Dollar Round Table for Life Insurance Agents, was an all-league football coach from 1970-77 while at St. Mary’s, twice was head coach of the Lion’s All-Star football team (1973, 1974), received Pacific’s Amos Alonzo Stagg Award and was inducted into the Stockton and St. Mary’s athletic halls of fame.
Isetti said his work with nonprofits began rather innocently.
“Somebody asked me, ‘Would you consider serving on the YMCA board?’ ” Isetti said. “And I said, ‘Fine.’ And once I got to serve on a nonprofit, then it was one after another after another.”
Past Stocktonians of the Year Tim Ulmer (2014), Mel Corren (2015) and Elizabeth Blanchard (2017) attended Thursday's presentation.
“You walk on air,” Corren said. “There are so many people in Stockton who could be recognized, you really feel something special.
“Duane is so deserving. It’s wonderful.”
Contact reporter Bob Highfill at (209) 546-8277 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobhighfill.