More than 200 people turned out Thursday night to recognize longtime educator and community activist Hank Panian and philanthropic powerhouses Julia and George Argyros during Costa Mesa’s fourth annual Mayor’s Celebration: The Art of Leadership dinner.
Panian received the Mayor’s Award for his decades of community service. The former Orange Coast College history professor was a founding member of the Costa Mesa Historical Society and served on the board of the Mesa Water District.
Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger called Panian “iconic” and “just a great person.”
“If you don’t know the name right now, you probably haven’t been in Costa Mesa very long,” he told the crowd of about 220 in the Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
“He is one of those people that we all know in our lives that gives and gives and gives more than he takes,” Mensinger added.
Panian said he was “absolutely overwhelmed” to receive the award.
“Community service is not a one-person job … it’s a culmination, collaboration, cooperation of hundreds of people,” he said during the ceremony. “And if I were to mention all the names of those men and women who helped me along that way, we’d be here until midnight. I share this award with all those people.”
The Argyroses — described during the ceremony as a “rare and extraordinary couple” and a “dynamic duo” — received a Lifetime Achievement Award for their community contributions.
George Argyros founded Arnel & Affiliates, a Costa Mesa-based real estate investment company, and served as U.S. ambassador to Spain.
He and his wife were applauded for their volunteerism, philanthropy and involvement in organizations including Chapman University, South Coast Repertory and the Segerstrom Center.
“George and I love Costa Mesa,” Julia Argyros said. “I personally like to think of Costa Mesa as a very big city inside a little city.”
Costa Mesa residents, she said, are some of the “most sincere, loving, hard-working people that you can imagine.”
“Is it any wonder that we’re really thrilled to receive this award tonight?” she said. “Thank you so much.”
Thursday’s event was presented by the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, South Coast Metro Alliance, Segerstrom Center for the Arts and the city of Costa Mesa. It featured performances by students from Estancia and Costa Mesa high schools.
Proceeds from the $135-per-ticket dinner will benefit arts programs at the high schools, the Segerstrom Center and South Coast Repertory.