On January 19, The Pasadena Tournament of Roses® Board of Directors confirmed Gerald Freeny as the first African American president of the organization. Freeny will provide leadership for the 130th Rose Parade® presented by Honda and the Rose Bowl Game® presented by Northwestern Mutual on Tuesday, January 1, 2019. He has already gotten to work for the 2018-2019 Tournament of Roses year, deeming “The Melody of Life” as the Rose theme.
“I’m looking at this as an honor and a privilege,” Freeny told the Sentinel in a recent interview.
“One of my goals is to tighten up our Tournament of Roses family. I thank the 9 members who made the change that gave minorities and women the opportunity to succeed and lead the organization. They really brought us into the bond, of learning the ins and outs of the organization…”
Danny Bakewell, Sr. Executive Publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, who in 1989 led the coalition that protested the Tournament of Roses for inclusion into the then all white, all male executive committee had this to say: “Gerald Freeney’s ascension to the top spot in the Tournament is historic. It is what we all knew was possible when African Americans, people of color and women are given the opportunity. It has been a long time coming, but I am glad we have arrived.”
Freeny has been a volunteer member of the Tournament of Roses Association since 1988.
“I’m a native Californian, grew up in Pasadena, went to high school there,” he said.
“I graduated from Cal State Los Angeles in 1983 with a BS in finance. I worked for the state of California for 27 years.
“I’ve been watching the parade since I was little. My family always went out to the parade on New Year’s Day. It’s been a family tradition. I first decided to join the Tournament to make new friends, have fun and give back to the community.”
He was blessed to have Dan Toler as one of his sponsors to the organization, he said.
In addition to his many years of service in the Tournament of Roses, his community involvement has included; president of the San Gabriel chapter of NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives), the Pasadena Police Foundation Board, Pasadena Police Citizens Academy, Pasadena Rose Bowl Aquatics Board, University Club, Pasadena YMCA Board, Black Support Group at Cal State LA, Urban League Board of Governors, United Way Fundraising Committee, Toast Masters and the Pasadena NAACP. Freeny has been on the Advisory Board of the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation since 2016, and is also a member of Legacy’s Museum
“I’m such a proud mom,” said Freeny’s mother Charlie Freeny.
“He has worked really hard and he deserves it. I’m really sorry his grandparents aren’t here to see his accomplishments, and Dan Toler, who was really instrumental in [the Tournament of Roses’] diversity.”
His mother said she is also glad to see Freeny’s health improved, so that he can serve in this position.
“He’s been through a lot,” Charlie explained.
“He’s had three transplants. So I’m so pleased with the progress he has made [health wise].”
“Oh Happy Day! I am thrilled for Gerald, I am certain that he will represent our culture, our community and the Tournament of Roses very well” said Kristina Smith who like Freeny is part of Tournament of Roses history, when in 1985 was selected as the first African American Rose Queen.
Freeny attended Pasadena Christian School and John Muir High School in Pasadena, and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from California State University, Los Angeles. He is a member of both the Kappa Alpha Psi and Gamma Zeta Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi fraternities. Gerald resides in Altadena with his wife, Trina, and their daughter, Erica.
“The Tournament has made great progress as far as diversity,”Freeny said.
“We’ve come a long way. This journey to my position is historic. I would not be here without the help of members of the board.”
Of next year’s theme he said, “ ‘The Melody of Life,’ celebrates music, the universal language. Music has the power to not only bring us together but take us back to memories and moments as nothing else can. Rhythm, melody, harmony and color all come together to create the soundtrack that defines our lives.”