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The Melodic Life of Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny


President for the 2018-2019 Tournament of Roses year Gerald Freeney – Photo by Terry Miller

The First African American President Hopes Diversity will Continue within the 935 Member Organization

 By Terry Miller

For many years, the Tournament of Roses has been considered, by some in the Pasadena community, a rather exclusive club which paid little or no attention to diversity in the executive branch.

After public pressure and many meetings with several groups, the Tournament hired Terrence Roberts Consulting to help them address complaints from various public and private individuals, organizations, corporations, and municipalities that they were essentially a “Whites Only” organization. The efforts paid off enormously and over the past few years the Tournament has been proactive in seeking minorities to fill vacancies.

Enter Pasadena Tournament of Roses®Board of Directors who wisely confirmed a remarkable man, Gerald Freeny, as President for the 2018-2019 Tournament of Roses year. Freeny just happens to be the very first African American to hold the coveted position.

We had the privilege of having an exclusive interview with Gerald Freeny Tuesday evening at Tournament House.

For the past 30 years, the soft-spoken and eloquent Freeny has volunteered for the TOR. He has worked hard to attain this position by going through rigorous steps in the Tournament hierarchy. He was sworn to secrecy in 2010 when he initially heard the news from then-President Jeff Throop. The rest, as they say, is history.

We asked Freeny about next year’s parade theme: The Melody of Life.



While not a musician himself, the 57-year-old said he has seen, first hand, the healing power music has had on his life while dealing with serious illness, cancer and major organ transplants including two livers.

While undergoing chemotherapy and all the sundry tests, etc. music “ calmed, soothed and helped me heal,” Freeny told Pasadena Independent.

Hence, his decision to select this year’s theme, ‘The Melody of Life,’ “When you’re dealing with something you don’t want to … music has amazing healing power for you and your loved ones.” It is “powerful,” Freeny said.

Freeny joked that even though his first love is Jazz, he was surprised when a surgeon, in the OR during one of his many medical procedures, was playing Rap. Freeny quipped that the doctor had better be careful with that knife.

Preferring mellow Jazz to soothe and heal, Freeny has also realized how precious and fleeting life is and hopes to help continue to change the Tournament of Roses to include not only minorities but millennials.

Diversity is an important issue for Freeny. Women and people of color are now included thanks to the progressive thinking within the executive ranks. In fact, Freeny says if it wasn’t for the new Board of Directors, Freeny says he may never have achieved this position.

Freeny, who has seen a recent uptick in the excitement young people seem to have for volunteering, hopes to tap that energy and continue to diversify the rank and file in the TOR.

Freeny hopes that his tenure as president will inspire people in all walks of like, no matter what their background may be, to spend time volunteering and engaging in the community they call home.

With music being such a crucial part of Freeny’s life and the Parade theme for 2019, we thought we’d attempt to get a little inside information from the person who makes the Grand Marshal selection each year.

Pasadena Independent: “ President Freeny, with the very obvious tip-of-the-hat to Jazz in the coming Rose Parade 2019, would it be safe to say that a musician, perhaps a famous musician may be next year’s Grand Marshal? Please, can you give us a hint?”

Laughing, Freeny politely declined to answer the question. We tried!




January 31, 2018

About Author

tmiller Terry Miller has been in the newspaper business for 35 plus years, following in the footsteps of his father who was a Foreign Correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph when the family emigrated to New York from London abroad the Queen Mary. When not shooting pictures or chasing a breaking news story, Miller spends entirely too much time and effort with Little British Sports Cars...more like an addiction, his wife of 20 years says.

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