"I don’t think I’ve ever been as emotional about an award as I was today. I am humbled to be a part of the inaugural group of stars."
Debbie Meyer is a three-time Olympic gold medalist from Carmichael and the first and only woman to win three individual freestyle swimming Olympic gold medals. She set world records in the 200-meter, 400-meter and 800-meter freestyle swimming events at the U.S. Olympic trials. In all, she broke 24 American records and won 19 Amateur Athletic Union national championships.
At the age of 16, Debbie was the first swimmer to win three individual gold medals during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and she is still considered one of the greatest female swimmers of all time. She remains the only female Olympian to win three individual freestyle swimming gold medals in one Olympics. No female swimmer has ever done this in any other combination of distances. She also won two gold medals in the 1967 Pan American Games at the age of 14. Debbie held five world records simultaneously and broke 20 world records and 24 American records from 1967 to 1971.
“The idea of a walk of stars in Sacramento is fantastic," said Debbie. "Growing up in Sacramento was a true joy. Obviously, it wasn't as big as it is now. The Solon's were the only professional team that had been associated with the city and now we have three. I was very proud to represent Sacramento on the world stage of amateur athletics. The support of the community was overwhelming. I am humbled to be a part of the inaugural group of stars.”
After retiring from competition, one of her priorities continues to be working with young people. “I have had such a rewarding career and I enjoy sharing it with others. Perhaps I may inspire someone else to strive for their best,” said Debbie. She has conducted motivational clinics nationwide and in 10 foreign countries, has coached from the grassroots level to NCAA Division 1 schools and has been a commentator for CBS Sports Spectacular and ESPN. Debbie has also done promotional work for Coca Cola, Sports Illustrated, M&M’s, Life Savers, Rainbow Bread Iron Kids, Speedo and Xerox.
Entertainment & Arts
"I truly appreciate this wonderful tribute."
Gregory Kondos is a Sacramento-raised artist and one of world’s most prominent California landscape artists having won numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1999 International Biennial in Florence, Italy. He was also elected to the National Academy of Design and featured in the PBS documentary “A Passion for the Land.”
Gregory is one of the West’s foremost landscape artists. For more than 40 years he has traveled the globe painting some of the world’s most inspiring landscapes, including Yosemite Valley, the French countryside and the islands of Greece. His signature works of the Sacramento Delta have become modern classics that boldly capture its sweeping beauty.
In 1996 Kondos was awarded with American Artist Magazine’s Master of Drawing Award. His work is included in permanent collections around the world, including the Yosemite Museum, where he has been a member of the Artist-in-Residence Program since 1989. A retrospective at the Crocker Art Museum is among his solo exhibitions.
Gregory received both B.A. and M.A. degrees in Art at the California State University, Sacramento and taught at Sacramento City College for 27 years, where he founded and directed the campus gallery. With fellow artist and friend, Wayne Thiebaud, Gregory founded the Artists Cooperative Gallery (now the Artists Contemporary Gallery), one of the earliest showcases for aspiring artists in northern California.
“I have stayed here in Sacramento since I was three years old, not moving to any other town," said Gregory. "I love my art, my teaching and this community. Sacramento has always supported me beautifully and I am so grateful for what this community has done for me. I truly appreciate this wonderful tribute."
Gregory’s works, including his giclée prints, are always available at the Smith Gallery on 11th Street between J and K streets. His pieces are also displayed in the Sacramento City Hall exhibit and at the Sacramento International Airport.
Entertainment & Arts
"I have always claimed Sacramento as my hometown, and today I genuinely feel that Sacramento has, in turn, claimed me."
LeVar Burton is a Sacramento-raised actor, producer and director known for excellence in entertainment. His award-winning roles include Kunte Kinte on the groundbreaking miniseries Roots and his regular role as Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, for which he also directed episodes. Countless children and parents know LeVar for his long-running children’s series Reading Rainbow.
Although he was born on a West German military base, LeVar and his two sisters were raised by his mother in Sacramento. After graduating from high school in 1974, he enrolled at the University of Southern California to pursue acting. Just two years later, he landed the role of Kunte Kinte and made his professional acting debut.
Reading Rainbow ran on PBS Kids from 1983 until 2006, garnering over 200 broadcast awards, including a Peabody Award and 26 Emmy Awards. Today LeVar serves on the board of directors for the AIDS Research Alliance, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to finding a cure for AIDS. Although he and his family live in Sherman Oaks, Levar’s mother and younger sister still live in the Sacramento area, and he visits often.
"Everybody comes from somewhere and I have always been proud of my Sacramento roots," said LeVar. "From Glen Elder to Broderick to South Sac; from Holy Angels to St. Charles Borromeo to St. Ann's Elementary, Sacramento has imprinted itself on me in a most indelible way."
Today LeVar serves on the board of directors for the AIDS Research Alliance, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to finding a cure for AIDS. Although he and his family live in Sherman Oaks, Levar’s mother and younger sister still live in the Sacramento area, and he visits often.
Dr. Ernie Bodai
Science & Technology
"I am deeply honored and humbled to be recognized as one of the inductees of the Sacramento Walk of Stars."
Dr. Ernie Bodai is a world-renowned breast cancer surgeon who advocated for the development of the breast cancer research stamp helping to raise millions of dollars for research. He serves as a clinical professor of surgery at UC Davis and directs the Breast Health Center at Kaiser Permanente, nationally recognized as a “Center of Excellence.”
As of December 2015, more than one billion breast cancer stamps were sold by the U.S. Postal Service resulting in more than $80 million raised for research.
Dr. Bodai has authored more than 250 medical articles and has published five books, four of which focus on cancer. He holds a number of medical device patents, is a member of numerous prestigious surgical societies and is the recipient of many national awards. He serves as a board member or medical director of several companies including Sontek Medical, B&B Medical, Liv International, and Nutracea, an international leader in the development of nutraceuticals.
Ernie Bodai, M.D. was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1951. He and his family lived in a bomb shelter for nearly a year before they managed to escape during the Hungarian Revolution in 1957. Following immigration to the United States, Dr. Bodai received his B.A. and M.S. degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles. He received his M.D. degree from the University of California, Davis in 1977, where he currently serves as Clinical Professor of Surgery. Dr. Bodai served as Chief of Surgery at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento for 15 years before becoming director of the Breast Health Center.
“I’m more than humbled and honored to be the recipient of this incredible star," said Dr. Bodai. "I hope it is the beginning of a long and valued tradition for the people of Sacramento as well as the state of California.”
After treating thousands of patients with breast cancer he became frustrated at the pace of funding for research. In a remarkable one-man lobbying effort he was able to convince Congress and the U.S. Postal Service to issue the Breast Cancer Research Stamp – the first ever stamp in U.S. history that sells at more than face value with the surplus amount donated directly to breast cancer research. He is introducing the first ever “global stamp” raising awareness and funding to conquer the disease worldwide. To date, 12 countries have begun work on this important project.
Timothy B. Schmit
Photo by James Glader
"I’m really humbled and honored to have this opportunity to be among the first group to have their names etched into the Sacramento Walk of Stars."
The Sacramento Walk of Stars announced the addition of a fifth honoree, Timothy B. Schmidt of the rock band the Eagles and a graduate of Encina High School.
Schmit gained fame playing bass and singing lead vocals for the band Poco in the 1970s. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 as a member of the Eagles, which he joined in 1977.
“Growing up in Sacramento was ideal for me, and I still have friends there dating back to grade school,” Timothy B. Schmit said. “My former band mates and I still get together whenever I visit. We even play a little music now and then. And my oldest brother and his family are still happy residents.”
Schmit grew up in the Arden Arcade area of Sacramento and attended Encina High School, American River College and Sacramento State University. He started playing guitar music as an early high schooler with three like-minded friends, until he moved from Sacramento in 1969 to further his music career.
“I have many fond memories of living in Sacramento,” Schmit added. “Roaming around the neighborhood on my bicycle as a kid, attending good schools, warm active summers, early romance, learning my craft, and always being surrounded by many dear friends.”