The Chris Kindness Award

“Chris may not have reduced the carbon footprint of a Fortune 500 company or changed the labor practices in factories halfway around the world but he taught my children to care for the earth through the school’s small garden, or about life cycles by caring for caterpillars until their release as a butterfly, and how to play with each other patiently and respectfully. The effect he had on the community is undeniable”

—a Grateful Parent

From the Founder of the Chris Kindness Award:

This award was going to be called the Ross Kindness Award in honor of my parents – Morton and Sylvia Ross – who had recently died. I also wanted a project that I could work on with my children, Haley and Danny. My parents passed on to me and my siblings, Lee and Merl, the importance of giving back to your community and as a professor of law, ethics, and social policy at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, I too have stressed this in the classroom and beyond.

I began rethinking the Award when a new dorm opened on campus called Slottman Hall in honor of the legendary professor of history, William Slottman. I was happy that this amazing man was being honored. But it also hit me that the greatest teacher I had ever known – Chris Walton – had recently passed away and there was nothing named to honor him.

Chris taught both my children at the Berkeley JCC pre-school; they adored him. Every parent and child was struck by his extraordinary kindness and thoughtful manner. I regularly volunteered in his class and observed how he imbued in his young pupils a strong sense of community, charity, and care. I never knew his last name. To me, he was a star, like Cher, Pele, Beyonce.

Nothing feels more appropriate now than to name this the Chris Kindness Award. With your participation, these awards will deepen our appreciation for acts of kindness in our community. Chris would have loved it.

– Alan Ross


Professor Alan Ross is a lecturer and distinguished teaching fellow at Berkeley Haas and the Political Science Department. He served on the Board of Directors for California Common Cause and was awarded the Earl F. Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005 and 2013.

From Chris Walton's Sister, Kate Nelson

Chris laid out a path for himself that gave the conventional markers of success and personal comfort a run for their money. His deep Quaker roots could be blamed for some of that but, even as a young boy, Chris had a strong desire to question, search, and challenge. The ethical and social impact of his choices and his words were always on his mind, for as long as I can remember. It was never a surprise to me that Chris approached his work with young children in the same respectful, thoughtful manner. His chosen work was joyful, holy ground for him. He cared about how the children in his care grew. He cared that they knew someone noticed them, heard them, and thought that what they were doing or saying was important. That THEY were important. I know it gave him great pleasure to be in the company of those curious explorers, as he continued to learn along with them. And pleased to be part of a community that made space for him to breathe the values that he held dear.

My now-grown sons carry their beloved “Uncle Toe’s” love and inspiration in their own lives, in ways that keep him always near and carry forward his striving toward living an ethical life. His impact was bi-coastal!

Tucked into the corner of a framed picture of Toe, in our living room, is a little paper fortune that he had gotten in a cookie as part of one of our “traditional” Christmas Eve dinners of Chinese food after Church. It reads: “You will be loved and revered by many children for your kindness to them”. When I saw that he had left it behind on the table, I saved it, knowing well the truth that this simple prize spoke. It was him. And now, through your act of kindness, it will also be others.

Nominate Someone Today

Nominate Someone for The Chris Kindness Award Today

Keep your eye out for an act of kindness by someone who works, lives or goes to school in our Berkeley community. Every month we review all of the nominations, select three finalists and ask our subscribers to vote for their favorite act. Our diverse panel of judges will select the winner in the first week of the following month and award that kind person $1,000.  By shining a light on acts of kindness, we hope others will be inspired to put more kindness out there.