Manchester honored as 2013 Nice Guy of the Year

“Papa” Doug Manchester paid humble tribute to his family, his faith and the many philanthropists who came before him as he accepted the 2013 “Nice Guy of the Year” award Saturday at the Grand Del Mar Resort.

The U-T San Diego publisher was this year’s honoree at a black-tie gala hosted by the Nice Guys, an all-volunteer group made up of 140 local philanthropists and business leaders who raise money for needy San Diegans. With no paid staff or overhead, all of the money raised — $14.7 million since 1979 — goes to local charities and individual recipients. Each year, the membership (which includes men and women) chooses a “Nice Guy” based on his or her record of giving. Manchester’s philanthropic efforts date back 40 years and totals more than $40 million.

“I am humbled and give thanks and praise to God for all who are here tonight for the wonderful work you do to benefit the less fortunate,” he said in a brief speech before a sold-out crowd of 550. “You all have given so generously of your time, talent and treasury.”

Manchester succeeds local developer/investor Ernest Rady, a longtime friend who described being chosen as 2012 “Nice Guy of the Year” as “one of the most moving things that has happened to me in my life.” Rady said this year’s award couldn’t have gone to a nicer guy.

“I’ve known Doug for four decades and I’ve watched him change the skyline of San Diego as well as do many, many good deeds for others that go unnoticed and underappreciated,” Rady said.

Manchester, 71, has a long history of giving to local causes, including $5 million to his alma mater, San Diego State University, and $5 million to Wake Forest University. He has also given endowments, donations and scholarships to the University of San Diego, Cathedral Catholic High, the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation, Jenna Druck Foundation, Preuss School, Monarch School, Polinsky Children’s Center, San Diego Diocesan Ministries, Boys & Girls Club of San Diego County, Scripps Memorial Hospital, YMCA of San Diego County, Alexis de Tocqueville Society of United Way, National Conference of Christians and Jews, Billy Graham Crusade, USS Midway Museum and more.

Manchester and U-T CEO John Lynch, a 1998 Nice Guy of the Year recipient, have also committed this year to raising $1 million for the American Cancer Society.

It was Manchester’s efforts to help local cancer patients that first brought him to the attention of the Nice Guys group, according to President Skip Hodgetts. Nice Guys arranged last year for a cancer patient in Alpine to fly to New York for treatment and in the process discovered that Manchester was also interested in helping local cancer causes.

“San Diego doesn’t truly understand what an iconic philanthropic gentleman Papa Doug Manchester really is,” Hodgetts said. “We see his name on buildings … but his contributions to the community go far beyond that.”

Among those in attendance Saturday were Father Joe Carroll, 1990’s Nice Guy of the Year, who said Manchester was the first local donor to step forward with money when he was building the Joan Kroc Center at St. Vincent de Paul Village in 1987.

“And I just hit him up again for more money recently to buy all new dishes and tableware for the center,” Carroll said. “Once I got my hooks in him, I wasn’t letting him off the hook. He’s been wonderful to us.”

Bill Lynch, who was Nice Guy of the Year in 2003, said the organization is proud to have Manchester join the ranks.

“He’s been around year after year, always giving to the community,” Bill Lynch said.

The evening’s program, hosted by U-T TV co-hosts Scott Kaplan and Amber Mesker, included a short tribute film on Manchester’s achievements, a performance by the Marine Corps Band from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and live entertainment produced by Bonnie Foster, in conjunction with her parents, Marin and Wayne Foster, who are longtime family friends of Manchester.

The guests dined on sea bass and braised short rib in the ballroom of the Grand Del Mar, which Manchester Financial Group developed and owns.

Gala chair Debora Giaquinta said the gala is expected to raise more than $400,000. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds will go toward Manchester’s charity of choice, the American Cancer Society, 25 percent will go toward the Nice Guys’ new cancer fund and the rest will go to its regular charity programs.

Last year, the group gave $1.24 million to local charities, including $640,000 for its Victory Fund for wounded service members and their families. Nice Guys also provides one-time donations to needy San Diegans who have fallen between society’s cracks.

“We give people a hand up, not a handout, to help them become whole taxpaying citizens again,” Hodgetts said. “Papa Doug is someone who wants to do the same thing and is a great guy to have in the Nice Guy of the Year program.”