More than 2,400 people gathered on Thursday night, Nov. 3, 2016 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. for The Executive Leadership Council’s (ELC) 2016 Recognition Gala commemorating The ELC’s 30th Anniversary. The ELC hosts this special event each year paying tribute to outstanding business leaders and corporations in the area of Diversity & Inclusion.
“Since 1989, The ELC has hosted this annual event celebrating Black executive leadership and achievement on a global stage and demonstrating the impact and value of diversity and inclusion in business today,” Ronald C. Parker, ELC President and CEO, says in a statement to press. “As we celebrate our anniversary this year, we wanted to recognize some of the luminaries who have blazed a trail for blacks in corporate America and the African-American community over the past 30 years.”
The ELC presented the 2016 Lifetime Legacy Award to Dr. Clifton A. Wharton, Jr. and Mrs. Dolores D. Wharton celebrating their distinguished careers as Black business pioneers. Dr. Wharton was the first African American to become CEO of a major U.S. corporation when named CEO of TIAA-CREF in 1987. His wife Dolores has had her own distinguished career as a corporate director, foundation executive and arts advocate.
“We are exhilarated over receiving The Executive Leadership Council’s Lifetime Legacy Award,” Mrs. Wharton shares. “As a director of three multinational corporations, I have seen firsthand the plight of minorities and women in the world of big business. I am delighted with this occasion to highlight our common cause this evening, and especially so with this preeminent audience of thinking people.”
Prudential Financial, Inc. received the 2016 Corporate Award. This honor is given to a corporation that has made significant contributions to the advancement of black corporate executives. The award was accepted by Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld.
“Prudential is honored to receive The Executive Leadership Council’s Corporate Award,” Strangfeld states. “We share The ELC’s commitment to advancing opportunities for African Americans and remain steadfastly focused on developing strong, diverse talent across our company. Our 49,000 employees around the world are Prudential’s greatest asset. Their breadth of experiences and perspectives enable us to fulfill our purpose of helping people, business and communities realize their ambitions.”
One of the highlights of the evening featured an on-stage panel discussion with an elite group of current and former Black CEOs, all of whom are ELC members, including Ann M. Fudge, former chairman & CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands; Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente; Arnold W. Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc; Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and CEO of TIAA; and Clarence Otis, Jr., former chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants Inc. The group discussed their remarkable journeys to becoming the leaders of some of the nation’s largest corporations and making history as one of only 17 African Americans who have ever held that position.
As one of the most highly coveted invites in Washington, D.C., the Gala brought together many of corporate America’s leading CEOs and senior executives, thought leaders and politicos to celebrate “The Power of Tomorrow” theme of this year’s event honoring The ELC’s past and influence on the future of global Black leadership.
Notables in attendance included: actress Vivica A. Fox, actor Lamman Rucker, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3), Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), civil rights activist Vernon Jordan, and journalist Ed Gordon. Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier co-hosted the black-tie affair alongside actress Nia Long. Award-winning global superstar Janelle Monáe headlined the event with a live musical performance during the Post-Gala Networking Reception. Proceeds raised from the Gala each year are used to fund The ELC’s scholarships, community investment grants, leadership development programs and educational initiatives.