By Punch Pep Correspondent Elizabeth Fischer
An enchanted evening it was. One that could easily be envisioned by animated storytellers, a child’s fantasy or dreams, imagination connoisseurs, and even Hollywood. Yet this night was so much more. It was radiance & elegance at its best with veracity and just the right touch of innocence all pointing toward a purpose and the future.
A match made in heaven – a dynamic duo! It was a night at the intersection of youth & maturity, simplicity & complexity, wholesomeness & experience, with junior awe, awareness & accomplishment versus senior achievement, admiration & encouragement.
The evening’s events were held last week at the Washington Hiltont. After check-in your senses were teased with live chamber music, a clamor of festive cheerfulness, the clink of crystal, and pulsating colors. After stares at my atrocious purse (forgot to grab the swanky hand bag and the one I had made me look more like a bag lady :)), a wink with an accidental elbow push, a quick sip and a brief nod, it was time to head downstairs, where the authentic personalities were about to shine.
The ballroom was dazzling, dripping with allure. The music was delicate and whimsical, appropriate and apt for each moment of the evening. The food was its own art piece. And the wine was flowing – proper for each unfortunate lull – the changing of the guards – the moment where the speech concludes, the laughter and clapping abruptly end and the pregnant pause is deafening – the moment just before the whispers rise above the microphone announcing the next celebrated visionary.
On this night, we acknowledged leaders in the Washington Business Community by inducting five new members into the Hall of Fame (the Academy of Awards of Business in the Washington DC metropolitan area) all while raising money for Junior Achievement of Greater Washington.
“Junior Achievement motivates students, at a young age, to develop the skills needed to experience the realities and opportunities of the 21st-century global marketplace; developing the confidence to enter the workforce and contribute to economic growth. JA empowers young people to own their economic success. The curriculum fosters work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy skills utilizing experiential learning to inspire kids to dream big and reach their potential.”
Fourteen hundred people attended the event and raised more than $1.3 million for Junior Achievement. The program included messages from DC Mayor Vincent Gray who thanked the business leaders for their on-going significant contributions to the financial foundation of DC; from Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley who noted: progress is a choice, and job creation is a choice; and the choices the Biz Hall of Famer’s make bring jobs to Maryland and leverage Maryland’s greatest asset – the skills, talents and ingenuity of their people; and from Virginia’s Governor Robert McDonnell who is proud of the work with Junior Achievement aimed at increasing financial literacy among Virginia’s young people – providing a solid foundation from which one can achieve a great deal both personally and academically.
After all were seated, Robert P. Pincus – Vice Chairman of EagleBank and 2012 Chair – gave a brief welcome (he was also given a single Ski to thank him for all his efforts and contributions); and the National Anthem was sung by Davis Gestiehr from Pyle Middle School in Bethesda – a remarkable young man (he will be someone others will know in the very near future – that is my prediction). Master of Ceremonies, Bret Baier of Fox News, was late as he was stuck on the Hill covering the “negotiations” involving the infamous fiscal cliff. When he did arrive, he had plenty of anecdotes to share from the afternoon’s talks, which had many in stitches and others shaking their heads.
Our first inductee was Giuseppe Cecchi of The IDI Group Companies. He was introduced by William G. Thomas, a partner at ReedSmith and by his student escort Denaisia Stanley from Ferebee-Hope Elementary School. Giuseppe is an engineer/developer who grew up and was schooled in Milan, Italy. He came to the US at the age of 30 in 1959 and moved to DC in 1960. His very first and most famous project was directing the construction of The Watergate; but his more rewarding project was Park Fairfax because he was able to figure out how to help people buy as opposed to being displaced.
Giuseppe achieved the American Dream. He is soft spoken, compassionate, humble, and fiercely loyal to family and friends. His business is a family business – 3 of his 4 sons are employed. He views engineers as problem solvers. He recommends the best way to learn a language is intense movie watching in the native tongue. His advice to all: “be honest, be fair, only promise what you can deliver, try & stay out of debt, do not spend more than you earn, if you can’t afford college – work 1st and go later, do not overreach – better to start at a lower level and work up, your 1st job doesn’t need to be your dream job, instead establish yourself & enjoy the journey; and before you can give directions to others you need to learn to work as part of a team & take orders.” “To succeed you need determination and perseverance – both are more important than IQ.” As he left the stage the band played the song with the lyrics “taking care of business.”
Quote of the night – Nelson Mandela “As a leader…I have always endeavored to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion. Oftentimes, my own opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in the discussion. I always remember the axiom: a leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
Next inductee honored was John Darvish, founder of DARCARS. He was introduced by The Honorable Steny Hoyer, congressman and House Democratic Whip – State of Maryland; and by his student escort Shaneka Jones of Ferebee-Hope Elementary School. John grew up in Tehran and his family sacrificed to send him to America to be a heart surgeon. Instead he decided he wanted to be an automobile man. He asked his father’s permission and after some thought; his dad gave his blessing telling him to not be average but to be a Henry Ford in the industry.
John is warm, funny and sincere. He’s your loveable granddad. His advice: “If it is to be it is up to me.” “Anything is possible.” “Talented and dedicated people are more valuable than experienced people.” His anecdote about talent versus experience: Noah’s Ark was built by a rookie and the Titanic was built by a bunch of professionals.
Next we heard from Jariatu Kamara who attends Eleanor Roosevelt High School. She was very well spoken and a pleasure to listen to as she talked about her involvement and successes with Junior Achievement. Her name is one to remember and file away for she will be well-known one day.
M. Charito Kruvant, President and CEO of Creative Associates International, Inc. was introduced by Barbara J. Krumsiek, President and Chief Executive Officer and Chair at Calvert Investments, Inc.; and by her student escort Jamar Curley of Ferebee-Hope Elementary School. The student escorts were adorable and I admired their poise as each took the podium to share a quirky and fun story.
Charito grew up in Bolivia and then Argentina. She founded Creative Associates International, Inc. 33 years ago with her girlfriends to enhance all the lives around her. Her inspiration was her parents, who were always involved in their community. She came to the US and was involved with the Head Start program. Yet, her first job was as a Spanish Interpreter for James Brown while he was on tour – very cool.
I love hearing about other’s journeys in life and their experiences. Life is a gamble but definitely worth the ride if you are open to take each step.
Charito is soft spoken, warmhearted and passionate. Her life’s mission – to help with complex societal problems – i.e.: helping mother’s who can’t afford daycare and thus can’t work; or helping those who need certifications to get good jobs – jobs that will help support the family; and giving kids a sense of peace – “seeing they have a sense of security and opportunity.” She said “you must move mountains to change lives.” Sometimes that journey involves leaving and then coming back so fear does not prevent you from moving your own mountains. “It is important in life to do something good for others.” And she ended with “Mi casa es su casa,” thanking her family and husband for the great meals, warmth, support, and love.
Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., Chairman at Patton Boggs LLP was introduced by his sister Cokie Roberts, political commentator for ABC news; and by his student escort Zaquia Jean of Ferebee-Hope Elementary School. My only complaint of the evening comes now: while Cokie and Tom were speaking to the attendees, dinner was being cleared and the desert was being served creating a lot of noise that was distracting and took away from Tom’s moment. Table service for the rest of the evening happened in-between each Laureate’s speech and should have continued in the same vein. It was unfortunate but luckily didn’t damper the spirits.
I was excited to see Cokie given she has been part of the public eye for quite some time and has seen and covered a small (or rather large) bit of history. It is amazing what she has observed first hand. But this night was about her brother and it was easy to see the mutual love and respect between the two siblings.
Tom grew up in political family and is a triple Hoya. He is soft-spoken but direct. His background and political family inspired him. When Paton Boggs was formed there were 12 employees now there are over a 1000. It is important to Tom that attorneys give back to the community. He was involved with the September 11th victims’ relief bill;” and represented Chrysler in the 1st bailout.
Edward J. Grenier III is the President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Greater Washington.
The final inductee, Ronald D. Paul, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for EagleBank, was introduced by Alfred A. Moses, Co-Founder, Senior Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Promontory Financial Group; and by his student escort Ja’Nya Norville of Ferebee-Hope Elementary School. According to the guests at my table, all fans of the bank, EagleBank is a local bank that truly gives back to the community. It was easy to decipher that those around me respect the business and message of EagleBank and weren’t just doing the shuffle – words with a questionable meaning.
Ronald grew up in Oceanside NY and moved to Maryland. He went to UMCP. He is a double kidney recipient. He is the neighbor you trust with your most prized possession – your family and its financial future. He is one of the four cofounders of EagleBank.
EagleBank’s Mission: to be pioneers in relationship-side banking. They are pioneers. According to Ronald, “relationships are the key in life.” This is his motto in life and at work.
What a fantastic evening! I was humbled to be included in such a wonderful event. The night was a huge success. I urge you to attend the gala next year. I will be there.
To read each inductee’s bio, see the below links:
The tribute videos for the five 2012 Washington Business Hall of Fame laureates are now live at:
Attorney Elizabeth Fischer is Punch Pep Correspondent. She is working as an Entrepreneur, Lawyer and Student (environmental studies), covering events for Pamela’s Punch as a generalist correspondent. When she is not working, studying or playing soccer or tennis, she is walking her pups, traveling the globe, running marathons, and enjoying all DC has to offer. Contact her at email@example.com.