2013 NAMIC Philadelphia Paragon Awards
On Thursday, September 12, NAMIC-Philadelphia honored Andrea Agnew, Executive Director of Workforce Diversity & Inclusion for Comcast Cable, Wilco Electronic Systems, and Christopher R. Powell, President of the Board of Directors for the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association (CTHRA), at the 2013 Paragon Awards.
The event, which took place at Le Meridien Hotel, began at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception. After reconnecting with fellow members over drinks and refreshments, attendees were ushered into the hotel’s Trumbauer Ballroom at 6:30 p.m., where they were greeted by the event’s host, NBC10 Reporter Nefertiti Jacquez. Nefertiti then warmed up the audience with a round of applause for NAMIC-Philadelphia President Yasmine Ndassa, who led the night’s opening remarks.
Yasmine announced that “tonight, the theme is celebration.” She explained that this year, in addition to highlighting the Paragon Award recipients, attendees had gathered to celebrate NAMIC-Philadelphia’s twentieth anniversary and commemorate the life of E. Stephen Collins, who had served on NAMIC-Philadelphia’s Board of Advisors before his sudden passing on September 9. “Tonight, I wanted to make sure that we honored his legacy. He got on board [with NAMIC] without me even asking. We miss him,” Yasmine said, adding, “And we’ll always miss him.” Yasmine then mentioned NAMIC-Philadelphia’s 2013 “You Want to Be In” campaign and concluded her remarks by thanking the NAMIC-Philadelphia leadership team, former NAMIC-Philadelphia Presidents, and 2013 Paragon Awards sponsors, CEI, Ballard Spahr LLP, Michael C. Fina, PRWT Services, Inc., Brownstone Public Relations, and Impact Dimensions, for their support.
Nefertiti Jacquez then brought Alicia Agnew, Business Manager of Skai Blue Media and daughter of Andrea Agnew, to the stage to introduce her mother, the 2013 recipient of the Paragon Trailblazer Award. Alicia gave a brief overview of the various awards and acknowledgements that Andrea has received throughout her career and explained that they all served as a step for this moment, which is “the culmination of her life’s work … to serve, to lead, and to love.”
Andrea thanked her daughter for her introduction and praised her family, her mentor and friend, Susan Jin Davis, and NAMIC-Philadelphia for recognizing her efforts. Andrea explained that one of the greatest pains in life is to feel invisible. It is for that reason, she added, that she always searches for the voices not heard and the faces not seen. Andrea defined a trailblazer as someone who carves a trail for others to follow, but maintained that in her experience, “the best leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” In her concluding remarks, Andrea saved her last words for E. Stephen Collins. “E., I would say to you, ‘rest in peace,’” she began, “But I know that you are up in heaven, doing what you do best — blazing a trail for others to follow.”
After Andrea finished her speech, Nefertiti invited David Porter, Executive Director of the Walter Katz Foundation, to the stage to introduce the 2013 Paragon Industry Award winner, Christopher R. Powell. David began his remarks by defining what it truly means to be a paragon, to be a model of excellence. “Chris”, he stated, “is certainly a paragon for diversity.” David praised Christopher’s efforts at Scripps Networks Interactive to create and maintain a diverse workforce. David pointed out that much of Scripps is headed by women and people of color, which is proof of Christopher’s commitment to build a diverse staff at all levels of the company.
Christopher thanked David for his kind words and said that he was humbled and honored to be recognized with the other Paragon Award winners. He then shared a quote from Malcolm Gladwell that he has felt to be true throughout his career: “Achievement is talent plus preparation.” Christopher also mentioned that he is a proponent of Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. One must always ask oneself if one has put in the time. He explained that his commitment to diversity and inclusion began in third grade on the playground. “It started in third grade on the playground,” he said in closing, “and here we are thirty-five years later.”
Next, Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. introduced Will F. Daniel, President and Founder of Wilco Electronic Systems and Brigitte F. Daniel, Executive Vice President of Wilco Electronic Systems, who accepted the Paragon Industry Award on behalf of their company. Will joked that he would let his daughter, Brigitte, do the thanking, and instead gave the audience a brief overview of Wilco’s history, from its founding in 1977 to its present position in the industry as the largest privately owned African-American cable provider in the Philadelphia area. Brigitte then joined her father on stage to thank Councilman Jones, Yasmine, Nefertiti, and her fellow award recipients. She commended her father’s work ethic and expressed her gratitude that through Wilco, “We impact people every day. And it’s a joy. As a company, we take that very seriously.” Will echoed his daughter’s thanks and paid a special tribute to his wife, Lucille, for her support.
Nefertiti then introduced the evening’s final speaker, Susan Jin Davis, Senior Vice President of Strategic Services for Communication and Data Services at Comcast Cable. Susan discussed the fiscal benefits of upholding diverse business practices. Susan then mentioned NAMIC’s motto for the year, “You want to be in…” She added that “successful companies should also want you in.” Susan explained that it is crucial that businesses appeal to a wide audience and are able to compete in a global marketplace. “Diversity is not just about feeling good. It’s good business,” she stated simply. Susan summed up her remarks with Mahatma Gandhi’s famous message to be the change you want to see in the world … “Starting now,” she added with a smile.
After Susan completed her keynote speech, Nefertiti closed the ceremony by bringing the 2013 Paragon Award winners back to the stage for a group photo and one last round of applause.