The awardees at the St. Louis American Foundation’s 2015 Salute to Excellence in Business remembered the sacrifices of their forebears, vowed to strengthen the St. Louis region, wowed the capacity crowd with a magic act – and celebrated a good excuse to buy new shoes for the luncheon, held at Four Seasons St. Louis on Friday, November 20.

The 2015 Corporate Executive of the Year was Craig Fowler, a managing director of Bank of America Merrill Lynch Capital Access Funds. But he recognized that activists on the streets helped get him to the corporate suite.
In his remarks, Fowler thanked Jefferson Bank protestors from 1963 who “paid such a huge price so I can work in the banking industry.” He cited jail stays of 90 days for Norman Seay and 105 for Bill Clay, not yet Missouri’s first black congressman, who protested the bank’s exclusion of African Americans.

Pat Sly, Emerson’s executive vice president, said he is “thrilled” to see the company’s community investments pay off when accepting the 2015 Corporate Diversity Award.
Emerson was recognized, in large part, for its “Ferguson Forward” initiative, where it invested $8.5 million in the struggling North County city where the $24.5 billion company has been headquartered for 125 years. The initiative includes 30 programs among four pillars of focus: early childhood education, youth jobs, scholarships for college, technical and trade careers, and business support and training.

Bringing peace and prosperity to Ferguson, which was wracked by protests following the August 2014 police shooting of an unarmed black teen, would be an act of civic magic. The Ferguson Commission reported more than 200 calls to action – all of them difficult to achieve – needed to bring equity to Ferguson and the region.

The 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Karl Grice of Grice Group Architects, performed a magic trick of the old-fashioned sleight-of-hand variety. As an illustration that “you can accomplish anything you set your mind to,” Grice tore up a page of The St. Louis American at the podium, folded the pieces, and then unfolded them with the newspaper page, somehow, intact again.

Tamara Sheffield, senior vice president of Finance of Operations at Forest Park Forever, enjoyed her moment in the spotlight as 2015 Non-Profit Executive of the Year in a more mundane way, but it was readily appreciated by the capacity crowd of 460.
Sheffield described receiving text messages from friends and colleagues when her recognition was first reported in the paper: “What are you going to wear?” “Ready to go shopping?” “You need a new pair of shoes!”
“As a good servant-leader, I listened to them,” Sheffield said. “I am in celebration mode. This sister might be looking new for a few weeks.”

Three recipients of 2015 Excellence in Business Performance Awards also were recognized: Danielle Carr, director of Professional Development and Inclusion at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale; Adella Jones, director of Marketing and Community Outreach for Home State Health; and Arvetta Powell, director of DiBearsity and Associate Exbearience at Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc.

The Top 25 African-American Businesses of the Year were named: ABNA Engineering, Andy’s Seasoning, BAM Contracting, Brandt Contracting, Brown Kortkamp, Capitol International Communications, Centrex Electrical Supply, CMT Roofing, Davis Associates CPAs, EMED Medical Company, Etegra, Fashions R Boutique, Hicks-Carter-Hicks, Interface Construction, KAI Design & Build, Kwame Building Group, Medi-Plex, Missouri Home Therapy, Quest Management Consultants, Real Estate Solutions, Simms Building Group, The Up Companies, Vector Communications, World Wide Technology and Yellow Brick Creative.

A $3,500 scholarship was presented by The Private Bank to Jazmyn Ferguson, a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Columbia. It was also announced that two $2,500 scholarships will be awarded to Tamez Amerson and Ciara Harris, students at Harris-Stowe State University’s Anheuser-Busch School of Business, courtesy of a $5,000 donation to the St. Louis American Foundation by Larry Thomas of Edward Jones.

The 16th annual Salute to Excellence in Business Awards & Networking Luncheon was co-presented by the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.
Lead Sponsor was World Wide Technology. Platinum Sponsor was Wells Fargo Advisors. Gold Sponsors were Edward Jones and The Private Bank. Silver Sponsors were Bank of America and Enterprise Bank & Trust. Bronze Sponsors were Enterprise Holdings, Forest Park Forever, Northern Trust, Larry Thomas, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

Proceeds from the St. Louis American Foundation’s four annual Salute to Excellence events benefit community grants and scholarships for local minority students. In 2015, the St. Louis American Foundation fostered more than $620,000 in minority scholarships and community grants, and since its inception the foundation, with the assistance of its educational, corporate and individual supporters, has distributed more than $4 million locally.

The St. Louis American © November 2015

Source: Kwame Building Group – Articles