American Conference on Diversity kicked off a yearlong anniversary celebration January 17, marking 65 years of valuing diversity, educating leaders, and promoting respect throughout New Jersey.

In recognition of the social-justice progress our nonprofit organization has made during its 65-year history and to announce new opportunities and special events, staff, board and chapter members, and other key stakeholders gathered at the BASF Corporation’s new double LEED-certified North America regional headquarters in Florham Park, NJ. BASF’s Judy A. Zagorski, senior vice president of human resources, and Patricia Rossman, chief diversity officer and HR communications as well as a member of our board of trustees, welcomed guests with their inspirational remarks.

“The work we do is all about human capital,” said Zagorski. “We’re building an inspirational, motivating environment here where talent feels involved and welcomed…and that’s the best platform to stay innovative in our changing world.”

Significant changes have occurred since the American Conference on Diversity founding in New Jersey. In 1948, the state had a population of 4.8 million. Today, that number has grown to 8.8 million, making it one of the most densely populated and diverse states in the nation. Latinos comprise 17.7 percent of our population; African Americans are 12.8 percent; and Asian Americans are 8.2 percent.

“Our work is more relevant than ever,” said the American Conference on Diversity President and CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley. “Although this work has some bitter sweet moments, we strive to open minds. And when people get it and we’re able to change lives, it’s well worth the reward.”

Other anniversary kick-off highlights include:

►Reflections from Board of Trustee Vice Chair Emilio Egea: The retired vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer at Prudential Financial revealed several significant milestones made by the organization, including our interfaith roots, the recognition by John F. Kennedy in the 1960s for doing perhaps more than any other organization to provide for harmonious living among diverse religious groups, and the nationally televised conversations on race, ethnicity, and culture to encourage dialogue among people of different backgrounds. “Join us to reenergize and renew our commitment to creating schools, workplaces, and communities that we can be proud of,” said Egea.

►$20,000 grant from Wells Fargo Bank:  Vice Chair R. C. “Toby” Babeuf, senior vice president of commercial banking and director at Wells Fargo, presented Williams-Riley with a $20,000 check to support the Educators’ Institute program. Now in its eighth year, this intensive four-day course combines instruction, experiential activities, facilitated dialogue, and small group work for teachers, administrators, counselors, and teachers-in-training who are interested in building more inclusive and affirming classrooms. Visit for more information.

►Defining Moments of Diversity video: Not only were attendees treated to profound and personal Defining Moments of Diversity video clips from stakeholders, but they were invited to share their own stories for our on-site camera crew. These and other submissions gathered over the coming months will become part of a full-length video to debut at the 65th Anniversary State Dinner, a spectacular celebration of bridging cross-cultural divides to be held April 4 at the Pleasantdale Château in West Orange, NJ. For additional information, call (732) 745-9330. To submit your 60-second Defining Moment of Diversity video clip, upload it to our Facebook page at

About the American Conference on Diversity

The programs, services, and initiatives of the American Conference on Diversity are among the most important work focused on creating a more inclusive society. It is the unfinished business of living in a highly diverse nation: educating and empowering our next generation of leaders; enhancing our workplaces; and helping to create inclusive communities. The American Conference on Diversity, which has been serving schools, organizations, workplaces, and communities in New Jersey since 1948, builds on a historic mission and creates programs and activities relevant and vital to 21st Century life. It is a journey we can all take together. The American Conference on Diversity operates eight chapters to help us to educate and empower leaders and bring our messages of inclusion and respect to communities throughout New Jersey: Atlantic County Chapter, Bayonne Chapter, Central Jersey Chapter, Essex County Chapter, Greater Bergen Chapter, Hudson County Chapter, Jersey Shore Chapter, and Mercer County Chapter. Visit to learn more.