Photos by J Foster Imagery

[dropcaps] W [/dropcaps] ith hate speech hitting fever pitch, it’s vital that we recognize the efforts of leaders who are turning a deaf ear and dedicated to building just and inclusive schools, workplaces, and communities. On April 7, the American Conference on Diversity recognized several individuals before a packed audience of more than 200 corporate and community leaders (D&I) leaders during the 68th Annual Humanitarian Awards fundraiser in West Orange, NJ.

“This is one of the many events we host throughout the year to bring together individuals from across the state to pay tribute to leaders and organizations that value diversity, educate leaders, and promote respect,” said Thomas Hayes, Director of 2016ACOD-HUMAWRD 073Customer & Community Relations at New Jersey Natural Gas, with Board Co-Chair and L’Oréal USA SVP of D&I Angela Guy (right).

The annual gala helps generate funds to provide scholarships for students and schools throughout New Jersey to participate in the yearlong Lead for Diversity (LFD) Institute, which prepares youth for today’s workplace and to deal with the current discourse our country faces with race relations and other issues of injustice. LFD impacts an estimated 20,000 students, corporate, and community leaders annually.

“LFD is the bridge builder to a more inclusive future,” said President & CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley. “When you give to the American Conference on Diversity, you are helping students who are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Latino, white, African American, bi-racial, multi-racial, immigrants; students who live in inner cities and rural New Jersey; students who are bullied and are bullies. They come from broken families, single families, large families, loving families. They have dreams and hopes for success.2016ACOD-HUMAWRD 105

Ellen Lambert, Chief Diversity Officer and President of the Foundation at PSEG, kicked off the evening’s awards by presenting the Diversity Ambassador Award to Deborah Dagit (left), Principal of the Washington, NJ-based D&I consultancy Deb Dagit Diversity.

“I ask two things of you,” said Ms. Dagit. “One, be out and proud as a person with a disability if that describes you. And, two, if you do not have a person with a disability in your workforce, please hire one at your next hiring opportunity.”

2016ACOD-HUMAWRD 120Sue Henderson (right), Ocean Township High School Counselor, was then presented with the Education Diversity Champion Award. “I’m thankful to the American Conference on Diversity for their continued work to create a more inclusive society – that’s right up my alley,” said Ms. Henderson, who served as Councilwoman and Deputy Mayor of Asbury Park and dedicated many of her 39 years in education to making schools a safe place for LGBTQ students.

Following that presentation, Seham Abdala (left), Director of the Islamic Networks Group of New Jersey and a member of the American Conference on Diversity Central Jersey Regional Network, was honored with the 2016ACOD-HUMAWRD 144Interfaith Diversity Champion Award. The Corporate Ambassador Award was given to Jennifer Allyn (below), Diversity Strategy Leader at PwC. “I feel incredibly privileged to work in this field,” said Ms. Allyn. “Looking out in this room with all of the beautiful diversity in it, I feel optimistic about our future.”


The future indeed looks bright with career-focused leaders such as the Luing family, owners of Berkeley College, fostering D&I across five New Jersey and three New York locations. Kevin Cummings, CEO of Investors Bank and honorary co-chair, along with Carol Evans, of the Humanitarian Awards, presented this year’s Legacy Award to brothers Randy B. and Kevin L. Luing. “The vast majority of our students are students of color, two-thirds are female, and many are first-generation immigrants,” said Kevin. “I thank the American Conference on Diversity for their wonderful services for businesses, schools, and communities and I pledge our support.”

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Left to right: Kevin Cummings, CEO, Investors Bank; Randy B. Luing, Esq., Board Vice Chairman, Berkeley College; Kevin L. Luing, Board Chairman, Berkeley College; and Elizabeth Williams-Riley, President and CEO, American Conference on Diversity.

Watch the slide show of the 2016 Awards Gala here.

You, too, can pledge your support to fight bias, bigotry, and discrimination through our “No Hate in Our State” campaign. Click here to make a donation.

Dinner sponsors include: PwC, Prudential Financial (Executive Advisory Leadership), Berkeley College (Lead for Diversity), PSEG, Verizon (Executive Founder), BASF, Investors Bank, L’Oréal USA, New Jersey Natural Gas, NJM Insurance Group (Community Underwriters), ADP, Drinker Biddle, Genova Burns, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ, NAI James A. Hanson, and PNC Bank (Justice Sponsors).

About the American Conference on Diversity

The American Conference on Diversity is dedicated to building just and inclusive schools, workplaces, and communities through awareness, education, and advocacy. The nonprofit organization was founded in 1948 as the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Today 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 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 Regional Community Networks covering all of New Jersey. Visit www.AmericanConferenceonDiversity.org to learn more.


Gail Zoppo

Media Relations Consultant

109 Church Street

New Brunswick, NJ 08901