Left to right (top row): American Conference on Diversity Board of Trustees: Thomas F. Hayes, Customer & Community Relations at New Jersey Natural Gas; Angela Guy, Senior Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion at L’Oréal USA; Rhonda M. Figueroa, Corporate Diversity Officer at New Jersey Resources; Vanessa Nazario, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at RWJBarnabas Health; ACoD President and CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley; Tim Giordano, Montclair State University Adjunct Professor; Patricia Rossman, Chief Diversity Officer and HR Communications at BASF; Linda Savino, President of Hospice and Advanced Care Programs and Services at VNA Group; and Katherine Kish, President of Market Entry, Inc. Bottom row: RWJBarnabas Health’s General Counsel David A. Mebane, Esq.; OIC of America, Inc./Career and Academic Development Institute Principal Dr. Pamela Thomas; AT&T’s SVP and Chief Diversity Officer Cynt Marshall; Middlesex County Sheriff Mildred Scott; Adelcida Wilson; Union High School History Teacher Nicholas Ferroni; Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap.

Despite inclement weather, hundreds flocked to the Pleasantdale Château in West Orange, NJ, on April 6 to pay tribute to six outstanding diversity and inclusion ambassadors who received the American Conference on Diversity’s 2017 Humanitarian Awards.

The annual gala helps generate funds to provide scholarships for students and schools throughout New Jersey and New York to participate in the yearlong Lead for Diversity (LFD) Institute. LFD prepares youth for today’s workplace and to deal with issues of hate that our nation is currently facing. The Institute impacts an estimated 20,000 students, corporate, and community volunteers each year.

“Your presence here tonight truly makes a difference,” said the nonprofit organization’s President and CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley (right). “Through our work, we’re re-imagining a world where people want to make a change.”


All Photography by J Foster Imagery

Prudential Financial’s Chief Diversity Officer and ACoD Board of Trustees Vice Chair Michele Meyer-Shipp, Esq. (left), stepped off the awards celebration. “[We’re] trying to make this state one of the greatest states for diversity and inclusion,” she said, introducing Adelcida Wilson (center). Ms. Wilson accepted the Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award on behalf of her brother, Cid Wilson, CEO of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HARC).

Nicholas Ferroni, a Union High School history teacher (below), nationally recognized social activist, and recipient of this year’s Diversity in Education Champion Award, inspired and entertained the audience during his acceptance speech: “My goal is to make sure there are more ACOD IR_016inclusive groups in our text books.” Watch a portion of his presentation here.

Equally as inspiring was this year’s Bridge Builder honoree, Dr. Pamela Thomas (shown far below, center, with L’Oréal USA SVP and Chief Diversity Officer Angela Guy, right, and American Conference on Diversity CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley). “You must be the master of your mind and not a victim of your thoughts,” said the social worker-turned-educator. As Principal of OIC of America/Career and Academic Development Institute, she is making a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of under-credited youth in Camden, NJ, and Philadelphia.

When Middlesex County Sheriff Mildred Scott (below, top image) began her career, “I was told that there would never be a woman in law enforcement,” said the recipient of our 2017 Law Enforcement Humanitarian. As the first female Sheriff for the county of Middlesex and the first Black Sheriff in the state of New Jersey, Sheriff Scott is currently working to bridge the gap between law enforcement and our communities. Under her leadership, a new Explorer leadership program launched, giving young adults an opportunity to “explore” a possible career in law enforcement by working and training with members of the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office. “We all have to work together to treat everyone with love, dignity, and respect,” she said.


The dynamic evening of honors was punctuated by a stirring vocal performance of “God Bless America” by Ericka Dunlap, Miss America 2004 and the first African-American woman to be crowned Miss Florida with the platform of diversity and inclusion.

This year’s Healthcare Humanitarian Award was presented to RWJBarnabas Health, New Jersey’s second largest private employer with more than 32,000 employees, 9,000 physicians, and 1,000 residents and interns. The award was accepted by General Counsel David A. Mebane, Esq., who said: “Diversity and inclusion are part of our mission and vision.”

ACOD IR_025AT&T’s SVP and Chief Diversity Officer Cynt Marshall (right) capped off the evening, accepting the Humanitarian of the Year Award on behalf of CEO Randall Stephenson: “Randall walks the talk…and truly believes we need to move from tolerance to understanding, and understanding leads to respect.” She added that Mr. Stephenson is the driving force behind the company’s signature philanthropic initiative, AT&T Aspire, a nationwide mentoring program to promote the success of thousands of students in school and the workplace.

If you were unable to attend the awards gala, you can still pledge your support to fight bias, bigotry, and hate through our #NoHateNJ campaign. Click here to make a donation.

A special thanks to the 2017 dinner sponsors: AT&T, Prudential Financial (Lead for Diversity), PSEG (Executive Founder Committee), ADP, BASF, Berkeley College, Investors Bank, L’Oréal USA, New Jersey Natural Gas, NJM Insurance Group, Verizon (Community Underwriters), Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP, Genova Burns, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ, OIC/Career & Academic Development Institute, PNC Bank, and RWJBarnabas Health (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. Visit to learn more.


Gail Zoppo

Media Relations Consultant

109 Church Street

New Brunswick, NJ 08901