WEST ORANGE, NJ -- The American Conference on Diversity recognized several individuals before a packed audience of more than 200 corporate and community leaders during the 68th Annual Humanitarian Awards fundraiser in West Orange on April 7. The organization beleives it is vital that they recognize the efforts of leaders who are ignoring the rhetoric of hate speech and are dedicated to building just and inclusive schools, workplaces, and communities. 

“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 Customer & Community Relations at New Jersey Natural Gas, with Board Co-Chair and L'Oréal USA SVP of D&I Angela Guy.

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.

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“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.”

Seham Abdala, 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 Interfaith Diversity Champion Award.

The Corporate Ambassador Award was given to Jennifer Allyn, 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.”

Ellen Lambert, Chief Diversity Officer and President of the Foundation at PSEG, presented the Diversity Ambassador Award to Deborah Dagit, 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.”

Sue Henderson, Ocean Township High School Counselor, was 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 Henderson. She 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.

Also honored were the career-focused leaders in 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 of the Humanitarian Awards, along with Carol Evans, 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.”

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. For more information on the conference, click here.