2017 Diversity Awards Dinner: Celebrating community, career success, and commitment to family

By: Janice Endresen
Kevin Clark spoke at the dinner held in honor of his late father, John Clark Sr., MBA ’72

Kevin Clark spoke at the dinner held in honor of his late father, John Clark Sr., MBA ’72.

The importance of nurturing and sustaining strong family ties, caring for your community, and sharing your successes by giving back to others were central themes at this year’s Diversity Awards dinner, held Oct. 27 at the Statler Hotel ballroom and dedicated to the memory of the late John Clark Sr., MBA ’72, 2004 recipient of the Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni Award, who passed away earlier this year. Clark’s wife, Diane, and their son, Kevin, were both in attendance, along with 130 members of the Johnson community, including students, alumni, faculty, and staff, plus more than 50 prospective students who came to campus to attend Johnson Means Business, the school’s diverse and LGBTQ student hosting event.

Clark began his professional career at the Atomic Energy Commission and continued to work there as it transitioned to the U.S. Department of Energy. In the course of his career there, he rose to become associate director for resource management and deputy assistant secretary, the highest level possible in the federal government without being a political appointee. A mentor to many young people, including executives at the DOE, members of his community, and Johnson alumni, Clark led multiple leadership training and development programs and served on several professional and church boards. In recognition of his community service and professional achievements, Clark was one of the first recipients of President George H.W. Bush’s Point of Light Award (1990).

To honor him following his passing, Angela Noble-Grange, senior lecturer of management communication, and Risa Mish, professor of practice of management, had asked alumni to write in and share their memories about Clark, whom they, too, had known and held dear for many years. At the dinner, Noble-Grange and Mish took turns reading these personal tributes from alumni who regarded Clark as an important teacher, mentor, role model, and friend.

Angela Noble-Grange, senior lecturer of management communication, and Risa Mish, professor of practice of management, share their own and others’ memories of a well-loved and influential alumnus, John Clark Sr., MBA ’72.
Angela Noble-Grange, senior lecturer of management communication, and Risa Mish, professor of practice of management, share their own and others’ memories of a well-loved and influential alumnus, John Clark Sr., MBA ’72.

Noble-Grange opened her tribute to Clark with a favorite quote from Nelson Mandela she said exemplified Clark’s life: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

“I remember him as distinguished, humble, caring, and committed,” said Noble-Grange. “John was always happy to take under his wing any student who could benefit from his wisdom and guidance.”

“When I think about John and his connection to Cornell and to Johnson, it is not only career accolades that come to mind,” said Mish, reading from her own tribute. “Rather, it is the passion and dedication and, yes, love, with which he approached the mentorship of young people. Every student at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Business who connected with John — and there were many — came away astonished by the generosity with which he shared his time and attention. Time and again, my Cornell colleagues and I would be told by students how much they had benefited from John’s wise advice and how much they hoped they could model themselves after his great example.”

While “Mr. Clark was proud of receiving the Wilbur Parker award,” Mish added, “he would want us to focus on other aspects of his life — his family, and especially, his wife, Diane.” She recalled what he always told his own kids — “to find someone who looks at you the way he always looked at you, Diane.”

Kevin Clark (a Wharton graduate who’s good-natured about his Johnson moniker, “the one who got away”) took the stage to share his own memories of his father.

“Dad rose to the highest circles in federal government,” said Kevin. “However, to him his most important job was dad; career success was nothing if your family failed. He was deliberate in raising his sons.” Kevin shared some of the principles his father lived by and taught his sons:

  • Always keep God first in your life.
  • Never sit in the back row.
  • Never hit a girl or a woman.
  • Never let someone tear you down or steal your joy.
  • Always be there for your brother.
  • Never disrespect your parents.
  • Always strive to be better than your parents in everything.
  • Strive to be a leader. When that is not possible, be a great follower.

Kevin then announced his family’s decision to establish the John R. Clark Sr., MBA ’72 Professional Scholarship to honor his father’s leadership and impact on decades of Johnson students. His announcement was immediately met with a resounding standing ovation from everyone in the room.

Alumni and friends who would like to honor John Clark Sr. can augment the scholarship by contributing at the crowdfunding site here.

Tyeise Huntley Jones receives the 2017 Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni Award

After thanking Kevin and Diane Clark for all that they and their family have done for Johnson, Dean Mark Nelson spoke about the namesake for the Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni Award, Wilbur Parker ’50, MBA ’50, a man who “spent his career working to make a difference combating racial injustice and helping others.” The award named in his honor, noted Nelson, recognizes African-American alumni who demonstrate outstanding professional achievement and commitment to their community and who embody Johnson’s shared values of mutual respect, collaboration, integrity and trust, pride and accountability, professionalism, and investment in self.

Dean Mark Nelson presents Tyeise Huntley Jones, MBA ’10, with the Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni Award
Dean Mark Nelson presents Tyeise Huntley Jones, MBA ’10, with the Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni Award

“Please join me in congratulating the 2017 Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Tyeise Huntley Jones, MBA ’10! Before welcoming her to the stage, I want to share a few words about Tyeise:

Professionally, Tyeise is the director of strategic network support for Chicago’s Chief of Schools. Her title tells us that she works on behalf of Chicago’s public school system. What it does not tell us is how she is dedicating her career to work on behalf of some of the nation’s most underprivileged children and young adults.

“Tyeise’s commitment to the Johnson community is no exception,” Nelson continued. “It would be difficult to find anyone more committed to recruiting diverse students. As a student, Tyeise volunteered her time in support of the Johnson Means Business recruiting weekend as well as the Diversity Symposium. Since then, she has not missed one!”

When Jones came to the podium, she noted she was “still in disbelief” about this honor and shared her own memory of Wilbur Parker, whom she met in 2008: “Barack Obama was running for president, and Mr. Parker was carrying a thick packet of information about the history of civil rights to share. His character stood out to me then — humble, kind, intellectual, warmhearted. He touched everyone he met.”

Jones thanked her parents, who were both in the audience. “Dad is my mentor, my confidante, and has been in my corner since day one,” she said. About her mother, she said: “The older I get, the more I look like and think like my mother. It’s a good thing she’s awesome! She’s always been independent, and she’s a savvy financial wizard.” She also thanked her husband, “the most selfless and patient person I know,” and their 16-month-old son, whom she said “put my life into perspective — the joy I have in being his mother and watching him grow and develop is unexplainable.”

Recalling fond memories of Johnson, including joining BR MicroCapital, dancing at Diwali, the critical thinking class taught by Risa Mish, and career advice from Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham, “who told me to follow my heart,” she said: “Cornell, for me, was about developing my personal character.”

Read more about Tyeise Huntley Jones.

Adrienne Rose Martinez receives the Carlos R. Quintanilla Distinguished Latino/Latina Alumni Award

Next, Nelson congratulated Adrienne Rose Martinez ’01, MBA ’08, as recipient of the Carlos R. Quintanilla Distinguished Latino/Latina Alumni Award, named for a 2008 Johnson graduate who is a generous supporter of Johnson and a champion of the school’s efforts in Latin America. His son, Andrés Quintanilla, MBA ’18, was on hand to present the award to Martinez. The award recognizes alumni for exceptional achievements and significant contributions to their professions, community, and society as a whole; for their demonstrated commitment to Johnson; and for promoting the advancement of Latinos in the business world.

Martinez, now a business information security officer at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Charlotte, N.C., is a “double red” who earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Industrial Labor Relations and later her MBA from Johnson, where she was a Forte Fellow, recounted Nelson.

“It would be hard to find a double red as committed to the university,” Nelson said. “As an undergraduate and MBA student, Adrienne served as a senior class volunteer and was involved with a number of organizations, including Quill and Dagger and Lambda Pi Chi. Since graduating, she has been a member of the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network, the Cornell Latino Alumni Association, Cornell Mosaic, and Johnson Diversity Council. She also supports the annual Diversity Symposium and Johnson Means Business recruiting weekend, and she is president of the Cornell Club of Charlotte.”

A community leader who serves as a volunteer in many organizations, Martinez is a resident leader in her neighborhood of Brightwalk, a board member for the North End Community Coalition, and a development committee member for Girl Talk Foundation. A participant in the City of Charlotte’s Community Planning Academy and the Civic Leadership Academy, Martinez was recognized by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Carolinas earlier this year as a “Big of the Year” finalist for her outstanding service as a Big Sister. Read more about Adrienne Rose Martinez.

Martinez began by expressing her appreciation of her Johnson family and of her partner, Kinson, who was in the audience. “It’s no coincidence that the theme of this evening is about legacy and the impact you make in the world and someone else’s life,” Martinez said. “There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think of that. The impact you make in others’ lives isn’t about making money.”

Dean Mark Nelson and Andrés Quintanilla, MBA ’18, present Adrienne Rose Martinez ’01, MBA ’08, with the Carlos R. Quintanilla Distinguished Latino/Latina Alumni Award
Dean Mark Nelson and Andrés Quintanilla, MBA ’18, present Adrienne Rose Martinez ’01, MBA ’08, with the Carlos R. Quintanilla Distinguished Latino/Latina Alumni Award

She gave a little background about Charlotte, which has seen a “huge surge of people in the last two decades,” including many Latino, Mexican, and African families. “A lot of people don’t understand what it’s like to live in a marginalized community,” said Martinez, who is among the first in her family to earn a college degree. “We do. We know what it’s like. It’s always going to be there. I wanted to speak for those who didn’t speak, who needed that.”

She spoke movingly about her experience of being a big sister to her little sister of three years, the warmth and depth of their relationship as it has developed over the years, including Kinson becoming a big brother to her sister’s brother. Citing a 2015 study about Charlotte — a city noted for its booming economy — that projected what chance an individual has to go from the bottom economic tier to the top, she said: “In Charlotte, it’s 4 percent. Can you imagine the impact that Kinson and I are having? When they succeed, we succeed. Somewhere along the way we lost that. When they get better, we get better. Let’s get back to that.

“I invite you to do something today,” Martinez continued. “Kids today have no time to wait; they can’t wait for you to consider it tomorrow, so serve as a leader in your community today.”

“It’s an incredible honor to receive this award,” Martinez concluded. “I hope those of you considering Johnson will submit your application and change your life today.”


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