During my productive years, I belonged to a prestigious international organization of police executives.
Each year, we would gather in some ostentatious ballroom, dressed in our finery, and listen to umpteen boring speeches, all while waiting patiently for the annual Grand Award to be bestowed on someone in the association’s upper strata – a well-deserved accolade, plaque, and applause – that commemorated some important contribution or another.
Six Martinis deep into the evening, I would invariably wait until the exact second the honoree’s name was called – then theatrically rise from my chair, drawing the attention of everyone in the room, as though a do-nothing like me were receiving the Big Prize – a yearly jape that resulted in the howls of my equally drunk tablemates – and the headshaking annoyance of those who take these things oh-so-seriously.
It never got old. For me, anyway. . .
Why would anyone do that?
Because I’m an asshole – and pretentious pomp and circumstance always bore me to tears.
I share this because the much-anticipated Halifax area “Awards Season” is upon us and, once again, your intrepid scribe failed to make the cut. . .
Yep. Snubbed again by the ‘powers that be’ who select the winners and losers in our community.
I’m joking, of course.
But at least I am in good company.
I know many committed civic activists, volunteers, helpers, behind-the-scenes problem solvers and unsung heroes whose good efforts go unnoticed and underappreciated time-and-again – all while the same last names are repeatedly rewarded by their “Rich & Powerful” peers.
I get it.
And I am not diminishing the philanthropic work of those who continually receive these tributes – without the financial largesse of our local donor class we would truly be in a fix – but just once I would like to see those nameless community servants who give so much of themselves, while expecting nothing in return, receive the recognition they so richly deserve.
Giving credit where credit is due, this year there were some bright spots on the “virtual” awards circuit (which, I guess, involves getting dressed in an expensive suit, decorating your living room in gaudy drapery, overcooking a frozen Chicken Cordon Bleu, and watching the festivities on Zoom?)
For instance, I was happy to see that the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce bestowed the celebrated “Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler J. Hyatt Brown Enterprise Award” to those healthcare professionals from our region who have so heroically held the line in the fight against COVID-19.
In addition, the Chamber’s “Glenn Ritchey Community Service Award” rightfully went to philanthropist and tireless advocate for our hungry and homeless, Forough Hosseini, Founder and Chair of Food Brings Hope.
An appropriate recognition for Mrs. Hosseini, whose charitable efforts and leadership helped Hope Place become such a resounding success in service to homeless families in Volusia County.
Then, things took an unfortunate turn.
This week it was announced that the Community Foundation of Volusia/Flagler has posthumously honored civil rights leader and founder of Bethune-Cookman University Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune – a most deserving recognition for this inspirational community leader and visionary educator whose foundational work continues to change the lives of others.
Oddly, the Community Foundation – the fundraising arm of the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties – also announced that Dr. Bethune’s beloved memory will share the 29th annual Herbert M. Davidson Memorial Award with Joe Petrock, a local civic dandy who has led the Halifax Health Foundation for two-decades.
Look, I’m not knocking Mr. Petrock’s significant contributions – but, in my view, Dr. Bethune’s legacy stands alone – a heritage of courageous service that demands independent recognition.
In 2014, Mr. Petrock and his wife bequeathed $1 million to Bethune-Cookman University, apparently for expanded health-related academic programs at the university and expanded services in Daytona’s Midtown community.
The following year, he was appointed Chairman of BC-U’s Board of Trustees.
I haven’t always been kind to Mr. Petrock in this space – frankly, I was put off by his “I have done nothing wrong” departure from the board amidst a raging financial and academic conflagration that resulted in crippling lawsuits and claims of corruption against former B-CU president Dr. Edison O. Jackson – a horrific period of failed leadership and abject greed that saw this historical community asset brought to its knees.
“I was just a member of the board. We weren’t given all the information,” Petrock repeatedly explained as he fled the scene.
Trust me. Mr. Petrock was not alone.
The list of our area ‘movers-n-shakers’ who failed to maintain a fiduciary overwatch on the University’s finances is long and distinguished. . .
In my opinion, the Community Foundation has diminished Dr. Bethune’s significant and historic contributions by relegating her memory to “co-recipient” status.
That doesn’t sit right with me – and it needs to be corrected.
In my view, Dr. Bethune’s monumental legacy is sui generis – it stands alone on the international stage.
As our state and nation prepare to welcome Dr. Bethune’s sculpture to the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, memorializing her legendary pursuit of justice, equality, and educational opportunities for all – honoring one woman’s visionary dream that has had such a significant and indelible impact on our nation – I believe she deserves better.
The Matriarch of our community should not be required to share the spotlight with anyone.