News & Politics

A Night Out: Washington Business Hall of Fame

The region's business elite—1,300 of them—turn out for the 19th annual induction ceremony for one of the community's top honors.

JA’s Ed Grenier begins the evening.

What: The Washington Business Hall of Fame Dinner

Where: The Marriott Wardman Park

When: Tuesday, November 28, from 6 p.m. to 9:30.

Who: Honored and presenting over the course of the evening were NBC4's Jim Vance, dinner chair Ed Cohen (Lerner Enterprises), Ed Grenier (Junior Achievement), John Finneran (Capitol One), Ralph Reid (Sprint), John "Chip" Akridge (John Akridge Co.), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandra Armstrong (Armstrong, Fleming, & Moore), Linda Rabbit (RAND), Jeong Kim (Lucent), Ted Leonsis (AOL),  B.F. Saul II (Chevy Chase Bank), Daniel Callahan (Cafritz Foundation), Kenneth Sparks (Federal City Council) and Terence Golden (Bailey Capital). Also present were City Councillors Jack Evans and Carol Schwartz, and, in theory, Mayor-Elect Adrian Fenty but he failed to appear during his introduction.

Food: Dijon chicken in puff pastry Hors D'oeurves, lobster cilantro butternut squash soup, a semi-forgettable filet of beef as the main course, and spice cake with butter pecan ice cream for dessert.

Drink of Choice: Red wine.

Scene: With 1,300 of the region's top business leaders in black tie, the money and clout were almost palpable (and no, not only because parked prominently on the Wardman Park's drive was a yellow Porsche Boxster with the plate YLLWBOX). The evening, which was about 80 percent male, raised $1.4 million for Junior Achievement and the program's participants were a central part of the evening: The kids, all gussied up, greeted people arriving for the dinner, and someone introduced each honoree. Each of the Hall of Fame inductees (Armstrong, Kim, Akridge, and Sparks) was honored with a short video highlighting their careers and lives.

On display over the course of the evening also was the difference between businessmen and politicians. Unlike most of the area's media/politics dinners that can drag on late into the night, this one wrapped up within ten minutes of the scheduled end time.

Interesting Fact of the Night #1: Jeong Kim, who sold his company to Lucent in 1998 for $1.1 billion at 37, drives a 1995 Acura with 142,000 miles.

Interesting Fact of the Night #2: A proud Orangeman, Sparks was teased by Golden about how, in addition to legends like Ted Koppel, Syracuse University boasts among its alumni Jeffrey Skilling (Business School), Jeffrey Dahmer (Culinary School), and Dr. Kevorkian (Medical School). That's not actually true. And by "actually" we mean "not at all."

Moving Moment of the Night #1: During one of the few moments when the crowd quieted, Vance gave an inspiring speech about how difficult it is to read bad news about the region night after night on television and how he saw hope for the future in the work of JA.

Moving Moment of the Night #2: John Tydings made a special presentation to Ellie Merrill, widow of Washingtonian Publisher Phil Merrill, thanking him for his work with the Hall of Fame.

Gift of the Night: Anna Esobedo Cabral, the U.S. Treasurer, handed a crisp autographed dollar bill to Kaylin Cage, a freshman at UMD and JA's Young Entrepreneur of the Year.


Bold Face Names: 4 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 4 (out of 5)
Food/Drinks: 3  (out of 5)
Exclusivity: 4 (out of 5)

Total Score: 15 (out of 20)

More photos from the night below.

NBC4’s Jim Vance on the big screen during the presentation.
The pre-dinner cocktail reception.
The ballroom before the dinner hordes descended.