New England Council holds annual dinner to honor four as “New Englander of the Year”

More than 1,700 guests gathered for The New England Council’s annual “New Englander of the Year” awards.


By Carol Beggy

SOUTH BOSTON – The 2017 New England Council dinner—the largest annual gathering of the region’s leaders of business, colleges and universities, hospitals, financial institutions, civic, philanthropic, and government agencies—was held recently to recognize four outstanding individuals as “New Englanders of the Year.”

More than 1,700 guests filled the World Trade Center, Boston, for a dinner and awards program at which Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker, Collette Divitto, founder of Collettey’s Cookies; Joseph “Jay” L. Hooley, chairman and CEO of State Street Corp., and Navyn Salem, founder and CEO of Edesia, were honored. The “New Englander of the Year” awards have been presented since 1964 to residents or natives of “the New England states for their commitment and contributions in their fields of work, as well as their leadership and impact on the New England region’s quality of life and economy.”

James T. Brett, president and CEO of the New England Council and the evening’s emcee, said of the awards: “Our four honorees have each made their own unique and inspiring contributions to our economy and our communities, both here in New England and beyond. They have displayed thoughtful leadership, innovative thinking, an entrepreneurial spirit, and dedication to their community and their nation. I believe that our 2017 New Englanders of the year truly embody all that is great about New England.”

This year’s New Englander of the Year award recipients, are:

• Collette Divitto who has Down Syndrome, founded her Collettey’s Cookies because she was unable to find a job, even after she graduated from Clemson University’s LIFE program. The Connecticut native combined her entrepreneurial spirit and her passion for baking in 2011, with her mother and sister later joining the business. Collettey’s Cookies has been featured in local and national media, including on CBS News, and has sold more than 140,000 cookies since its launch. “I am a cookie person,” Divitto said at the ceremony. “I spent many years try to get a paying job. …I work very hard. I am so honored to be here tonight.”

• After watching a “60 Minutes” segment about how Plumpy’Nut®, a therapeutic food, was helping to ease famine in drought-stricken Niger, Navyn Salem, established a factory in Tanzania, the African country where her father was from. In 2009, she founded Edesia, a nonprofit, social enterprise, in her home state of Rhode Island to manufacture shelf-stable specialized foods that help treat and prevent malnutrition for children enduring the extreme hardships of poverty, conflict, natural disaster, disease outbreak, or famine worldwide. Since production began in March 2010, Edesia’s ready-to-use foods have reached nearly 6 million malnourished children in 50 countries through the work of UNICEF, the World Food Programme, USAID/USDA, and other humanitarian aid agencies. Edesia employs 70 people who hail from more than 20 countries.

• As Chairman and CEO of State Street, Jay Hooley knows the place his company holds in New England, and the world. Found in 1792, State Street is the second oldest financial institution in the country, and has grown to be one of the world’s leading providers of financial services for institutional investors. The company dates to when George Washington was president and the New York Stock Exchange was founded. “So we’re old,” Hooley deadpanned. Hooley joined State Street in 1986 and has held diverse leadership positions with increasing responsibility across the firm. He was appointed president and chief operating officer in 2008 and assumed his current role overseeing all aspects of State Street’s global business in 2010. He is a passionate supporter of community service organizations and devotes a great deal of time and energy to charitable and civic activities. In making the selection to honor Hooley, the Council noted that he is “also a vocal champion for increasing diversity at State Street and across the financial services industry and beyond.”

• In making her introduction of Governor Charlie Baker, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, herself a 2016 honoree, spoke of Baker’s bipartisan efforts and work on behalf of the whole region. Baker, who ranks as one of the country’s most popular governors, previously served as the CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and was chairman of The New England Council. Inaugurated as the state’s 72nd governor in January 2015, Baker centered his remarks on those who were honored before him. “Collette…God bless her,” he said, choking up. He noted that Jay Hooley’s comments were “a love letter to the region” and closed out by saying that the work done by those gathered at the dinner shows that “it doesn’t get much better than New England.”

Previous recipients of the New Englander of the Year award include documentarian Ken Burns, Bank of America’s Anne Finucane, Abigail Johnson of Fidelity Investments, US Senators Susan M. Collins, Jack Reed, Jean Shaheen, Kelly Ayotte, and John F. Kerry, late Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and ALS fundraiser Peter Frates.

At more than 85 years old, The New England Council is the country’s oldest regional business organization. It is an alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout the six-state region, which was formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the region.
Sponsors for the evening include Bank of America, Fidelity Investments, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, Natixis Global Asset Management, and State Street.

Among those in attendance were: KPMG’s Darren Donovan; Eastern Bank CEO Bob Rivers; John Hailer of 1251 Asset Management; Ireland Consul-General Fionnuala Quinlan; former New England Patriots player Jarod Mayo; Seaport Hotel’s Jim Carmody; Car magnate turned philanthropist Don Rodman; Greenberg Traurig’s Victoria Reggie Kennedy, whose late husband Senator Ted Kennedy was a New Englander of the Year; Putnam Investments’ Robert Reynolds, a former honoree; K&L Gates’ Tom Holt and his wife, Jane of the National Pancreas Foundation; Suffolk Construction’s John Fish; Hill Holliday’s Karen Kaplan; John F. Kennedy Library and Museum CEO Steven M. Rothstein, his Kennedy Library predecessor Heather Campion; SBLI’s Bob Sheridan; Foundation to Be Named Later Executive Director Allyce Najimy, Baerlein Partners’ Joe Baerlein; Thomas Glynn of Massport; Kate Barry of Novo Nordisk; Saragoni & Company’s Jan Saragoni; Comcast’s Doreen Vigue; Frequency Therapeutics’ Jeff Karp; and, WCVB General Manager Bill Fine.

Also attending were: Mary Beth McMahon of Special Olympics, Massachusetts; Jean MacCormack of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute; Back Bay Association’s Meg Mainzer-Cohen; Patrick Moscaritolo of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau; Tim Murray of the Worcester Chamber of Commerce; Mintz Levin’s Bob Popeo; Marie St. Fleur of St. Fleur Communications; Richard Tisei of Preti Strategies; Warren Tolman; Strategy Group’s Susan Tracy; Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan, and restaurateur and business leader Tom Kershaw.

Colleges and universities were represented including: Worcester State University President Barry M. Maloney; Curry College President Kenneth K. Quigley, Jr.; New England College President Michelle Perkins; and, Massachusetts Maritime Academy President Rear Admiral Francis X. McDonald.

Also, Martha Austin of Dartmouth College; John Tobin and Raj Echambadi of Northeastern University; Neil Levesque of St. Anselm College; Paul Andrew of Harvard University; Kirk Buckman of Stonehill College; Mary Jeka and Patricia Campbell of Tufts University; John Nucci of Suffolk University; Ellen Christo and Tom Cronin of University of New Hampshire; Emily Dahl and Paul Parravano of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Matt Fenlon and Ellen Fleming of the University of Massachusetts Boston; and Elizabeth Leary and Meredith Mooney of Boston University.

Ed Kelly of the International Association of Fire Fighters was in from Washington, D.C., for the dinner and was joined by other firefighters from the region including John Martell of the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine, Richard McKinnon of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts; and William McQuillen of Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire.

As has become tradition, the evening had a musical drop with the Boston Police Gaelic Column Pipes & Drums kicking things off, a performance by Irish singer Pauline Wells, who is a deputy superintendent with the Cambridge Police Department, and Irish Tenor Ronan Tynan, whose emotional rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” was dedicated to Collette Divitto.

And, as Jim Brett promises every year, Dusty Rhodes and her Conventures’ team had everyone on their way at 8:15 p.m.

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