New England Council hosts annual New Englander of the Year awards

SEAPORT – More than 1,700 people filled the World Trade Center Boston for the annual New England Council New Englander of the Year awards, which were given this year to General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff; Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, chairman, president and CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Travis Mills; and US Representative Niki Tsongas.

The dinner has been held each fall to recognize those who have made “significant contributions to the region” and brings together business, nonprofit, and academic leaders from the six-state region. At more than 85 years old, The New England Council is the country’s oldest regional business organization.

All gathered were welcomed by New England Council President and CEO James T. Brett and the event featured music, from the Boston Police Gaelic Column Pipe & Drums, and a rousing rendition of the national anthem by Rene Rancourt, who came out of retirement for the night. (Rancourt sang the national anthem for the Boston Bruins for 41 years. The NEC used the moment to recognize his contributions to the region with a Chelsea clock presented by Council board chair John Hailer of 1251 Asset Management.)

Sponsors for the evening include Bank of America, Fidelity Investments, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, and Vertex.

Dr. Leiden, one of the honorees, spoke of how his company is just one example of the growth of the bio-tech and bio-medical industries in the region. “Just as we are the center of the universe” in sports, academia and history, the Boston area is the hub of “biomedical innovation.” He also said that so many cures and research advancements “will come from right here.”
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, who is not seeking re-election this year, used her time to both thank those who have supported her and to outline what has been important to her during her time in Washington: the region’s leaders and those who serve in the military.

Honoree Travis Mills, a US Army veteran who lost parts of both of his legs and both of his arms when he set down his pack and triggered an IED, spoke about his journey from wounded warrior to what he calls “recalibrated veteran.” Travis, speaking with the humor and levity that he has become known for in his motivational addresses, talked of his own drive to start the Travis Mills Foundation and create places where wounded veterans and their families can spend some time doing activities, like a new retreat opened in Maine.

General Joseph Dunford accepted his award on behalf of all the men and women currently serving in the armed forces, particularly those from New England. He spoke of those serving on the USS Monterey, a guided missile cruiser that was built in Maine, which has been in service for 14 of the last 24 months, patrolling hotspots such as the Straits of Hormuz, and of the service of Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts, a Lowell native who now lives in New Hampshire.

Those examples and others show why “the United States military can defend our way of life,” Dunford said, adding: “You have a force that you can and should be proud of.”

Attending the annual dinner were University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Chancellor Robert Johnson; University of Massachusetts Boston Chancellor Katherine Newman; University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan; Salem State College President John Keenan; Curry College President Kenneth K. Quigley, Jr.; New England College President Michele Perkins; Jim Carmody of the Seaport Hotel; Tim Brett of the Revere Hotel; Mintz Levin’s Bob Popeo; Consul General of Canada David Alward, Chris King of the International Trade & Investment Office for British Columbia; Annie Mayol of the Foundation for Puerto Rico; Irish Vice Consul Shane Cahill; Hampshire House’s Tom Kershaw; and Greenberg Traurig’s Victoria Reggie Kennedy.

Also on the attendee list were: Governor Charlie Baker and his wife, Lauren; former Governor Bill Weld, Mary Beth McMahon of Special Olympics Massachusetts; US Representative Seth Moulton; US Representative Ann McLane Kuster; John Griffin US Naval War College; Pine Street Inn’s Lyndia Downie; MassHousing’s Tom Lyons; Medal of Honor recipient Tom Kelly; Museum of Fine Arts’ Mark Kerwin; the MBA Group’s R.J. Valentine; former Boston Police commissioner Ed Davis; KPMG’s Darren Donovan; Eastern Bank’s Bob Rivers; Dorchester Reporter’s Ed Forry; Northeastern University’s John Tobin; Massachusetts College of Art and Design Jan Saragoni; Catherine Drennan and Jessica Crimmins of the Greater Boston Food Bank; Strategy Group’s Dave Newman and Susan Tracy; Comcast’s Doreen Vigue; O’Neill & Associates’ Cosmo Macero; Denterlein’s Peter Howe; Edward M. Kennedy Institute’s president Mary Grant; WCVB General Manager Bill Fine; DePrisco Jewelers’ Donna DePrisco; and Collette DiVitto of Collettey’s Cookies.

Also providing music at the event were Irish tenor Ronan Tynan and Cambridge Police Deputy Superintendent Pauline Wells. And, as Jim Brett promises every year, Dusty Rhodes and her Conventures’ team had everyone on their way by 8:15 p.m.

For a look at the 2017 New England Council dinner from, click here.

All photos by Bill Brett

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