Speech: Kim Hunter, 2019 Betsy Plank Lifetime Honoree

Bridget Coffing: Great stuff. Good evening, everyone. I’m Bridget Coffing. I am the vice-chair of The Plank Center board of advisors and it is my very, very profound honor to introduce our final and very, very special award of the night. I think it’s special because of the unique and very significant nature of the award itself. I think it’s special because of the man being recognized tonight. Our highly distinguished 29 honoree, Kim Hunter, CEO of the Grant Foundation. First a word about what is just a very, very meaningful award. It was named, of course in honor of Betsy Plank, but to really recognize exemplary professionals who are in the class by themselves. It is really only given to those folks who have demonstrated an entire lifetime, a lifetime of commitment to mentoring and have had a profound impact on others and in turn those others going on to foster relationships and mentorship and influence within their organizations, within their communities, within our profession that we all share and honor tonight.

I think it’s really important to note that this award is not given out every year. In fact, the award has only been conferred two times before. So tonight’s honoree joins just two others in this category. The noted Ralph Campania, Executive Director of Chicago’s office street club, who was the recipient, the first one in 2016 and the very trailblazing Tom Burrell, who received the Betsy Plank Award just last year for his extraordinary work in marketing, multicultural advertising, communications, and a real trailblazer as well. So tonight, Kim joins this very elite group. He has touched the lives and the careers of so many people and will now hear from three of his greatest fans. So please join me in welcoming Luis Sanchez, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the Chicago International Charter School, Natalie Godwin, Director of Global Corporate Communications Hilton, and Jessica Shih director of corporate communications strategy, Blue Shield of California, will each share a memory about their friend and colleague, Kim Hunter. [crosstalk 00:55:33]

Jessica Shih: Sorry about that. Good evening. I’m Jessica Shih and for those of you who know Kim Hunter, you’ll know why it takes three of us to honor him tonight. We represent just a miniscule fraction of the hundreds of students and professionals who are in this industry tonight, because of Kim Hunter and the Lou Grant Foundation that he founded more than 20 years ago, because he saw a lack of diversity in our industry and he made it his personal mission to change that. We’ve all had the benefit of his mentorship and because of that, I noticed when I moved back to San Francisco recently, I been able to get reacquainted with many of my friends from childhood, and many of them are smart, they’re ambitious, they’re talented, but they’re stuck in middle management. And I realized that the only reason why I’ve been able to get to leadership positions in fortune 10 companies is because I had an ace in my corner. I had Kim Hunter who’s been there to push me, to counsel me, to give me tough feedback, and to lift me up and champion for me. And I’m so grateful for his support and in complete all because I know that I’m only just one of the hundreds that he’s been able to support, including Luis Sanchez.

Luis Sanchez: Thank you, Jessica. Good evening. My name is Luis Sanchez and I’m one of the many recipients today of the LAGRANT Scholarship Foundation. Words such as leader, change agent, entrepreneur, these are the words that best describe Kim Hunter and his bold efforts in helping minorities like myself. We’ve been able to establish, we’ve been able to enter in the communications field and fulfill our dreams to go to college and beyond. He strives us, he pushes our buttons to go further. As a Latino and a communications professional, my life has been deeply impacted by the generosity of Kim and the LAGRANT Foundation. His energy is have not only helped countless folks like myself, but also fulfill other’s dreams, to build the next generation of communicators that reflect society. Kim clearly knows and understands what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, PR agent. I see that on myself, and I see it in my future. And I can honestly say, with more conviction and in my lifetime, that I will sometimes need people like Kim and Kim has always been there for me. And I hopefully plan to follow in his footsteps and do the same to other mentees I plan to one day mentor. So once again, I want to thank Kim Hunter and the LAGRANT Foundation for every opportunity because then I know without him, I wouldn’t be here today and I thank you very much. Natalie.

Natalie Godwin: Only for Kim does it take three of us to do this. I asked him earlier, how many people in this room do you know? Actually, how many people know Kim? Raise your hand. I would say just about everyone, right? I’m Natalie Godwin and like Luis and Jessica, I’m a recipient of the LAGRANT Foundation Scholarship. I was actually the first group of graduate students in 2006. And back then the application was similar to a mini-thesis. And I’ll admit, I was working full time, graduate studies at night and I almost didn’t complete it, put it down, I was like, I’ll get to this later. The deadline was the next day and I stayed up all night and I got it in. I was probably the last person to get in my application. I’m so glad I did because it changed the trajectory of my career.

In the years that I’ve known Kim, I’ve called him before every opportunity that I’ve taken. He’s helped me evaluate responsibilities, job titles, where the position lies in a┬ácommunications team and the company structure and he’s actually even helping me navigate my latest career move. And that’s really important for communicators who are really trying to find their way in this industry. More importantly, I’d like to thank him for helping professionals of color, especially black women, to have our voices heard and to be seen. He’s a natural leader who forces us to elevate our work, think globally and strategically. His tenacious effort to support the LAGRANT Foundation helps him speak truth to power. And it is my honor to welcome our mentor, Kim Hunter.

Kim Hunter: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This will be the shortest acceptance speech ever. These three speak for why I get up every day. I always remind people I am two years shy of 60, I’m seven years shy of Medicare, and every day I get up knowing my runway is short, their runway is a lot longer. I want to thank The Plank Center board of advisors, all of the honorees tonight, but there is one person in particular I want to thank because it was this gentleman who was flying in from Detroit when I was already at the Page Spring Conference and he texted me and said, “Kim, have you arrived?” I said, “I have.” He said, “You want to join me for dinner?” I said, “Of course.” And it was Tony Savant who’s the chief communication officer for General Motors. And Tony called this dinner to ask me, was I available on this particular day, but unfortunately, at the time, Tony didn’t know the day. So when he talked about the date, he didn’t have the date and what happened was, he had to go to a couple other board members to find out because apparently, if I could not make the date, I would not be a recipient of this award tonight. So Tony┬áCervone, I’ll never forget you for that.

But Tony, you are a good man. I miss interacting with you. Tony is a member of the board of directors, he’s an active board member, he’s an engaged board member. And Tony is very much like a few people in this business that I absolutely respect and adore and I’m a put him in the same category, which most of you have always heard me talk about, because I’ve known him for 17 years, and she was just elevated to the CEO role of Weber Shandwick in that scale Heyman. And Gail has always been one of these individuals who never pigeonhole me. And Tony, you are very much just like her. You’re the male version in many ways of Gail without all the other stuff that Gail we know about her. Good stuff, right Rhonda. But I will tell you, when Tony called me one day and asked me his son is here today, at least one of the sons, Tony has two of them. Tony said his son was coming to LA to go around meeting a couple of practitioners and he asked will I do it. Well, people know my mission, my passion is diversity inclusion. Everybody knows it. I was trained by the general market. I know who I am. I have no illusion about it. But it gives me great joy when Tony, Gail and others will pick up the phone and says, Kim, I got a family member, I got a friend who doesn’t look like me and Michael Neil’s another one at American Express. It gives me the greatest joy to know at the end of the day, my man, you know you’re the future. I’m not, but whatever I can do, I’m happy to.

So on behalf of the LAGRANT Foundation, all of the former scholarship recipients who are in this room and there are a number of you, could you please stand up? Everyone, that’s the future. Thank you.