BIA recognizes state's business leaders
From left are Kathy Veracco, mother of U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, David Boutin, senator from Hooksett, and Ray Wieczorek, executive councilor, and who received the lifetime achievement award, during the annual Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire dinner, held at the Radisson Hotel on Wednesday in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
From left are Ben Wheeler, regional vice president of TD Bank, Jaimie Birge, president of Franklin Pierce Collage, and Richard Ober, president of NH Charitable Foundation, during the annual Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire dinner, held at the Radisson Hotel on Wednesday in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER — More than 700 representatives of business and industry recognized three men who changed New Hampshire for the better as the Business and Industry Association awarded lifetime achievement awards at its 99th annual dinner Wednesday at the Radisson Hotel.
The statewide chamber of commerce honored former Manchester mayor and incumbent Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek for his work in revitalizing the city in the 1990s. Retired hospital executives Jim Varnum and John Collins were recognized for four decades of work to build what is now known as the Dartmouth-Hitchock network. The state's governor, two U.S. senators and House members from both congressional districts attended the event.
The New Hampshire Advantage award, which honors businesses or organizations that enhance the quality of life in the state, went to the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits and was accepted by Executive Director Mary Ellen Jackson and Board Chairman John Gilbert.
Varnum was president of Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital from 1978 to 2006, leading the transformation of a rural academic medical center into an industry pacesetter. As CEO of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic from 1975 to 2007, Collins helped create the network of clinics, hospitals and cancer centers throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. Gov. John Lynch introduced and presented the awards, praising Varnum's leadership.
“His management-by-walking-around philosophy enabled him to connect with staff at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and inspired strong loyalty among them,” Lynch said. “Care was always his highest priority.”
Both men credited their co-workers over the years, with Collins echoing the governor's comments about Varnum's collaborative approach. “Jim Varnum, in his retirement, ought to teach the New Hampshire House of Representatives about bipartisanship,” he said to loud applause.
“When we disagreed, it wasn't about what we could achieve, but how we could achieve it. We came together and, I must say, what we have built with our colleagues here tonight is far beyond anything we imagined when we started out.”
Wieczorek, first elected Manchester mayor in 1989, was a leading advocate for the expansion of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, the construction of the Verizon Wireless Arena and the revitalization of the Millyard and downtown. He has served as executive councilor for the past 11 years.
The new access road to the airport and the square near the arena are now named for the five-term mayor.
Like Varnum and Collins, he was quick to share the credit. “Throughout my long career, I was able to get a lot of things done,” he said, “but I learned you can't get it done by yourself. ... I think Ronald Reagan was absolutely right when he said, 'If you don't care who gets the credit, you'll get a lot done.' ”
A Republican who has worked well with Democratic governors, Wieczorek also expressed frustration over political gridlock, which he said has not infected the Executive Council. “We're a very civil group,” he said. “We don't have a tug of war on every issue.”
In accepting the award for the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits, Jackson and Gilbert said the state has benefited from a three-way collaboration among business, government and the non-profit sector they represent.
“From hunger, to poverty to disease, nonprofits are the conduit for our involvement ... to engage in humanitarian acts and to protect the most vulnerable,” Jackson said.
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Dave Solomon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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