It was another sold-out, packed house at the 14th Annual WISE Women of the Year Awards Luncheon June 3rd in New York City. A veritable ‘who’s who’ from the sports and special events industries turned out to honor our outstanding honorees: Rita Benson LeBlanc, Owner/Executive Vice President of the New Orleans Saints; Pam Oliver, reporter for NFL on FOX; and Molly Solomon, Coordinating Producer for NBC Olympics coverage.
The room was full of industry leaders across the spectrum of national leagues, iconic brands and global broadcast entities. Sponsors and attendees included, but were not limited to: NFL, NBA, USTA, MLB, NHL representing the leagues, the NYC Sports Commission, The New York Times and The New York Mets, and corporate representation from MasterCard, MassMutual, and IBM. We were also honored that many of our WISE colleagues from chapters across the country joined us for the event – Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Bay Area, LA and DC were in the house!
The program began with updates from WISE National Board President Sue Rodin and Vice Presidents Bess Brodsky and Jeni Miller re-capping the successful year that was, signature programs that have already made their mark in our industries, and sharing future plans for continued growth and expansion. From there, the dynamic Tracy Wolfson of CBS Sports kicked-off the awards portion of the event with an inspiring video montage produced by her CBS colleagues that truly brought to life the impressive achievements of the three honorees.
Rita Benson LeBlanc was introduced by Jeff Pash, EVP, Chief Administrative Officer-Counsel, NFL, who spoke of Rita’s tireless efforts to support the people of New Orleans via her role as Owner and EVP of The Saints. Rita shared a philosophy that has served her well throughout her career “challenges are bumpers in life that push you into new areas.” Certainly Hurricane Katrina exemplified that to the most extreme level. But her ability and drive to lead her team to get back on its feet quickly and the stadium to open for business in record time, speaks to the ability of sports to transcend beyond the field, beyond the game, and truly impact people’s lives.
Next up was Pam Oliver reporter for the NFL on FOX, introduced by David Hill, Chairman and CEO, Fox Sports Television Group. He shared first-hand his own experience of the impact of Pam’s reach and influence in the sports media world. Pam held the room enraptured as she shared her experiences coming up through the ranks and building her career. She also addressed very pointed and current hot topics in the sports industry noting “it’s been a bit of an open season on sideline reporters, questioning their relevance. I’m grateful to FOX understanding how unique a story we can tell from that special vantage point.” The crowd favorite was the clip of Michael Strahan of the New York Giants crediting Pam on national television for one of her reports kicking their defense into high gear.
The program concluded with turning the spotlight on the woman who brings the pre eminent special event into homes of millions across the globe, Molly Solomon, NBC coordinating producer for the Olympics. Introduced by a man synonymous with sports programming over the past three decades, Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics, Molly shared with the audience her great passion and career experience, programming everything from the Olympics to the Super Bowl. She is clearly the epitome of sage advice from her parents “l live by what I was taught: leave it all on the track. Give 120% and you’ll always be proud.” We’ll be thinking of Molly on 8/8/08!
Congratulations again to all three honorees! And we hope to see you at the luncheon next year!