*The buzz generated around March Madness didn’t just originate from the basketball court.  It also came from the Harlem YMCA 40th annual National Salute to Black Achievers in Industry Awards (BAI) in which a record number of student scholarships were awarded.

Some 700 dressed to the nines cheering guests attended the annual soiree paying tribute to African American men and women for their corporate leadership and service to their community and providing New York area students with scholarships.

Themed “Celebrating Success, Developing Leaders, Cultivating Communities,” the elegant event took place on Thursday, March 18, 2010 in the beauteous Broadway Ballroom of the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel where Emcee Stephanie Elam, CNN business news correspondent, held court.

There was so much to cheer about as this year’s win-win event that proved to be the most successful in BAI’s 40-year history, raising more than $600,000 — largely through corporate participation.  Half-time entertainment was provided by youth vocalist Tianna Daniels and jazz vocalist Barbara King closed it down with a fabulous musical tribute.

Steering Committee (seated) Jean Ford, Tiffeny forrest, Jeannine Maddox, Geraldine Gallashaw (standing) Herbert Ford, Walter Shay, George Harmon, Lola Holness, Alvin Smith, Cathy Bristow, Krizzy Maitland

With more than 30 companies participating, the Harlem YMCA was able to award an unprecedented 52 scholarships to New York area high school and college students that’s triple the number of scholarships usually awarded in a single year.  Guests also responded enthusiastically to a silent auction, adding $16,000 to the coffers to help fund Strong Kids.

Former five-term Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. delivered an inspiring keynote address in which he encouraged the students to use the examples of the Black Achievers being saluted to set their own goals for success.

Recognizing the need to continue the important work of the Harlem YMCA and the BAI program, Ford, chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council and a news analyst for NBC and MSNBC, as well as a visiting professor at the NYC Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, also called upon students to find ways to give back to organizations like the Harlem YMCA as they succeed in business.

The awards dinner honored Gwendolyn B. Lee with the Leo B. Marsh Award, named for the BAI founder and given to an individual who embodies Dr. Marsh’s spirit of community service.

Dr. Lee, an educator for 38 years, is serving her second term as National President of The Links, Inc., an international, service organization comprised of more than 12,000 women of color.  When accepting her award, Dr. Lee dedicated it to the members and chapters of The Links, many of whom are involved programs that also affect young people.

2010 Class of Scholarship Recipients - Scroll down for MORE photos

Essence Magazine, long known as a supporter and champion of issues affecting African American women, was the recipient of the distinguished Deloitte Corporate Community Award.  Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications, accepted the award on behalf of Essence.  “Forty is certainly the magic number tonight.  Essence has been celebrating women for 40 years and the Harlem YMCA has been celebrating these deserving achievers for 40 years,” stated Ebanks.

“The Black Achievers in Industry is a great example of how a corporate and community partnership can impact the lives of young people,” said Tiffeny Forrest, executive director of the Harlem YMCA.  “The program has been able to enjoy a successful history because of the corporate sponsors and business professionals who lend their time and financial resources to help us develop future leaders,” Forrest concluded.

Three such highly regarded corporations — Citi, Con Edison and JPMorgan Chase — were recognized for their generous and continuous support of the Harlem YMCA for 40 years and were named corporate co-chairs for the awards dinner.

An award highlight was presentment of the Carrie Terrell Youth Achiever Award to Danielle LaHee.  A senior at High School for Math, Science and Engineering, the scholar has not only participated in several Harlem YMCA programs including the BAI mentor program, but has been an active volunteer and previously received the 2009 Harlem YMCA volunteer of the year award.

Another standout award moment was the presentation of the coveted Elaine Edmonds award to Eric Hutcherson, partner, Global HR Lender, Mercer Outsourcing Marsh, for his volunteer efforts.  In addition to his active participation on various committees at Mercer, Hutchison also devotes much of his time outside of work to programs for youth including several basketball programs, as well as traveling as a motivational speaker.

Participants in the stellar program included Ann Duarte McCarthy, chief diversity officer, Citi; Kevin Burke, chairman & CEO, Con Edison; Tiffany Younger, former youth scholarship recipient; and Valerie I. Rainford, managing director, home lending business support executive, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Also Jack Lund, president & CEO, YMCA of Greater New York; Barry Sulzberg, CEO, Deloitte LLP; Gregg Walker, senior vice president, corporate development, Sony Corporation of America; and Tiffeny Forrest, executive director, Harlem YMCA.

The YMCA of Greater New York is a community service organization that promotes positive values through programs that build spirit, mind, and body, welcoming all people with a focus on youth.

The Harlem YMCA, a subsidiary of the YMCA of Greater New York, was founded in 1918 and has remained constant: to provide a safe haven and enhance the quality of life for adult members and youth and teens in the Greater Harlem area through a variety of programs.  (Photos by Steve Mack, Jerry Speier & Tiffany Stubbs)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

Presenter Gregg Walker, Honoree Gwendolyn B. Lee

2010 Class of Black Achievers

Barry & Michelle