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Second annual Icon event recognizes career-spanning leadership

The 2019 Icon honorees gather for a photo at the Icon awards on Aug. 15. Photo by Pete Grady Photography.

More than 150 people attended this year’s Icon awards, which honored 15 Idaho businesspeople aged 50 and over whose lives and careers have made a dramatic impact on the state.

Now in its second year, the event was held August 15 at Boise Centre East.

The 15 awardees came from around the state, in industries ranging from large for-profit companies to nonprofits. Guests included co-workers past and present, as well as family members.

“Reading the stories of this year’s Icon honorees, it became clear how small our community really is,” said Idaho Business Review publisher Cindy Suffa. “You’ve all heard of ‘six degrees of separation,’ right?  Well, I am here to tell you this room is an example of two degrees of separation. You find that is common in Idaho and especially in the local communities.”

Those stories were published in a special companion publication, distributed at the awards event. It is available for free online.

“Tonight’s honorees have spent their lives enhancing freedom and opportunity for the people of our state, and they’ve dedicated every ounce of energy they have to the cause,” said Rebecca Palmer, special sections editor. “Each is heroic in his or her own way, and Idaho wouldn’t be the same without them.”

Family, teamwork and appreciation for Idaho were common themes among the honorees, who each spoke for a few minutes.

“This is not just a win for me, but for Idaho’s Hispanic community,” said Margie Gonzalez, executive director at the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs.

Former Boise State University president Bob Kustra acknowledged that he “may have had something to do” with some of the university’s successes during his 15-year tenure, but also praised university supporters.

“No matter what direction I turned, it was not only the faculty and staff, but the community’s cast of thousands who were there for us every time we needed them,” he said.

Being in Boise “makes it easy and inviting to give and contribute,” said Clay Carley, general manager of Old Boise LLC.

Skip Oppenheimer, CEO of Oppenheimer Companies, said that friends of his from Philadelphia and Manhattan recently visited Boise for the first time, and praised Boise’s positive energy.

“’This is really weird,’” he related them saying. “’Everyone seems to be smiling. Is that normal?’”

Laughter — and more than a few tears — were also part of the speeches.

Several awardees, noting that they’d been married for decades, thanked their spouses. That included Michael Satz, associate vice president and executive officer of the University of Idaho, who quoted his wife’s reaction to his plan for a “lifestyle” picture.

“‘They’re going to do a lifestyle picture, and you’re going to do it with your motorcycle?’” he deadpanned. In the end, the photo was shot with his wife and their two children.

Scott Moscrip, founder of Truckstop.com — whose walk-on music was Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” — said he had asked what he had done to deserve the award.

“The only qualification was that you had to be at least 50,” he joked, admitting that he had indeed reached middle age.

And Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd, who has announced that she won’t be running for re-election this fall, noted that in the past year she’d lost both her father and her “Meridian dad,” former councilman Keith Bird.

“What I’m doing seems a little less important, and my family more important,” she said.

In contrast to other Idaho Business Review events, walk-on music was all instrumental and largely classical, from the Monday Night Football theme for former Boise State University football coach Skip Hall to Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” for Satz. Several awardees commented on their musical choices.

“Thank you for not giving me Clay Carley’s walk-on music,” said Kount CEO Brad Wiskirchen, referring to Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” better known as the Lone Ranger theme. “A horse did that to me,” he said, referring to the heavy sling he was sporting.

“I have 1,100 pounds of horse jerky in my garage looking for a home,” he joked.

The Idaho Business Review received dozens of applications for the honor, which recognizes businesspeople aged 50 and over who have demonstrated a track record of leadership, professional accomplishments, community service and vision.

Nominations are open for the 2020 Icons awards.

About Sharon Fisher