Thursday evening Nov. 17 saw Idaho Business Review host its 10th annual Leaders in Law and Excellence in Finance awards programs, co-located at Boise Centre, with a reception beginning at 4:30 p.m., followed by an awards program that concluded at 7:30 p.m.
The evening’s festivities began with a networking reception for the approximately 330 guests, which included honorees, their colleagues, friends and family. As attendees noshed on passed hors d’oeuvres and assorted buffet-style appetizers, they remarked how they enjoyed the new format (as of last year) of combining both annual events into one co-located awards program. One attendee said he greatly appreciated the opportunity for these different business sectors to come together to network, describing it as “a welcome opportunity to mingle with likeminded people who serve their communities with equal fervor and dedication.”
Idaho Business Review Publisher Cindy Suffa said of this year’s event, “It’s ironic to think both programs began the same year, 2013. It was a natural transition to unite the programs benefiting sponsors, honorees and guests. In 2023, the Excellence in Finance program will match its counterpart with an acknowledgement award of its own. This new award will be a great addition to the existing program.”
During her welcome remarks to the event’s attendees, Suffa paused to request a moment of silence for the room to offer prayers, condolences, love and support to the families and friends of the four University of Idaho students who lost their lives this week.
Dean Johanna Kalb of the University of Idaho College of Law, the presenting sponsor for the program for all 10 years since its inception, then took the stage to share some heartfelt insights and comments for the honorees and their guests.
“Our award recipients represent the best of our community and our state, and it’s frankly an honor for me to have the opportunity address them and you,” Kalb said. “I’ve had an occasion to think quite a lot about leadership this week. Our community is right now ridden by sadness and anger and fear. So, I hope you’ll understand that when I reflect on your contributions as leaders this week, it is through a somewhat different lens than at other times…there are times like now — when people are hurting, when the world around us is complicated and uncertain, when the way forward is unclear — those are the times that require leadership and all the sacrifices that come with it.”
Kalb admitted that while the college is particularly proud of the 10 recipients being honored who are University of Idaho College of Law alumni, she described all the honorees as well-respected, community-engaged mentors and models of professionalism. She said, “Today, I want to honor you for being leaders — for what you do behind the scenes, when the chips are down, when things are coming unglued; for the bravery you’ve shown when making impossible decisions; for the compassion and patience you’ve extended, even to people who are making your life hard; for the principles you’ve held onto when it would have been easier to go with the flow; for the personal sacrifices you’ve made to care for others around you…When things are coming unglued, you are the reason we don’t fall apart.”
When it was time to receive their respective Excellence in Finance or Leaders in Law awards, the honorees had separate stages, where the awards were distributed in a comingled and seamless fashion so that a finance honoree alternated with a law honoree throughout the program.
Halfway through the award presentations, the nonprofit spotlight sponsor was introduced. Steve Burns, the president and CEO of Idaho Community Foundation, addressed the audience to briefly explain the history and mission of the organization and to speak about creating legacy.
Burns shared the story of how the Nep and Mary Ellen Lynch Fund and CTE Scholarship came to be. This $4 million endowment, which will provide about $160,000 every year to the community, involved help from Nep and Mary Ellen’s CPA, who happened to also be 2022 Excellence in Finance honoree Bill Allen.
“(Bill) heard that (they) wanted to create a lasting legacy — beyond one- or two-time donations — that would help the town of Salmon forever,” Burns said. “Now, graduates at Salmon High have scholarships and nonprofits have access to grants they wouldn’t have had before. They will last forever and continue to grow and to help their communities.”
The second group of honorees then received their awards and posed for photos proudly holding them. When all honorees had been recognized and applauded, the final award of the night went to the Leaders in Law Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Nick Miller of Hawley Troxell, who was described as serving as an example for not just legal professionals, but for all Idahoans.
The previous year’s Lifetime Achievement honoree, former Chief Justice Roger Burdick, was present to bestow the honor on this year’s winner. Burdick, who had the crowd in chuckles several times with comments like, “After some of jokes last year, I didn’t think you would invite me back,” also showed his serious side, describing his award last year as his crowning achievement of his legal and personal career and clearly showing emotion as he acknowledged Dean Kalb for her courage to present at the event amidst all the college is going through.
After taking another moment to pay his respects to soon-to-be-retired Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who was in the audience, Burdick delivered a fitting introduction to Miller, detailing Miller’s long list of qualifications and successes, and saying simply: “It’s about damn time. What an incredible history of remarkable achievements.”
Burdick said that Miller’s traits of being calm, professional, understated and confident in his abilities have shown throughout his career, and he described the secret to Miller’s success as “his genuine character, respect for others, generosity, open-mindedness, welcoming and mentoring.” He added, “These are the base values that have led to his leadership — not monetarily but in terms of character and life — and to the many leadership awards that Nick has garnered throughout his life.”
In his acceptance of the honor, Miller humbly admitted that he wasn’t used to talking about himself, as “We bond lawyers are not really noted for public speaking,” he said. However, he did indulge the audience by sharing a bit of personal detail.
Miller described his one guiding principle and the elevator speech of “what he does” at Hawley Troxell: “My job is to help other people succeed.” He added, “The theme or advice that I would like to strike is to identify your strengths and capitalize on them. All of the award recipients have clearly done that, and they are going to keep doing that.”
He revealed that he completed a formal exercise to find his strengths — two of his top-five talents were Communication and Maximizer — and he described a time his communication skillset shined, when he was called in to help resolve a situation successfully and offered another example that demonstrated how being a maximizer, which means “helping contribute to make things better and transforming something strong into something superb,” really fit him.
Miller said, “It probably goes without saying, the most noteworthy (example of) maximizing or making something better is the trajectory of Hawley Troxell over the last many years…and I’m very proud to be a part of that.”
He went on to describe that when he joined the firm, there were 22 lawyers, and — with the recently announced merger with Witherspoon Kelley — by Jan. 1, 2023, Hawley Troxell will have grown to 100 attorneys in the Pacific Northwest.
For the full list of award winners, read this announcement of 2022 honorees. To see photos of the 2022 co-located event, go to idahobusinessreview.com/events/. To nominate a finance or legal professional for next year’s awards program, nominations are now open for Excellence and Finance 2023 and Leaders in Law 2023.m