Myron E. "Mike" Ullman 3rd, J.C. Penney's chairman and chief executive, and Jacki Nemerov, executive vice president of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., received the American Jewish Committee's National Human Relations Award at a dinner Monday night at the Grand Hyatt in New York. The event raised a record $4.5 million for the AJC and drew a crowd of 1,500.
"These two individuals are real true achievers and highly respected, in terms of professional achievement and philanthropic endeavors," said Jaime Kelstein, AJC's national director of development.
The old record was $4.3 million, set in 2000 at an evening that honored Sidney Kimmel, founder of Jones Apparel Group, and Terry Lundgren, chairman, ceo and president of Macy's Inc.
"This room is quite something," said Ralph Lauren, addressing the crowd just before presenting the award to Nemerov. He said he met her when she was chief operating officer at Jones, and almost instantly felt he wanted her working in his company. "Now that she's on board, we all listen to her. Probably the whole company, including Roger [Farah] and myself report to Jacki."
Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks, divulged a side of Ullman that tends to stay hidden — his charitable activities, including serving as chairman of Mercy Ships International, which operates floating hospitals in the some of the worst areas of the world. Schultz presented the award to Ullman, who advises Starbucks on strategy as a member of the board, but who also sometimes takes advice from Schultz.
Ullman recounted how, when he was offered the Penney's post, "I was kind of wavering. I felt I didn't have enough strength. I was mobility challenged, but I asked Howard and he said, 'How could you not do it?'" and that Schultz said he must seize an opportunity to lead an organization with 150,000 associates. Ullman, who has a spinal cord injury and often rides a Segway, expressed his view of what the corporate mission should entail. "It's more than just the bottom line. It's giving back."
Ullman celebrates his 30th wedding anniversary with his wife, Cathy, today, and suggested he takes nothing for granted. "Every day matters. It's those little moments in people's lives that really matter."The AJC was established in 1906 by a group of American Jews concerned about pogroms aimed at Russian Jews. The organization fights anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, promotes pluralism and interfaith dialogue, protects minorities and supports Israel.