NEW YORK — If Manny Chirico had listened to his father, he would be retired and reaping the financial rewards. “I told him to get a fireman’s job,” his father Dominic said. “But he didn’t listen. He’d have a pension now.”
The chief executive officer of PVH Corp. said he had tried to follow his father’s advice, but failed the physical test by not being able to walk on a skinny rail with a heavy backpack. “I was an athlete and I thought I’d have no problem, but I took two steps and fell off,” he said. So he turned to the business world instead.
And it’s a good thing for thousands of PVH employees that he did.
Chirico was one of four men honored as a Father of the Year at the 77th annual awards here on Monday. The Bronx native had his own cheering section at the luncheon with his parents, wife, three sons, daughters-in-law and two granddaughters all in attendance to share in his honor. His son Dominic, senior vice president of finance for Calvin Klein, presented his dad with the award. “I have four generations here,” the elder Chirico said.
Although being a chief executive officer is no easy task, being a dad is a whole other challenge, he said. “It’s one of the most satisfying awards I could ever win,” he said. “There’s nothing more important than being a husband and a father.” And it provides a different kind of result — “a return on investment in family,” he said, while also slipping in that PVH stock is currently trading at its high for the year.
In addition to having a great role model in his own father, Chirico also credited his wife Joanne who “allowed me to focus on my career while she focused on everything else.” She said that despite his grueling schedule, he still managed to attend his boys’ baseball and soccer games and even coached their teams. “He’s one of the last good guys,” Joanne said.
Also honored was Mario Lopez, who started out on “Saved by the Bell” over 30 years ago and now is a host of “Extra” and national radio shows as well as an author.
Flanked by his wife Courtney, he was proud to show off his two young kids, Gia and Dominic, who were mugging for the cameras and Instagram shots prior to the lunch. “They’re crazy and very animated,” he said.
Lopez said that despite all his success in entertainment, “nothing will compare to being a father.” As a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Mexico, the self-professed “Mama’s boy” said his dad also had a huge impact on his life. He described him as “always a hustler,” working hard to take care of his family. “My dad never allowed us to be lazy,” he said, adding that he wants his own kids to be polite, respectful, work hard, stay focused and do the right thing.
Lopez was the target of a little good-natured ribbing from his fellow honorees. Chirico commented that he should have worn a tie, and NBC’s Willie Geist, the third father of the year, joked about Lopez’s physique.
“Dad Bod is a thing now,” Geist said, “but Mario is violating that and making the rest of us look bad. Let it go, you’re killing us.”
Physiques aside, the “Sunday Today” show host said his daughter is into hip-hop dance — “She doesn’t walk anywhere, she just dances.” — and his son is a vintage “SNL” fanatic, watching episodes from the Chris Farley years constantly.
“Sometimes it’s exhausting,” he said, but when you see your child born “it’s like a homing beacon is turned on in your heart. All you want to do is get home.”
And as his children get older, Geist is enjoying their jokes and personalities. He went on to relate some of his son George’s most….interesting questions: How did El Chapo build that tunnel, and does Bigfoot have children? “Can anyone answer that question with any degree of confidence,” he said, adding that Bigfoot is always seen walking alone and perhaps he’s just on his way home.
Also honored at the lunch was Ben Taylor, vice president of sales for the Western Great Lakes region of iHeartMedia Markets Group, who was honored with the Ashok C. Sani All-Star Dad award presented by Esquire.
Taylor’s 12-year-old son Brad read the touching essay that won his dad the honor, saying that in addition to his full-time job, Ben also finds the time to be a volunteer firefighter and a coach for many youth sports. He also does the laundry on the weekends to save his wife Tiffany the task and “saves up his change” to take the family on vacation. And all of this after his own father left the family when Ben was just a child.
The luncheon was a record-breaker in terms of fund-raising, bringing in $1.25 million for Save the Children’s U.S. programs and Save the Children Action Network.