A hint of the future is always on display at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Annual Mayoral Luncheon.
Last week, more than 1,000 of the region's top business people gathered to hear Mayor Michael Nutter's vision for the future of Philadelphia. And just before the Mayor's rousing speech, the audience was introduced to freshmen Tiffany Diaz of La Salle University and Samantha Forgas of Drexel, each a recipient of Comcast's Gus Amsterdam Leadership Award.
The Gus Amsterdam Award is an offshoot of Comcast's signature Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program, which every year honors approximately 1,800 graduating seniors around the country with $1,000 scholarships. Amsterdam recipients are selected from among those who attended public high school in Philadelphia and chose to continue their college education in the city. Their scholarship award is upgraded to $5,000 and they are celebrated at the Mayoral Luncheon, where Comcast is presenting sponsor. They also learn a bit more about Gus Amsterdam, who was a founding board member of Comcast and a close friend of company founder Ralph J. Roberts.
As Ralph told the audience, "Gus was an outstanding businessman in Philadelphia. He had the respect of everybody. When we were starting out, Gus gave us that feeling that we should always do better, and to go forward with great integrity. That's what Comcast has tried to do all these years."
Integrity, academic excellence and community service all factor in to the scholarship program, which has recognized more than 13,000 students since 2001. As Tiffany and Samantha approached the stage, Charisse R. Lillie, Comcast's VP of Community Investment and Executive VP of the Comcast Foundation, talked of their multiple leadership activities, volunteer service and impressive grade point averages. Each was first in her class, Tiffany at Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School, and Samantha at Philadelphia Academy Charter.
"As you can imagine," Charisse said to the audience, "we are all excited to see what the future holds for Tiffany and Samantha."
Both were thrilled, of course, to meet Ralph. He warmly congratulated them and encouraged them to pursue their studies, but also told them that they should have some fun in college.
I spoke for a few moments before the event with each recipient. While they were nervous about being on stage, they were proud of their awards and hopeful for the future.
"I was shocked. I didn't even know there was a second part to the scholarship," said Tiffany, who plans to switch her major from Psychology to Business Administration. "I called my counselor right away and she was so excited. My whole tuition was covered, basically, and allowed me to stay on campus. Today, I'm hoping to meet some cool people and maybe get a little taste of the business world."
Samantha, who's studying Engineering, said it was "really something to learn that only two people received this award. I'm sure a lot were very deserving. For me, it meant I didn't have to get an extra loan for this year, so it was really helpful, financially speaking. I think I was chosen because I was involved in a lot of leadership and community events in high school. It's so great that Comcast is doing this."
Samantha, incidentally, had to leave the luncheon right after being recognized and posing for a few photos. She wanted to be on time for a 1 p.m. lab at Drexel. True dedication!