We are pleased to announce the 2017 Honorees:
LL Cool J
LL COOL J is an entertainment icon who has found great success crossing into multiple mediums. A two-time Grammy® Award winner, recording artist, talented actor, author, NAACP Image Award winner, entrepreneur and philanthropist, LL continues to display his wide range of talents with every project.
First introduced to the world in 1984 as a Def Jam Records flagship artist, LL is the first rap artist to amass ten consecutive platinum-plus selling albums. The multiplatinum artist and two time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee is currently tied for third place for most Billboard chart debuts by a rapper. In 2016, LL received a star on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame of his achievement in music.
As an actor, LL COOL J has successfully transitioned to one of the consistently highest rated shows on television. He currently stars in the eighth season of the CBS hit primetime drama series, “NCIS: LOS ANGELES,” which was recently renewed for a ninth season. His performance on the show garnered him an NAACP Image Award four years in a row and nominations in both 2015 and 2016 for his role of ‘Special Agent Sam Hanna’.
LL can currently be seen hosting and producing the third season of Jimmy Fallon-executive produced show Lip Sync Battle on Spike TV. The show, which premiered as Spike TV’s
most-watched original program ever, was nominated for an Emmy® in 2016 in the category of “Outstanding Structured Reality Program”.
LL has always been an avid philanthropist involved in numerous causes including literacy for kids as well as music and arts programs in schools. Celebrating its 13th Anniversary this year, LL’s charity “Jump & Ball” – which takes place every August in his hometown of Queens, New York – aims to give back to his local community by offering a fiveweek athletic and team building program dedicated to bringing wholesome fun to young people.
JOHNNY BENCH was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on December 7, 1947 and grew up in the small town of Binger, Oklahoma.
Johnny’s childhood dream was to become a major league baseball player and his father counseled that the position of catcher was the most direct route to that goal. Taking that advice, he was selected and signed in the 1965 amateur draft by the Cincinnati Reds. After two seasons in the minors, Bench made Cincinnati’s Major League roster for the 1968 season. This marked the beginning of one of the most successful careers in baseball history and to Johnny’s ascension as a celebrity.
Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in January 1989, Bench is undoubtedly the greatest catcher ever as stated by the Sporting News in late 1998, in which Johnny was named the 16th greatest player of all time – His successes include National League Rookie of the Year (1968), National League Most Valuable Players (1970 & 1972), World Series MVP (1976), 14-time All-Star, and 10 Gold Gloves. In 1980, Bench set an endurance record by catching 100 or more games for 13 consecutive seasons. In 1999 Johnny received baseball’s esteemed honor of selection to the All Century Team on October 24. Two more awards were added in 2015, he is one of the Cincinnati Reds Franchise Four as well as one of the Four Greatest Living Players. Over the years, Johnny has maintained a sense of balance by using his celebrity status to aid such worthy causes as the Heart Association, the American Cancer Society (as past National Chairman of Athletes vs. Cancer), the Kidney Foundation, Franciscan Sisters of Poor Health System, the American Lung Association, and the ‘Catch the Cure’ program of the Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati. He also supports the Cincinnati Symphony, and the Museum of Science and Industry in addition to the Johnny Bench Scholarship Fund, which provides funds for students to attend college in the Cincinnati area.
Johnny has also spent quite some time in entertainment, logging thousands of hours in personal appearance on television networks such as ESPN, and Fox Sports in addition to participating in events such as touring with Bob Hope’s Christmas Shows, and visiting troops in the Far East during Desert Storm. He has also sung with the Cincinnati Pops, authored books, and was the host of the Emmy-Award winning instructional show, “The Baseball Bunch.”Johnny’s national broadcasting background includes nine years with CBS Radio broadcasting the National Game of the Week, the All-Star Game, the League Championship Series and the World Series as well as play-by-play on Reds’ television.
Johnny’s corporate involvement is evident in long term spokesman relationships, both present and past with the Cincinnati based Fifth Third Bank and national retailer, S&K Menswear.
Johnny is a symbol of winning through hard work and teamwork as outlined in his keynote presentation featuring, “The Vowels of Success “which highlights easy to remember motivational tips. A much traveled and well experienced speaker, Johnny would be a great addition to your event.
Johnny Quote: “A slump is like a soft bed, easy to get in to, but hard to get out of! Persevere.”
Emmitt J. Smith
Emmitt J. Smith, III is the Chief Executive Officer of EJSmith Enterprises. His business ventures include E Smith Legacy, E Smith Realty Partners, E Smith Capital Partners, & EJ Smith Construction.
Prior to becoming a Chairman, CEO & President, Mr. Smith enjoyed a distinguished professional football career in the NFL for fifteen years. During those years, Emmitt attained several awards and accolade including three Super Bowl championships, an NFL MVP and a Super Bowl MVP and finished his career as the NFL’s All Time leading rusher. His professional career culminated with Mr. Smith being inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2010.
Mr. Smith is now aggressively translating his champion’s legacy to the business community. With companies focused on real estate development, investment and construction, Mr. Smith is actively expanding his business scope. As well known for his character and integrity as he is for his athletic ability, Mr. Smith continues to give back to the community and support higher education via Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities, an organization that annually awards college scholarships and provides enrichment opportunities to underserved youth.
Proven fast, smart and –thanks to Dancing with the Stars –smooth on his feet, Mr. Smith is a formidable executive. A respected entrepreneur, sought-after speaker and bestselling author, Mr. Smith continues to share his personal and professional stories with organizations across the country.
Mr. Smith is a graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelors Degree in Public Recreation. He is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. He is married and the father of five children.
Phillip D. Oates
Phil Oates is chairman of the board for Buzz Oates, a leading commercial real estate developer in the Greater Central Valley of California. He is responsible for leading the company’s community affairs while respecting the heritage and faith of his iconic entrepreneurial father, Buzz Oates.
Phil is also a local owner of the Sacramento Kings. Passionate about his community and the future of the city, Oates was one of the original investors instrumental in keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
Prior to Buzz Oates, Phil held a high school and elementary school teaching credential. Phil earned a B.A. in Teaching with an emphasis in Psychology from Bethany College. In 1978, he left teaching to join his father in the family business, learning every aspect; from property management to eventual leadership within the organization. He continues to provide a bridge between the company and growing multi-generational needs of the Oates family.
Buzz Oates is prominently involved in local philanthropic efforts that support faith-based fundraising, children’s causes and education through its Marvin “Buzz” Oates Charitable Foundation that continues to honor and promote the legacy of his father. A great example of this effort, in alliance with Destiny Church, Buzz Oates and the Sacramento Kings, is an event where over 4,000 children from 10 different Sacramento schools received bikes and toys during the holidays.
Phil and Jana Oates have been married for more than 35 years and have three children and one grandson.