Walter Kaitz Foundation Dinner: Honoring Those Who Advocate

Sep 12, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Hall

Special to TelevisionWeek

This week’s 22nd annual Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner in New York will have a somewhat subdued tone, coming barely two weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated a large portion of the Gulf Coast. Still, the foundation expects to raise more than $1 million to support the cable industry’s diversity initiatives.

Last week the National Cable & Telecommunications Association was working out details of a new nonprofit entity to raise money for cable industry employees and their families affected by the hurricane. NCTA leaders are expected to discuss the specifics this week when they convene in New York for a board meeting, the Kaitz dinner and Diversity Week. The NCTA board will also meet in its capacity as overseer of the Kaitz Foundation, part of the extreme makeover the foundation underwent two years ago.

Glenn Britt, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable, led a task force to reshape the organization’s work after it decided its original mission had become outdated. For most of its history, the foundation focused on providing fellowships and placing women and minorities into management positions with cable companies.

“That was important and it still is important, but that mission was set up at a time when most companies were much smaller,” Mr. Britt said. Over time, industry consolidation led to much larger organizations, many of which initiated their own diversity programs, which duplicated Kaitz efforts.

In its new incarnation, the Kaitz Foundation exists to raise money to back successful programs undertaken by other organizations. It’s a change Cox Senior VP and Chief People Officer Mae Ms. Douglas said makes a lot of sense.

“There was a belief that the work needed to be more focused, and I am glad they are becoming more clear in their focus,” she said.

The money raised at this year’s dinner will be funneled to three organizations: the Emma L. Bowen Foundation, Women in Cable & Telecommunications and the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications.

The organizations supported by Kaitz work with people at various career stages. Emma Bowen provides internship and mentorship programs for students interested in the cable industry. WICT and NAMIC focus on providing midlevel managers with the skill sets they will need to advance within their companies.

“As Kaitz continues to fund those organizations, they are able to provide the programs to make sure that women and minorities are ready to move up,” Ms. Smith said.

The theme of this year’s dinner is “Diversity 365,” meant to highlight the work that cable operators, programmers and suppliers do to promote diversity. The banquet will take place Wednesday at the Hilton New York. NBC News anchor Lester Holt will serve as master of ceremonies. Attendance is expected to match or exceed the 1,400 at last year’s event.

“Our funding companies do a yeoman’s job every day of every year and that is something we don’t acknowledge. Diversity is a business imperative,” Ms. Smith said.

Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast, and George Bodenheimer, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, serve as co-chairs of the Kaitz affair, which will feel and look different from previous soirees.

The foundation traditionally has honored a single industry executive for his or her work. Last year the organization cited the work of Spencer Kaitz, who started the foundation in 1983 as a tribute to his late father.

This year a new format recognizes the work of four Diversity Champions. The honorees are Glenn Britt, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable, and a trio of Cox Communications executives: Ms. Douglas; James Hatcher, senior VP for legal and regulatory affairs; and Sherryl Love, VP of material management.

In addition, the Kaitz Foundation will note the work of its first Diversity Advocate, Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.

“[Rep. Watt] has done an incredible job at making sure there is parity for ethnic minorities in terms of business and in communities,” Ms. Smith said. “He’s just an incredible man.”

Mr. Hatcher, a member of the foundation’s strategic review commission, said the work to reshape Kaitz may not yet be done.

“We are going to keep an eye on the current efforts, and if they seem to be getting the results we desire, they may not change much,” he said.

Although the foundation’s focus has narrowed, Ms. Smith said, the organization will expand its footprint in certain strategic areas in the months ahead. She plans to beef up the foundation’s Web site (www.walterkaitz.org), transforming it into a comprehensive information resource for people wanting to get into the cable business, and to ramp up the foundation’s support of supplier diversity programs.

“We are reaching out to members that currently do not have these programs in place,” she said.

Mr. Britt said that while the Kaitz Foundation, NAMIC, WICT and Emma L. Bowen are making great strides on the diversity front, the cable industry remains short of its ultimate goals.

“We are partway along a difficult journey,” he said. “But we’re getting there.”

22nd Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation Dinner

When: Wednesday, Sept. 14

Where: Hilton New York

Purpose: To raise an estimated $1 million to support diversity programs of NAMIC, WICT and the Emma L. Bowen Foundation

Who: Banquet co-chairs: Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO, Comcast; George Bodenheimer, co-chairman, Disney Media Networks

Honorees: Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt and Cox Communications executives Mae Douglas, James Hatcher and Sherryl Love will be honored as Diversity Champions. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., will be honored as Diversity Advocate.

Emcee: Lester Holt, anchor, NBC/MSNBC

Cost: Individual tickets are $1,000; tables, $10,000