November 13, 2013

Walter Kaitz Annual Dinners Raised Over $35 Million for Diversity

For one splendid evening each year, industry brass and distinguished professionals come together with friends and colleagues to renew its commitment to diversity and inclusion in cable and entertainment. But this year also marked a major milestone. The Walter Kaitz Foundation’s Annual Fundraising Dinner held at the New York Marriott Marquis on October 9, 2013, celebrated its 30th anniversary of an impressive fundraising mission that totals over $35 million, raising $1.75 million this year alone.

Walter Kaitz's daughters Carolyn Caligiuri, Patricia Kaitz and Gwen Morris.
Walter Kaitz’s Daughters –
Carolyn Caligiuri, Patricia Kaitz, Gwen Morris

Among the over 1,000 guests in attendance were several members of the Kaitz family including Walter Kaitz’s daughters, Patricia Kaitz and Gwen Morris. “I am awestruck at the amount of money raised. Dad would be so honored and humbled,” said Patricia, his oldest daughter. “My dad was passionate about the cable industry and cared deeply about a diverse cable community. The Foundation has done an incredible job of reaching out to so many people, helping so many. It is one of the best run and productive foundations in the industry,” she said.

“The financial support we receive from you [the cable industry] has and continues to impact careers, innovation and consumer choice that fuels business growth,” said David Porter, Executive Director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation. “In addition to our own inclusive outreach programs, your investment directly supports the missions of NAMIC, WICT, and the Emma L. Bowen Foundation whose focus is on developing our future leaders.”

The Foundation also recognizes the work done by other organizations whose advocacy efforts have had significant industry impact. The night’s recipients of the Diversity Advocate Award went to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Sony Pictures Entertainment was the recipient of the Foundation’s Diversity Champion Award.

Neil Smit (left) and Philippe Dauman (right) with LULAC National Executive Director Brent A. Wilkes (center)
Comcast’s Neil Smit (Left) and Viacom’s Philippe Daumann (Right) with LULAC’s Brent Wilkes (Center)

Co-chaired by Philippe Dauman, President & CEO, Viacom, Inc., and Neil Smit, President & CEO, Comcast Cable and EVP, Comcast Corporation, the Dinner Committee also included Glenn Britt, Chairman & CEO, Time Warner Cable; Alfred Liggins, III, CEO & President, Radio One and TVOne; Abbe Raven, Chairman, A+E Networks; Thomas M. Rutledge, President & CEO, Charter Communications; and Robert Stanzione, Chairman & CEO, ARRIS.

“We’re here because the Walter Kaitz Annual Dinner is important,” said Smit. He went on to elaborate, “At Comcast, we seek to build an empowered diversity organization with a great collection of people sharing thoughts and ideas. This dinner is a special gathering throughout the industry because of the people it brings together. It is always nice to take a pause from day-to-day business to meet together to share ideas and spend a little time with an industry made up of wonderful people and great history.”

Dauman remarked about the significance of the Foundation on its 30th Anniversary. “Viacom’s wide diversity of programming is a reflection of the audiences we serve around the world and a product of the multicultural voices who shape our content behind the screens. The Walter Kaitz Foundation has long shared our commitment, leading the charge on inclusion for 30 years. The Foundation has challenged the industry to be accountable for diversity in all aspects of the cable business, making all of our companies stronger for it,” he said.

Building on A Legacy

Michael Powell
NCTA’s Michael Powell delivering opening remarks

Michael Powell, NCTA President and CEO, began the evening by putting his prepared script aside to “speak from the heart.” “I have never been more proud, more moved, more impressed to look at a crowd that has been so committed to diversity. It’s remarkable,” he said. “Giving someone that opportunity to go where they have never gone before, to grow in ways they never imagined, is really what the goal of diversity is.” Affirming cable’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, he remarked, “You don’t have to move out to move up, not in this industry.”

Mario Lopez and Jennifer Hudson marked the occasion with their superstar power to help commemorate the celebration. The evening was hosted by Lopez, host of Fox’s hit program X Factor, the nationally syndicated daily show EXTRA, and host of NUVOtv’s exclusive interview series, Mario: One-on-One. A sparkling surprise appearance by Hudson brought down the house performing a full set that included the song that made her a mega-star “And I Am Telling You”.

The dinner was immediately followed by an “After Party”, sponsored by TVOne, where Hudson joined the crowd of fans who enjoyed live performances by the unique styling of the inimitable Chaka Khan, along with R&B Divas, Chante Moore, and KeKe Wyatt. It was truly a night to remember.

Mario Lopez sites down for an interview minutes before taking the stage to host the 30th Anniversary Kaitz Dinner
Mario Lopez sits down for an interview minutes before taking the stage to host the 30th Anniversary Kaitz Dinner

In an interview before the show, we sat down with Lopez to get his thoughts about the evening and the Walter Kaitz Foundation. Coincidentally, and somewhat hard to believe, is that this year is also the 30th year of the entertainment career of the film and television actor, host and author of three fitness and two children’s books. When asked his perspective about diversity in the cable industry since his start in television at 10 years old on the NBC sitcom “Saved by the Bell”, he responded, “It’s grown a lot over the last 30 years, but still has a long way to go. It’s wonderful to be working with a network like NUVOtv that is focusing on modern Latinos. Today, we represent 16-18 percent of the industry, I’d like to see those numbers increase,” said Lopez. “We’ve been able to get more people behind the scenes and have our presence grow in front of and behind the camera,” he said. “With great outlets like NUVOtv which focuses on niche, I look forward to expanding more content.”

When further asked what has had the single largest impact on the industry, he said “At NUVOtv, the focus is on the ability to tell stories. A good story has to be universal to make it relatable to the masses.”

Speaking of the masses, Patricia Kaitz had this to say: “Everybody is important no matter what they do or what level in life they are. Everybody has a place in the world. That’s what dad taught us.”

As a witness to his proud legacy, Gwen Morris, Walter Kaitz’s second daughter, said of her father, “Dad was an inspiration and mentor to many people. Born in Russia, where information was not accessible to all, he believed in the opportunities that the US presented. He would be very proud of what the Foundation has accomplished to date, and continues to accomplish. He would be honored by the incredible participation and support of all those who attended the dinner. His vision lives on through the actions and commitments of others.”

No truer words were spoken of Walter Kaitz whose legacy lives on through the Foundation that bears his name.