Darrell McNair, president and CEO of the MVP Group of Companies, and Tomislav Mihaljevic, president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, were awarded the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio’s Humanitarian Award for 2022 for their work toward building a diverse community in Cleveland.
The award is presented yearly by Peggy Zone Fisher, president and CEO of the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio, and the board of directors from the organization.
The award is given out to Clevelanders who have a special impact in Northeast Ohio and promote diversity, explains Zone Fisher. The candidates this year were picked especially for their service to the community.
“The theme of our 68th Annual Humanitarian Award Celebration was ‘teach acceptance, build community,’ and Darrell McNair is a shining example of what this means in our communities,” Zone Fisher says.
McNair’s volunteer and philanthropic accomplishments demonstrate his commitment to leading through service. He holds many positions of leadership in Cleveland, including member and previous chairman of the Presidents’ Council, as well as member and past chair of the Minority Business Financing Advisory Board. When acting as chairman of the Presidents’ Council, McNair partnered with Cleveland corporations with the goal of creating connections and business opportunities for the local minority businesses community.
“As a minority, by default, you’re always in a position of looking for inclusion opportunities,” says McNair. “One of the organizations I became a part of was the Presidents’ Council, which is an economic development organization that’s comprised of the largest African American owned businesses in Cleveland. It’s a very unique model, I’d say one of a kind in the country, where larger African American businesses are partnered with the majority of corporate CEOs in town. The intended purpose was mentorship, for one. It helped us understand our role in these relationships to help grow minority businesses through partnerships and business relationships.”
Through these connections, McNair helped create other programs with the intention of mentoring.
“We started the Emerging Entrepreneur Program at Baldwin Wallace, which was ten months of consolidated MBA for students so they can grow that pipeline and that’s creating opportunities… There was also the high school PC Scholars program which helps assist these students to graduate high school and also shows them a track to entrepreneurship,” McNair says.
McNair places a high value on mentorship and lifting up the community because he says he believes it’s his duty to the city and other minority groups who live here.
“Cleveland has changed, and we needed to find a way to keep our community engaged in inclusive development and economic development…and If you’re a minority you are, for lack of a better word, thrust into that spot to fight for your survival. You have to be advocating for others.”
McNair also talked about his relationship with Mayor Justin M. Bibb and maintained that he acts as a mentor for nothing more than the good of his city.
“It’s funny, whenever I get an award I ask, ‘Why? What did I do?’ I don’t look at what I do as being special — I look at what I do as what I’m supposed to do,” McNair says. “When I look back on what I did that has made a difference, I’ve just been a mentor to folks and it’s what I think people have noticed. I was involved early on in the career of the mayor when he got out of school. I worked with a young man that got shot ... and I got him a scholarship. These are the things that I think people have noticed; it’s stuff I don’t normally promote.”
Tomislav Mihaljevic is also a pillar of the community in Cleveland and has a hand in the foundations of Cleveland businesses. Besides his position as president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, Mihaljevic is a member of the GE board of directors, co-chairman of the board of directors of the US-UAE Business Council, a member of the East Coast Executive Summit and a director on the boards of OneTen, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the United Way of Greater Cleveland.
Zone Fisher talks about how Mihaljevic was nominated because the Cleveland Clinic and his position there are so central to the city’s community.
“As president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Mihaljevic strives to care for each community he serves. A staple in Northeast Ohio and beyond, Dr. Mihaljevic embodies what it means to teach acceptance and build community,” Zone Fisher says
Mihaljevic teaches from experience and values mentoring as well. He started at Cleveland Clinic as a surgeon in the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.
“Though my name is on the award, this is really an award for Cleveland Clinic’s 76,000 caregivers around the world,” he says. “At Cleveland Clinic, diversity is an intrinsic part of who we are and who we serve. It is rooted in our mission and cultivated in each and every caregiver. In 2021, Cleveland Clinic treated nearly 3 million patients worldwide — people of many races, ethnicities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, cultures and other backgrounds.”
Mihaljevic also talks about his connection to minority groups and how they make up so much of the staff and patients at Cleveland Clinic; he hopes to have as diverse a workforce as possible.
“Our aspiration is to have a workforce as diverse as the patients we serve, because the diversity of caregivers allows for better care of diverse patient populations,” Mihaljevic says, “I could not be prouder to accept the 2022 Humanitarian Award from an organization dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry and racism in our community. The Diversity Center is committed to this noble mission, by helping to create communities where all people are respected and valued.”
More information on the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio can be found at diversitycenterneo.org.