Chamber of Commerce 90th Annual Gala Celebrates Success


Under a banner reading “ C e l e b r a t i n g Success,” leaders from the worlds of business, historic preservation, education and tourism were all honored on June 2 as a sold-out audience of 1,000 paid homage to them at the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce’s 90th Annual Dinner Gala and Silent Auction.

The elegant event, which was held against a backdrop saluting the contributions that arts and culture make to our community through a variety of performances that paid tribute to the area’s cultural treasures. Upon approaching the Miami Beach Convention Center, guests were treated to music from members of the FIU Jazz Ensemble.

Member of the Miami Beach Marching Band, flanked by a color guard, led the guests into the dining hall, where they were serenaded by America’s Orchestral Academy, the New World Symphony, which performed with great appropriateness “Serenatta Notturna,” from Mozart Serenade #6.

During the awards ceremony, the honorees received a personally handcrafted original art piece designed by students of the FIU College of Architecture and the Arts, one of the newest institutions to now make its home on Miami Beach. Also, a video showing the accomplishments of all of the nominees, produced by Platinum Sponsor Sheila Duffy- Lehrman and Tropic Survival, was played for each presentation.

At the start of the dinner, Chamber CEO and President Jerry Libbin set the tone by paying tribute to outgoing Chairman Jason Loeb, who he hailed for bringing the Chamber to a new level, setting the stage for the dinner’s record turnout. “This is the largest dinner gala we’ve ever had in the history of the chamber, and it is a great milestone,” said Libbin. “It is amazing to see so many figureheads gathered together in one room. Every person here is an example of what makes our city its Number One destination,” he added.

The first honoree, Tony Goldman, Chairman, the Goldman Properties Company, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for “seeing a dilapidated collection of buildings on Ocean Drive and being at the forefront of what it is today -America’s Riviera,” said Loeb.

Discovering America’s Riviera-our very own South Beach,” said Loeb.

“Twenty seven years ago, when I first set foot on Ocean Drive and 6th Street and I looked to the north, I didn’t know I was setting foot on the American Riviera, all I knew was that I had fallen deeply in love. It was love at first sight and I remain deeply in love to this day,” said Goldman. But even though he is acclaimed as a visionary who has helped restore cities across the country, Goldman said, “I will always consider Miami Beach my shining achievement.”

Steven D. Sonenreich, President and CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center, was given the Citizen of the Year Award for building the medical center into a top-flight hospital. “I am delighted and humbled to receive this wonderful honor,” said Sonenreich, who worked his way up through the ranks of the hospital during his initial 20-year tenure, and then left to help build up Cedars Medical Center in Miami, before returning here to the Mount Sinai top post in 2001.

The announcement of the next nominee for the Distinguished Service Award, Dr. Rosann Sidener, elicited much excitement, as the Miami Beach Senior High School Principal has been much in the news, having just been selected as the 2012 Florida Association of School Administrators’ Principal of the Year.

Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower introduced Dr. Sidener and congratulated the Chamber upon her selection, saying, “This particular award is very special, and to have a principal receive it is also so important because this shows the Chamber recognizes the importance of education.”

Principal Sidener turned her acceptance speech into a rousing affirmation of the importance of public education. Speaking from a podium she had draped with an American flag, which, she joked, she had “swiped” from a classroom, she told the Chamber she was accepting the award as an affirmation of the importance of public schools. “Public education is the foundation upon which this country was built. Public schools are what put this country on the map,” she said.

Jose Abreu, Director of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department was then called to the stage to accept the Excellence in Tourism Award.

Abreu, who took over the expansion of Miami International Airport in 2005, when it was at one of it’s lowest points, is credited with helping to complete the $6.2 billion renovation, and also leading the airport to it’s new top position as the fastest growing in the country.

“I look at this award as confirmation that without question MIA is the front door to our community, and to have a community that supports us only makes our job easier,” Abreu said.

Among the highest of the awards is the City National Bank Hi-Tides Outstanding Achievement Award, which is given to a graduate of Miami Beach High School, and this year’s honoree, Gary R. Gerson, Founding Partner, Gerson, Preston, Robinson and Co, PA. In the introduction, Gerson was lauded for his 40-year career, which has ranged from being the youngest person in the country to become a CPA (he was 21) to becoming the only accountant ever to be inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame for his role in creating an academic program to tutor athletes.

In his acceptance speech, Gerson told the audience he was “a very lucky man,” because his family moved to Miami Beach to run a small hotel. “In those days, way before the Internet, we would have to go down to the Chamber to get brochures about Miami Beach to send to our prospective guests. This is how I worked my way through college,” he told the audience.

During the dinner, a live auction, a silent auction, and the raffling off of an all-expense paid trip to London was also held.

Afterwards, Chamber members proceeded to the “City National Bank Blue Room Dessert and After Party,” which included a live DJ and musicians, performers, tables filled with luscious desserts, and the opportunity to watch the hand rolling of cigars with the City National Bank logo and receive them as souvenirs.

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