General Manager Rick Johnson and WGCU were recognized as the Business of the Year for 2018 at the annual People of the Year breakfast celebration Friday morning at the Westin Cape Coral.
The ceremony was sponsored by The News-Press and is a tradition of more than 30 years, held to honor the people, organizations and businesses who have made a significant difference in Southwest Florida in the past year.
Dr. Michael Martin, president of Florida Gulf Coast University, was named Person of the Year.
Emcee for the event was The News-Press’ Senior Engagement Editor, Tom Hayden. Featured speaker was Congressman Francis Rooney, 19th Congressional District.
The letter nominating WGCU cited recent awards, including a National Edward R. Murrow Award for coverage of Hurricane Irma; Regional Murrow Awards; Radio Station of the Year, chosen by the Associated Press Broadcasters; collaborations with other media organizations including The News-Press, for this year’s First Amendment Festival, and Gulfshore Life, for stories and the program Civilized Discourse in a Polarized Society; expanding the local call-in radio show Gulf Coast Live from one to four days per week; and other accomplishments.
Other finalists for the Business of the Year were Norman Love Confections and Sunshine Ace Hardware. People of the Year candidates included Martin, Brian Rist, executive chairman of Storm Smart Industries and Dr. Aaron Wohl, Lee Health physician.
Winners, followed by finalists, in other categories were:
Trailblazer of the Year: The Southwest Florida Community Foundation and City of Fort Myers Partnering to Build the Collaboratory; Jesse Bryson, founder, I WILL Mentorship Foundation; March for Our Lives Southwest Florida.
Hero of the Year: Megan O’Grady, student, Bishop Verot High School; Clinic for the Rehabiliation of Wildlife; Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida.
Public Official of the Year: John Szerlag, Cape Coral City Manager; Greg Adkins, Superintendent, Lee Schools and Lee County School Board; Tommy Doyle, Lee County Supervisor of Elections.
Rising Star: Taylor Bouchard, senior at Estero High School; Jin YuHan Burgess, a senior at Cypress Lake High School; and Harrison Strohl, a senior at Riverdale High School.
Young Professional of the Year: Nadege Borgat, executive director, The New Beginnings; Indera DeMine, immigration attorney; and Kelly Hettenbaugh, lead therapist, Carlisle Naples.
People to Watch: Gwyn Gittens, chair, Lee County School Board; Carmine Marceno, Sheriff, Lee County; and Armando Llechu, chief administrative officer, Golisano Children’s Services at Lee Health.
The Luminary, a lifetime achievement award, was Cape Coral business owner Elmer Tabor.