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The Phoenix Awards - Rooted in Excellence

By: MPI Georgia | May 11, 2021

Moving forward, with a look back 

By:   Lance Hornecker, CMP, CMM
        Connie Bergeron, CMP - Contributing writer
         Allyson Wagner, CMP - Contributing writer 

This year the Phoenix Awards will truly rise from the ashes as we all begin experiencing life again from the ground up. We are embracing our Rooted with Excellence theme to honor all our volunteer member's return (if ever so gently) back to in-person events and celebrate with style.

MPI Georgia has a rich and storied history and, as we move forward, it is always important to look back. I recently had the opportunity to talk with our longest continuous serving member, Connie Bergeron, CMP, about MPI Georgia, our history, and our commitment to excellence.

In 1976 several like-minded industry professionals approached a relatively young Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and we became a “Chapter in Formation” with the mission of gathering 50+ plus members in order to be installed as an official chapter. In 1977 our chapter was formed and was championed by the first president, Ester White. This makes MPI Georgia 45 years old and one of the oldest chapters within MPI. Several years later the chapter saw the need to recognize the accomplishments of our volunteer members and our awards gala was born.

“Back then, the chapter was managed exclusively by the volunteers with just one administrator to handle the newsletter and bank accounts”, recalls Connie Bergeron, CMP, who was president from 1990-1991. “The awards gala was originally a luncheon but was moved to a dinner event during my year to allow the nominees to enjoy their event with their family and friends".

In 2002, the Strategic Events Team, led by Ann Godi, CMP, formed an exploratory committee with the goal of rebranding the awards gala, raising awareness and growing our attendance. In 2003, the first Phoenix Awards was held in the Egyptian Ballroom at the Fox Theater. Given Atlanta’s rich history of coming back from the brink of being burned during the Civil War, it was only fitting that we would choose a Phoenix to serve as the inspiration for the name.

In the early 1990’s, Connie was on a sales trip with a fellow MPI Member and Arizona Sunbelt Chapter counterpart when she mentioned that she wanted to create an award to honor those in long-time volunteer service. “I mentioned my vision for this to my fellow chapter president, and she said that their chapter had just created a similar award”, says Bergeron. “I really struggled with a name, then it occurred to me that the award should carry the namesake of our 3-time president Hayward C. Cox, Jr.”. The Hayward C. Cox, Jr., CMP Continuing Quality Award was created to honor those whose long-time volunteer service made the most impact on our chapter. A legend in his own right Cox retired from Equitable Companies after a long and successful career and started his second career as a caterer and event planner. Hayward also served as chapter president in 1986, 1987 and, 1989. Only 3 people have ever served for more than 1 term. Hayward also served on the MPI International Board for 10 years and obtained the newly minted Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation in the second class in 1986.

In 2007, as chapter president, I saw the need to create an award to honor those whose contributions impacted not only the chapter but also had a profound effect and influence on me in the role as president of the chapter. The President’s Award was created and awarded at the 2007 Phoenix Awards held at the Sheraton Atlanta. There were double recipients; Brian Green, CMP, CMM and, Lavon Lacey for their commitment to excellence. Green receiving for his unwavering support as a sponsor with the Barbados Tourism Authority and Lacey for his excellence in education as the chair of our monthly educational programs.

In 2012, Bergeron again brought forth a motion to the board to create another award designed to recognize a member who influenced the path and future of an MPI member and/or the chapter as a whole. Named for Lorraine H. Powell, who was president in 1993, the award recipient will embody the spirit of MPI and what it means to its members and the meetings industry. Sadly, we lost Powell to cancer in 2011, but her memory is forever cemented with an award in her name. The first Lorraine Powell Influence Award was given in 2012 to then chapter president, Jeff Whitney. Whitney won the award again in 2016 and has been the only member to date to have won twice. 

Some interesting Phoenix Awards Facts that immediately come to mind: 

  • Historically, the Phoenix Awards sets the stage for the “passing of the gavel” when the outgoing president turns the reigns over to the incoming president.

  • Only one person has won the Lorraine Powell Influence Award twice, Jeff Whitney.

  • Only one person has won Supplier of the Year twice, Lance Hornecker, CMP, CMM

  • Only one person has won Planner of the Year twice, Leslie Castaneda, CMP.

  • Most Awarded Committee for Committee of the Year: The Phoenix Awards Committee

  • 2020 saw the first-ever Virtual Phoenix Awards, presided over by President Abby Freeman.

  • Since 2002, The Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, W Atlanta Midtown & The Fox Theater have hosted the awards the most at 2 each.

  • The most awarded MPI Georgia Member to date (individual or as committee chair) is Connie Bergeron, CMP followed by Lance Hornecker, CMP, CMM

  • Longest-serving MPI Georgia Members are, Connie Bergeron, CMP (joined 1980), followed by Paulette Hopkins (1987) and, Paul Griffing (1987).

  • Past presidents serving the most terms, Gerald O. Demery (1978, 1979 and 1990), Hayward C. Cox Jr., CMP (1986, 1987 and 1989), followed by David A. Smith (1982 and 1983).

  • The longest-serving chairs of any committee are Connie Bergeron, CMP, and Gregg Lauer, CMP, for their work on the MPI Georgia CMP Study Group.

As we slowly emerge from lockdown and begin to ramp up to in-person meetings, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the wonderful things that our current volunteer leaders have accomplished in order to keep our chapter thriving. In particular, I would like to give a big MPI Georgia shout out to 2019-2020 President, Abby Freeman, for her diligence and guidance as we pivoted to keep our members safe while continuing to get the important work done, and, Allyson Wagner, CMP, our current president, for taking the reins during this crazy year and continuing to steer us through this storm.

“This year's Phoenix Awards will bring us together in a way we have anxiously been waiting for during the past year.  I look forward to having the privilege of sitting in the same room with my industry family to celebrate the resilience each of you has shown and the recovery we are working towards. Please join me!”, says Wagner.

As I reflect on my time with MPI Georgia, as a past president, and as a 3-time chair of this event, I can recall so many wonderful memories. All of them are devoted to honoring those in our chapter and their contributions. What memories will you make this year or in the future with MPI? Tell us about it! We’d love to hear it. Post your memories using the hashtag #mpigeorgia or better yet, share your pictures with us by uploading them to our flashback campaign. You might just see your face on our social channels! 

The 2021 Phoenix Awards, Rooted In Excellence, is set to take place on June 24, 2021, at 6 pm at the brand-new Guardian Works. Our Emcee for the evening will be celebrity DJ and producer David Krieger. Learn more about this event and secure your seat or VIP Pod by clicking here. Discounted hotel room rates have been arranged at our official hotel partner, Bellyard, West Midtown, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel. Reserve your room by clicking here.

This evening would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors (confirmed at the time of publication).

Annual Sponsors: Reno Tahoe,  Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Active Production & Design, and Photosynthesis Studios

Silver Sponsors:  Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau and World of Coca-Cola

Venue:  Guardian Works

Caterer:  Affairs To Remember

Emcee: Krieger DJ/Emcee

Take-away Gifts: Sensational Baskets

Photo Booth: Button It Up and Far Out Galaxy

VIP Transportation: Casey Corporate Transportation

Hotel Partner:  Bellyard, West Midtown, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel

Mobile App: MeetApp

Registration Software: Avolio



MPI Georgia

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