By Dave Hendrick

Newswise — The University of Virginia Darden School of Business community came together on 25 April for the presentation of a new recognition: the inaugural Lemuel E. Lewis Bicentennial Award for Global Leadership.

The scholarship award, which was presented to Meti Aberra (Class of 2020), recognizes a student who has improved the community by demonstrating a commitment to increase inclusiveness among various economic, political, religious and social groups.

Introducing Lewis (MBA ’72), Dean Scott Beardsley recalled Lewis sitting in his office and pitching the idea of an award based on the idea of bringing Darden together.

“Lem has been an incredibly loyal and engaged alumnus. He’s a member of our Darden Board of Trustees, a Principal Donor and more than that, just an amazing person,” said Beardsley.

The inaugural award winner came from a pool of 45 nominations, which was narrowed to three finalists. A group of students on the committee made the final decision on the winner.

Darden Professor and Global Chief Diversity Officer Martin Davidson, who led the award’s selection committee, thanked Lewis and the selection committee for establishing a new “ongoing opportunity and cultural ritual” that included hours of “wonderful, heartfelt conversation” in pursuit of a richer Darden community.

Before announcing the winner, Lewis, president of and former CFO of Landmark Communications, reminded students of the similarities and differences between the School of today and the Darden he graduated from in 1972.

Much remains the same. The professors, then and now, are excellent, and the curriculum was and remains “rock solid,” Lewis said.

“Darden’s original mandate, which was to educate and train outstanding business leaders with a strong sense of ethics, is still intact,” Lewis said. “What types of big things have really changed? The one major change that I can see is you. You, the student body.”

Lewis said his class included two African-Americans, one woman and two international students.

“Fast forward to today, and you are a microcosm of the global marketplace. You represent many different countries, nationalities, religions, political and economic systems,” Lewis said. “I only wish I could roll back the clock and be a part of the learning, both in class and outside of the class, that this diversity provides. You are being prepared to be global leaders, and each and every one of you is different and has something to offer.”

Aberra, who was recently elected as incoming president of the Darden African Business Organization, thanked the Darden community for its support, and singled out Professors Shane Dikolli and Peter Belmi for their mentorship and enrichment.

“I take this as a recognition, but I also take it as more of a responsibility than anything to keep creating the honest, the connected and inclusive community that I know we can have at Darden and beyond,” Aberra said.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.