Former UN official awarded O'Connor prize for human rights advocacy

November 21, 2014

A former South African judge who fought against apartheid and champions international human rights has been honored with the first O’Connor Justice Prize.

Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, was presented the award at a dinner on Nov. 14, in Phoenix. The O’Connor Justice Prize was established by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. The prize recognizes a person who, like retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, has made extraordinary contributions to the rule of law, justice and human rights. group of people posing at awards ceremony Download Full Image

“My first reaction was ‘How wonderful to have an award named after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor,'” Pillay said. “You don’t do this for the awards, but I think this award honoring people who work for justice is very important.”

Pillay served as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to August 2014. Prior to her work at the U.N., Pillay was the first woman of color to sit on the High Court of South Africa. She has also served as a judge on the International Criminal Court and as president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

“Navanethem Pillay is the embodiment of the spirit of the O’Connor Justice Prize,” said Doug Sylvester, dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “Her personal battle with apartheid and her work on the international stage to bring dignity and respect to people of all nations by enforcing the rule of law is inspiring.”

Pillay said it is important to understand that the rule of law can break down catastrophically, as it has in Iraq and in incremental incidents, such as the rioting that followed the shooting of a young black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

While Pillay said the U.S. needs to create a plan to deal with racism, she added that the nation is a reliable “champion of human rights.”

“(The U.S.) was very helpful to me and every other member on the Commission for Human Rights,” Pillay said. “The United States really is a global player in promoting human rights.”

Despite her departure from the U.N., Pillay is not ending her efforts to promote the rule of law. Mirroring Justice O’Connor’s endeavors, Pillay will work to improve legal education – a crucial component of creating and maintaining the rule of law.

“I will dedicate my efforts to South Africa and the rest of Africa to train young lawyers in international law and on how to better argue their own laws in their own countries,” she said.

Pillay added that receiving the O’Connor Justice Prize was “deeply moving,” especially since the award was created by a law school dedicated to training well-qualified lawyers.

“I support law students.”

Top Arizona businesses honored for community impact

November 21, 2014

We all win when local companies grow, create jobs and help boost our still-recovering economy. Several of the state’s best businesses were honored Nov. 21 for their positive role in our communities at the 18th annual Spirit of Enterprise Awards, hosted by the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

“We enjoy recognizing locally owned companies that introduce innovation, empower employees, impress customers and make a real difference in Arizona,” says Sidnee Peck, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the W. P. Carey School. “This year’s Spirit of Enterprise Award winners are in a variety of industries, and they all meet a market need and have a great impact on the Valley.” W. P. Carey School of Business Download Full Image

Hundreds of business and community leaders attended an awards luncheon at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, where the winners were announced. The finalists’ impressive stories were shown on video, as the firms were lauded for ethics, energy and excellence in entrepreneurship.

The 2014 Spirit of Enterprise Award winners are:

Ersland Touch Landscape – Overcoming Adversity Award. This state-of-the-art landscape maintenance company started as a one-man, one-mower operation run out of a garage. After 30 years in business, it now has a complete customer “feedback log,” an Adopt a Highway commitment, work with nonprofits, and more than 400 residences and 20 homeowner associations as clients.

IO – Emerging Enterprise Award. This growing firm is focused on rethinking data-center technology, using software solutions, instead of just physical locations. It has more than 650 global clients, including Goldman Sachs and LexisNexis, as well as two patents and an emphasis on energy efficiency.

I-ology – Gary L. Trujillo Minority Enterprise Award sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. This woman-owned technology company offers Web design and related services. It features close client relationships, heavy community involvement and no management hierarchy, offering all employees a chance to participate in revenue sharing, stock options, flexible schedules and industry events.

Kitchell – The Hahnco Companies Special Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award. This 100-percent-employee-owned commercial builder, developer and program manager launched 65 years ago. It now has more than 850 employees, international operations, an internal leadership program, significant charitable contributions and a focus on enabling employee-driven innovation.

Melrose Pharmacy – Innovation in Entrepreneurship Award. This independent pharmacy offers fast, highly personalized service, utilizes cutting-edge equipment and supports charities like the March of Dimes and local community issues. It has also achieved a 119-percent increase in net income already for this year.

The other Spirit of Enterprise finalists this year were Clean Air Cab, Endless Entertainment, India Plaza/The Dhaba, The James Agency and Potter’s House Apothecary.

Also this year, the Spirit of Enterprise Student Entrepreneur Award went to Anthony Gonzales, a recent W. P. Carey School of Business MBA graduate. Gonzales is a finalist in Entrepreneur magazine’s College Entrepreneur of the Year competition with his grant-winning, ongoing development of FITGuard, a mouthguard designed to indicate levels of head impact for athletes, as well as a smartphone application that can provide data to a diagnosing physician.

The event also included its first-ever National Founder of the Year award. The honoree is Sam Calagione, founder and president of Delaware-based Dogfish Head Brewery. Calagione’s family-owned business started small and grew about 400 percent in just four years. He still experiments with new products, works creatively with other breweries and food companies, and has written books about his experiences as an entrepreneur.

The Spirit of Enterprise Awards are just one focus of the Center for Entrepreneurship, which helps hundreds of businesses each year. The center offers companies the chance to recruit and meet with top student talent, while also allowing students to get hands-on business-creation experience. The center recently introduced the Sun Devil Select competition to honor ASU alum-owned or alum-led businesses. The center is also self-funded and utilizes community sponsorships to sustain its activities. For more information, visit