Columbus businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert L. Wright is launching an annual symposium this August, bringing to the city a lineup of speakers aimed at enlightening and fostering minority business and community leadership.
The inaugural Bob Wright Symposium on Business Empowerment will take place 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Cunningham Center, 3100 Gentian Blvd., which is on the campus of Columbus State University.
“The symposium is designed to expose members of our community to successful entrepreneurs who are industry trailblazers and respected thought-leaders within their fields,” Wright said in a statement. “This is also the first event of its kind to take place in my hometown of Columbus, Georgia, the proud home of several influential minority business and community leaders.”
Cost for the event is $150 per person, with nearly a dozen business leaders and executives on the schedule. The symposium will be moderated by Byron Pitts, an anchor and reporter with ABC News. Linda Hadley, dean of CSU’s Turner College of Business, is helping to coordinate the event, which has a goal of offering “invaluable business insight, knowledge and experience,” along with networking opportunities, to those who attend, organizers said.
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Among those scheduled to speak at the symposium:
William F. Pickard, chairman and chief executive officer of Global Automotive Alliance, Bloomfield Heights, Mich.
Deryl McKissack, chairwoman of the board of McKissack & McKissack Construction, Washington, D.C.
Earl Stafford, CEO of Wentworth Group, Reston, Va.
Emanuel Jones, Georgia state senator and president of Atlanta-based Legacy Automotive Group, which owns the Chevrolet dealership in Columbus
Russell Wright, chairman and CEO of Sentel Corp., Alexandria, Va.
Gale Hill, owner and operator of AJH Inc., a McDonald’s franchise operator based in Columbus, Ohio
Khary Lewis, chairman and CEO of locally based Infinite Services & Solution Inc.
Sylvester Hester, vice president and chief operating officer of Global Automotive, Duluth, Ga.
Veranda Dickens, chairman of Seaway Bank and Trust Company, Chicago, Ill.
Tommy W. Dortch Jr., chair emeritus of 100 Black Men of America, and chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based TWD Inc.
The new symposium’s namesake grew up in Columbus, graduating from Spencer High School before heading to Ohio State University to pursue an optometry degree. Returning to Columbus, Wright began his eye-doctor practice while diving deeper into local politics, serving three terms on Columbus Council after his initial election in 1970.
A Republican, he founded a national political consulting firm, eventually being appointed by President Ronald Reagan to oversee Minority Small Business at the U.S. Small Business Administration. He also started a business, Dimensions International, with it growing into a company with more than 100 offices in 10 countries and 1,500 employees. His firm was purchased by conglomerate Honeywell International in 2007, fetching more than $230 million.
Wright’s philanthropic efforts have included donations to Columbus Technical College, where the Robert L. Wright Health Sciences Center bears his name. A scholarship in the name of his late mother, Pauline T. Wright, assists nursing students financially at the college.
Earlier this year, he was appointed to the advisory council of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
The Bob Wright Symposium on Business Empowerment will take place the Thursday before the annual Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum, which is Aug. 24-25 at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center. The latter event, marking its 10th anniversary, will be headlined by former President George W. Bush and his family — former First Lady Laura Bush and their daughters, Barbara and Jenna.
The Wright symposium is sponsored by the Delta Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Alpha Georgia Education Foundation. Others wishing to sponsor the event should contact Douglas Bryant at 706-566-5875 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ledger-Enquirer staff reporter Chuck Williams contributed to this report.