• Friday , 23 February 2018

Cultivating Leadership: Union League of Philadelpia Hosts The Germination Project’s 2017 Draft Day Gala

“People always say that I have all of these projects, but I really only have one project, and that’s our region.” – Ajay Raju

Story, photos by Sharon Kozden

The Union League’s Lincoln Hall was the place to be where The Germination Project’s 3rd Annual Draft Day Gala was held. The assemblage included an impressive roster of notable community members as well as an equally diverse lineup of awards, inductions, presentations, performances and more. The gala, chaired by Executive VP and Provost JoAnne Epps of Temple University, introduced (in athletic-draft fashion) the 17 most recent inductees to 2017’s Germination Project’s Fellowship Class as well as the presentation (by Craig Snyder, President and CEO, World Affairs Council) of the Germination Project ICON Award to Temple’s Health System President and CEO, Dr. Larry Kaiser.

That’s a heady mix of laudatory goings on. Further enlivening the evening were dynamic creative performances by talented community members, a spectacular cocktail reception, followed by a dinner with drinks and cuisine as only can be served at such a first-rate, exclusive venue.

The Germination Project is one of the premier initiatives established by the non-profit and philanthropic Pamela + Ajay Raju Foundation, which fosters and mentors the development of leadership attributes and skills of the region’s most stellar and promising teens. The chosen attend a leadership-cultivating program equivalent to a boot camp of sorts and, as part of their challenging and fortunate opportunity, agree to return to Philadelphia post-university, where they then pay forward the fruits of their rewarding labor–all in the interest of promoting Philadelphia as a top-tier city, ranking among the best and brightest worldwide.  At the Project’s helm is Ajay Raju, CEO and Chairman of Dilworth Paxson, LLP, who once said of his philanthropic venture, “This isn’t a short-term thing. This is a 50-year love letter to the region.”

A significant achievement that evening came when the aforementioned Dr. Larry Kaiser was awarded the prestigious ICON Award. The annually bestowed honor, as described by the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, is given to an individual or organization “demonstrating unparalleled leadership and tenacious dedication in making a positive impact in the greater Philadelphia area community.” Accepting the award, Dr. Kaiser stated that he “looked forward to seeing how the Germination Project’s ambitious initiatives help grow and strengthen the talents of these young leaders, who no doubt will make their presence felt in the city of Philadelphia for years to come.”

Not surprisingly, the 17 inductees of the 2017 Germination Project Class beamed on receiving their recognition, particularly as the well-earned and deserved affirmation was done with draft-style flair; each of the first-round picked teenagers received a jersey emblazoned with personalized surname, the representative year’s number 17 on back and the Project’s signature graphic on front. What high-school student wouldn’t cherish such a gift?

Among the dignitaries and community leaders in attendance was a rather formidable confab, all worthy of mention. In addition to those previously noted, celebrating the multitude of accomplishments were PA State Treasurer Joe Torsella, Larry Platt of The Philadelphia Citizen, Philadelphia Eagle Malcolm Jenkins, former Philadelphia Eagle Mike Quick, Bernie Prazenica, President, 6ABC and Trish Wellenbach, CEO, Please Touch Museum.

As a veteran runner of the Philadelphia Marathon, Philadelphia is my go-to running city. With the privilege granted me as a media representative covering the Draft Day Gala, meeting these movers and shakers in service of our city and learning more about the promising, ambitious goals of the Raju Foundation’s Germination Project has indelibly reaffirmed my “pride in home.” Moreover, it has created an awareness of a similar shared passion, albeit by those who are making significantly outstanding differences.

Congratulations to these promising young men and women for their positive and passionate contributions as well as to Dr. Kaiser.

For more information, visit www.germinationproject.com


The elite, members-only social club is an architectural gem, founded to support the policies of Abraham Lincoln.

Love of Country Leads. So sayeth the Union League’s motto on the beautiful floor covering.

Sharon Kozden ascends the iconic, familiar staircase of The Union League.

Imposing and grand display of American flag and banner by African American artist David Bustill resonates and reinforces the club’s Love of Country Leads motto.

Stairwell summit yields massive stained glass depiction honoring past club presidents.

The Germination Project’s graphic artwork was developed by Jarv.us and designed by Dan Shepelavy and Chris Fernandez. Budding bloom from seedling represents the Project’s mission and objective.

A plethora of Cultivate Leadership wristbands available to all to further spread the message.

Ronald Reagan’s portrait attends bar.

From left, Dr. Larry Kaiser, President & CEO, Temple University Health System and recipient of the prestigious ICON Award, Greg Cirillo, Partner at Dilworth Paxson, LLP and Marc Feller, also a Dilworth Paxson Partner.

Ajay Raju (right) mingles with cocktail-reception guests.

Surrounded by watchful presidential portraits, guests converse while enjoying cocktails as well as the finest accompanying pre-dinner bites.

Lovely pose by poised attendees enjoying a grand time.

Mike Quick (left), Former NFL member of the Philadelphia Eagles, was one of the region’s leaders on hand to celebrate and honor the Project’s inductees.

The smiles on this couple speak volumes vis-à-vis one spectacular night out.

Sharon Kozden with Ajay Raju, CEO and Chairman of the Dilworth Paxson law firm and philanthropic-helmer of the non-profit Pamela + Ajay Raju Foundation’s The Germination Project.

Cocktail-hour entertainment hits perfect note(s).

The sculpture is certainly a thing of beauty as is the fresh, plump and plentiful seafood surrounding it.

Delectable shrimp and succulent oysters.

Craig Snyder, President & CEO, World Affairs Council, speaks to the attentive crowd. He presented Dr. Larry Kaiser with the ICON Award.

Gala Chair JoAnne A. Epps, Executive VP & Provost, Temple University, passionately delivers her words.

Dinner offerings rose to the level of culinary excellence.

More bountiful and delectable pre-entrée feastings to tantalize both senses and taste buds.

“A bottle of red, a bottle of white.” These select wines married well with both entrees and sides.

Guests dined on a sublime blend of excellently prepared entrees. Kudos to the chefs on both presentation and preparation.

There was nothing tame about this performance. This duo shook the roof.

Don’t even imagine for a second anything less than a booty-shaking, can’t-sit-still crowd in Lincoln Hall with DJ Royale performing.

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