National Association of Corporate Directors New Jersey Chapter announces honorees for 2024 Director of the Year Awards

Businessman holding award trophy for show their victory.

The National Association of Corporate Directors New Jersey Chapter recently announced the recipients of the 2024 Director of the Year Awards. This annual event recognizes directors of public, private and nonprofit boards who have made valuable contributions to the boards on which they serve and advanced exemplary board leadership.

The awards will be presented at a formal ceremony on May 6, 2024, at the Pleasantdale Château in West Orange.

In reflecting on the importance of these awards and recognition, Trish Oelrich, board chair of NACD New Jersey, commented: “Strong corporate governance is the cornerstone of any successful organization, ensuring it operates with transparency, accountability and integrity, fostering trust and confidence among stakeholders. We look forward to honoring directors and leading organizations that continue to make a lasting, positive difference in the state of New Jersey, the business community and in the lives of those they serve.”

The NACD New Jersey Chapter will be honoring three individual board members and two boards. The 2024 honorees are:

  • Lifetime Achievement in Governance: Joseph Rigby is a seasoned executive who served as chairman, CEO and president of Pepco Holdings Inc., an energy delivery company serving the mid-Atlantic region, from May 2009 to March 2016. Under Rigby’s leadership, PHI’s utilities significantly improved service reliability, achieved top-level safety results, initiated corporatewide diversity and mentoring programs, and delivered top-quartile total shareholder return by the end of his tenure. Prior to that, he held other executive officer positions with Pepco and its subsidiaries, including chief operating officer and chief financial officer. Rigby currently serves as the nonexecutive chairman of South Jersey Industries Inc. (headquartered in Folsom). He also currently serves on the board of Dominion Energy as chair of the audit committee and a member of the nominating and governance committee. He previously served on the boards of Energy Insurance Mutual and Dominion Energy Midstream GP LLC the general partner of Dominion Energy Midstream Partners LP (2014-2017).
  • Leadership in Public Corporate Governance: Denise Morrison is the founder of Denise Morrison & Associates LLC, a leadership consulting firm. She served as CEO and president of the Campbell Soup Co. from 2011 to 2018. She joined Campbell in 2003, where she held positions of increasing responsibility. Prior to joining Campbell, Morrison held executive management positions at Kraft Foods Inc. from 2001 to 2003. She started her career with Procter & Gamble and held various positions with PepsiCo and Nestle before joining Kraft/Nabisco. Morrison is currently a director on the boards of Visa Inc., MetLife Inc. and Quest Diagnostics. She served as a director of Campbell from 2010 to 2018 and a director of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. from 2005 to 2010 and on the board of Ballard Power Systems Inc. from 2002 to 2005. She is a member of the board of trustees for Boston College, the EEDP Sponsorship Council for Bank of America, and the business council and the advisory council for JUST Capital. Morrison was a member of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s Restart and Recovery Commission. She served on President Donald Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative as well as President Barack Obama’s Export Council. She served on the advisory board for Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy from 2019 to 2022. She was named to Fortune’s Most Powerful Women’s List from 2012 to 2018.
  • Leadership in Nonprofit Governance: John E. Harmon Sr., has served as the founder, CEO and president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey since 2007. In this role, he has the responsibility of establishing, implementing and executing the mission, as well as the fiduciary oversight and governance of AACCNJ in accordance with its bylaws. In addition, he works to identify strategic partnerships in both the public and private sector to connect AACCNJ members and supporters to resources and opportunities to grow and sustain their goals and objectives. Harmon serves as an advocate on behalf of the 1.2 million African American residents and more than 88,000 Black-owned businesses of New Jersey to ensure that policy at the municipal, county and federal levels provide fairness, equity and access to a level playing field in the marketplace. Prior to his 20-year career as a chamber executive, Harmon was employed at the Bowery Savings Bank in New York City, managing the bank’s Residential Real Estate Department, and at Chemical Bank managing third-party loan originations. He founded a transportation company in 1989 called Harmon Transfer Corp.
  • Private Company Board of the Year: Wedgewood is the nation’s largest provider of compounded veterinary medications and clinical pharmacy services, serving more than 70,000 veterinary professionals and 1 million animals annually. The company’s five PCAB-accredited state-licensed pharmacies and two FDA-registered, cGMP 503B outsourcing facilities represent the gold standard in pharmacy practice, reflecting its unwavering commitment to quality. Guided by a mission to improve the lives of animals and those who love and care for them, Wedgewood’s board has been pivotal in steering the company’s recent growth and expansion. Its governance and steadfast support have been instrumental in extending beyond Wedgewood’s rich 40-year legacy, paving the way for innovative advancements. This includes the strategic merger with Blue Rabbit, an emerging leader in veterinary prescription management and pharmacy solutions. The board’s vision and commitment have also been crucial in driving recent expansions to meet the evolving needs of veterinarians and the animals they care for, which involved acquiring two additional facilities and expanding another. Additionally, the board’s focus on the well-being of Wedgewood’s employees — evident in decisions like salary adjustments during COVID, alongside providing essential resources and guidance to the leadership team — has significantly contributed to the company’s enduring success.
  • Public Company Board of the Year: American Water is the largest regulated water and wastewater utility company in the U.S. With a history dating back to 1886, American Water provides safe, clean, reliable and affordable drinking water and wastewater services to more than 14 million people. American Water’s 6,500 talented professionals leverage their significant expertise and the company’s national size and scale to achieve excellent outcomes for the benefit of customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders. American Water has been recognized on the 2023 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for the fifth consecutive year, ranked 18th on Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable U.S. Companies 2023 list, and earned the U.S. Department of Homeland Security SAFETY Act designation and the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Excellence Award, among additional state, local and national recognitions.

Jeannie Diefenderfer, event chair and NACD New Jersey board director, added: “We are pleased to honor the exceptional individuals and boards of directors in the New Jersey community who embody the highest standards of integrity, stewardship, strategic acumen and ethical leadership. They have demonstrated a commitment to corporate governance excellence, and we look forward to celebrating their achievements at the 2024 Director of the Year Awards.”