(TheNewOrleansAdvocate) – Two local residents were set to be inducted Friday into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame.
Michael Smith, general manager of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, and former U.S. surgeon general Dr. Regina Benjamin, a faculty member at Xavier University, were among a dozen inductees to be recognized during a ceremony in Atlanta.
The organization celebrates prominent graduates of America’s historically black colleges and universities. Inclusion in the hall — which includes prominent politicians, physicians, clergy, entertainers, athletes and business leaders — is considered from hundreds of nominations that are submitted annually, then reviewed by board members and scored on a formula.
Smith, who graduated from Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina in 1979, was inducted with the organization’s chairman’s award, which marks just the second time that award has been handed out in the organization’s 30-year history.
Smith described the award as “a significant honor” and noted that it represents a culmination of his work both for the hotel chain as well as the impact of his volunteer efforts in the community.
Smith has served on a number of local boards, including the Audubon Nature Institute, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, New Orleans Aviation Board and the planning committee for New Orleans’ tricentennial celebration in 2018.
In 2012, he helped lead a partnership between Hyatt and Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation to host a star-studded event that ultimately raised more than $5 million for building sustainable homes in the Lower 9th Ward.
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