2023 First Citizen Announced

article by LIZ CAWOOD | CAWOOD

The annual Celebration of Business kicks off 2024 by acknowledging and celebrating the accomplishments lead by Eugene businesses in 2023. A highlight of the evening is presenting George Russell as the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 First Citizen, a tradition that has continued every year since 1938. The honoree is selected by a panel of former First Citizen honorees. A graduating high school senior will also be honored as Eugene’s Future First Citizen.

The 70th annual Celebration of Business happens on January 30 at The Graduate in Eugene with a no-host social at 5:30 pm, followed by dinner and the program. Table and individual tickets can be purchased here.

One of Eugene’s premier events, the annual meeting brings together Eugene’s business and civic leaders to reflect on the past year and envision what the coming year will bring. “Our community continues to bounce back, working hard to establish a foundation for strong growth in 2024 and beyond,” said Amanda Walkup, Chair of the chamber. “We saw connections this year that helped local businesses expand, grow their talent base and make investments that will have long-term benefits.”

George Russell’s tireless commitment to children and to the local community earned him the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 prestigious First Citizen Award. Widely known for his service as Superintendent of the Eugene 4J School District for over a decade (1999-2011), George Russell involvement in state, local and civic activities is impressive. He’s one of 4J’s longest serving superintendents.

After he retired from 4J, Russell continued his focus on improving the health and development of children by serving on the Oregon State Board of Education, Children’s Institute Board, Looking Glass Community Services Board and on United Way of Lane County’s Advisory Board. He also serves as a mentor for new school superintendents in Oregon.

He received the United Way Alton F. Baker Award in 2017 for his leadership on children’s issues. He helped launch United Way’s Success by Six initiative and its Early Learning Alliance to improve kindergarten readiness in Lane County.

Russell served NAACP as board member and chaired its Education Committee. He was also an executive board member with Blacks in Government (BIG).

In 2005, Russell was named Oregon’s Superintendent of the Year. He assisted in forming the National Superintendent’s Roundtable and was its chair in 2010. By invitation, he participated in Danforth Foundation’s Forum for the American School Superintendent and Harvard University’s Superintendent Leadership program.

Russell has a keen focus on how we can work to make all children successful, and he’s recognized for his ability to listen to all perspectives to integrate them into his thinking. His way of connecting people to explore how to move forward proactively has served children, this community and K-12 education well.

Six high schools in Eugene and Bethel nominate seniors for the Future First Citizen award. The winner will be announced at the Celebration of Business event. Each will be featured in a video and receive scholarships sponsored by Eugene’s First Citizens. “It’s always incredible to hear and see these future leaders in action,” Walkup said. “They are an inspiration, and it seems like every year’s nominees raise the bar event further.”

The Celebration of Business underscores the strength of Eugene’s businesses, provides an opportunity to reconnect and creates a unique inspirational event that is sold-out every year. Get your tickets now to ensure there will be a place for you to join in the celebration and excitement about our community’s future.

Published On: December 6, 2023
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