NCCJ honors Kenyon, Yonelunas

The Jewelry & Watch Industry Division of the National Conference for Community and Justice hosted its 55th annual Humanitarian Award Dinner last night in New York. The event, held at the Pierre Hotel, honored Dione Kenyon, president of the Jewelers’ Board of Trade, and Tom Yonelunas, former CEO of the GIA Gem Trade Laboratory.

NCCJ, founded in 1927 as the National Conference for Christians and Jews, is a human-relations organization dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry, and racism. Proceeds from the evening’s event will benefit NCCJ youth programs.

The evening’s program began with an invocation by Father Jim Gardiner of the Friars of Atonement, followed by an address from Pearl Huang, a student at the Academy of American Studies, who was a participant in an NCCJ-funded summer retreat called “Anytown, New York.” Students attending the retreat, held August 22-25 at the Greenkill Conference Center in Huguenot, N.Y., spent four days learning about cultural diversity and sensitivity. Huang described how she and some of the other delegates arrived at the camp shy and afraid to move out of their own cliques, but parted close friends.

Nancy Brewer of Nancy B. & Co. presented the humanitarian award to Kenyon, highlighting their nearly 20 years of friendship. Kenyon, in her address, stressed the importance of eradicating prejudice, citing the historic moment when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Birmingham, Ala. 

“It is said that by remaining sitting, Rosa Parks stood up, and by doing nothing, she did everything,” said Kenyon. We’ve come far, she said, but have much farther to go.

William Boyajian, CEO of GIA, presented the award to Tom Yonelunas, commending both his ethics and his ability to maintain balance between work and family in his life. Yonelunas praised the work of NCCJ as patriotic.

“Our constitution supports the ideals of equality and justice, but in reality those aren’t always upheld. NCCJ programs help to develop leaders and build bridges to cross the cultural divide,” he said. “I hope the [jewelry] industry continues to support the NCCJ.”