WWOY 25 Years

2006 WISE Women of the Year

Beatriz Perez, Mary Wittenberg and Sheila Johnson with WISE founder Sue Rodin (second from right)

2006 WISE Women of the Year honorees Beatriz Perez, Mary Wittenberg and Sheila Johnson with WISE founder Sue Rodin (second from right).

Passion, Power and Inspiration!

Fearless and fascinating were just two of the qualities served up to the sold-out crowd at the 2006 WISE Women of the Year Awards Luncheon, emceed by ESPN’s Suzy Kolber. For the 12th year running, the event proved that the organization has the key to the formula for finding just the right women to inspire all of us.

Sheila Johnson is the first African-American woman to be an owner/partner in three professional sports franchises (the Washington Mystics, Capitals and Wizards). She is also the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), a violinist and educator. It seems that there is nothing this witty and intelligent woman cannot do. Although she had a moment’s doubt when Washington Wizards owner and chairman Abe Pollin asked her to be the face of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics — “My first thought was ‘Why me?’ Then I kicked myself and said why not me?” Why not indeed? She has all the qualities of a great business leader. Passion — “I have thrown my body across the corporate table to get sponsorship for the team.” Leadership — “I am excited by challenges.” Intelligence — “There is nothing wrong with failure — it is the only way to learn.”

Beatriz Perez is the Vice President of Media, Sports and Entertainment Marketing, North American Division of The Coca-Cola Company and the recipient of Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” award for three consecutive years, 2001-2003. Heidi Ueberroth, President, Global Marketing Partnerships and International Business Operations for NBA Entertainment and Beatriz’s one-time boss, may have paid this WISE woman the ultimate compliment, “I learned so much from managing Bea.” A visionary who embraced the opportunity to work with NASCAR before it had become recognized as one of America’s most popular spectator sports, Beatriz’s guiding philosophy is, “Do the right thing. Recognize the give and take in relationships. You owe it to your business partners to do what is in their best interest. Always strive to leave things better than you found them.”

Mary Wittenberg is President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Road Runners. Wittenberg became the first woman to direct one of the world’s major marathons in April 2005 after having spent 11 years as a corporate attorney for Hunton & Williams. Mary is a woman with a mission. “We want to change the world through running,” says the woman who leads the country’s premier running organization, which was responsible for getting 12,000 kids running each week in New York City. “Who said women can’t run the world?” asked world record holder Paula Radcliffe as she introduced Mary by describing her as a “warm and generous person, and an intelligent and shrewd businesswoman.” What drives this dynamo? “Doing the right thing.” Her guiding principles? “Being yourself and being proud to be that. The importance of standing in other’s shoes. Caring about others and enabling them to do their best.”

WISE Women — WISE Words — Lots of inspiration!

This article by Beth Rasin about the 2006 WISE Women of the Year Awards Luncheon first appeared in WISE words, the Women in Sports and Events newsletter, Winter 2007. This excerpt is republished to celebrate the 25th WISE Women of the Year Awards Luncheon in 2019.