Back in September, the Children’s Aid Society’s chief executive, Richard Buery, told me about plans to honor Citigroup Inc., with then-CEO Vikram Pandit accepting. Buery cited the firm’s more than 15-year relationship with the nonprofit, including employee volunteering and financial support.
By mid-October Pandit had been ousted from his post at the company and his role at the benefit. So at last night’s event, Eugene McQuade, head of the Citibank N.A. unit, was called to the lectern to receive the Corporate Leadership Award on behalf of his firm.
Asked about taking Pandit’s place, McQuade joked, “What? I’m not as important?” He then praised Pandit as a “great thought leader” on the issue of corporate citizenship, humbly noting that his own involvement in the event was more “in an organizational role. Tonight is about Citi’s support.”
McQuade also has a personal connection to Children’s Aid: As a child he spent time at a Boys Club in Manhattan, and Children’s Aid Society is a founding member of the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Another reason McQuade was selected: Citigroup’s new CEO, Michael L. Corbat, had a prior commitment last night, spokesman Ed Skyler said.
The switcharoo mattered not a bit to those gathered at 583 Park. The event, which also honored Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP AG, raised more than $1.5 million.
From beet lollipops at cocktail hour to the mashup of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” and indie pop band Fun’s hit “We Are Young” sung by the Children’s Aid Chorus, the mood was bright.
The goal of Citi Foundation’s latest grant to Children’s Aid Society, of $265,000, is to create a program that turns college into “a when, not an if,” said Pamela Flaherty, president of the foundation, said. Working with other nonprofits such as Kipp, the charter-school network, and Grameen Bank, the foundation has already helped in the creation of more than 17,000 savings accounts.
McQuade said he drove a taxi to earn money for his schooling.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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