What mattered most to the laureates honored before a crowd of 600 people were not their own achievements in the business world, but those of Junior Achievement of New Jersey (JANJ), which, on a yearly basis, provides more than 60,000 New Jersey students (K-12) with the financial literacy, work-readiness and entrepreneurship skills they need to succeed in a global economy.
For JANJ, however, the three chosen laureates are the ultimate role models who have made a profound difference in New Jersey. Throughout their professional lives, they have demonstrated business excellence, visionary and innovative leadership, community involvement and high ethical standards, according to the organization. According to Catherine Milone, JANJ president, “Through these accomplishments, the laureates serve as role models for the next generation of leaders, many of whom are currently JA students.”
Honored at JANJ’s New Jersey Business Hall of Fame celebration, held recently at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick, were: Annette Catino, president and CEO of Qualcare Alliance Networks; Mimi Feliciano, co-founder and CEO of FEM Real Estate; and J. Peter Simon, co-chair of William E. Simon and Sons.
Feliciano’s Montville-based real estate investment company develops, owns and manages commercial real estate nationwide. Currently, the company is working on a redevelopment project in Long Branch, which will feature 47 luxury beachfront condominiums. She spent 12 years as the prior owner and CEO of Lincoln Park Healthcare, the largest nursing home complex in the state. Some of her affiliations include: advisory board member, the Mimi and Edwin Feliciano School of Business at Montclair State University; and board member, Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship, also at Montclair State University.
On being chosen a laureate, Feliciano commented, “I am honored, and this is a humbling experience, but I have learned so much about JANJ. It is doing a fantastic job in filling a need. It is finding future entrepreneurs and business leaders at a young age. Who else does that?”
Simon co-founded William E. Simon and Sons with his late father, former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, and his brother Bill Simon, Jr. in 1988. William E. Simon & Sons is a financial services firm that invests in companies in technology, education, and selected segments of manufacturing.
Simon also serves as co-chair of the William E. Simon Foundation. Some of his past philanthropic commitments included: Chair of the Foundation for Morristown Medical Center; the Alliance for School Choice Board of Trustees and the Gladney Center Board of Trustees.
In being chosen as a laureate, he says candidly, “I didn’t know much about JANJ, but I was very impressed when I spent a day at JA Biztown (an experiential learning curriculum designed for fifth and sixth grade students who learn the importance of work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through role playing in 14 different store-fronts, including a bank, credit union, radio station, city hall, and more in jobs such as CEOs, CFOs, tellers, medical technologist and town mayor).
“I am excited about tonight, but this has nothing to do with me … I am excited about shining a light on JANJ,” Simon explained.
Catino was in California the night of the event, working on the integration of Qualcare and Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company. She was represented by Ann Nobel, president and CEO of Qual-Lynx, a company subsidiary. Speaking on Catino’s behalf, Nobel said, “Annette has many awards under her belt, but this is special to her because of the important work of JANJ. Annette is someone who has a strong commitment to mentoring and educating the next generation of our workforce. Helping develop future leaders, as JANJ is doing, makes her especially proud to be named a laureate.”
Catino sits on the board of many organizations and chairs Pure Inventions, Inc. She has also been a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Healthcare through several administrations.
Among the audience during the evening’s celebration was New Jersey Business & Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka, who serves on the JANJ state board. Commenting on JANJ’s mission, Siekerka says it matches NJBIA’s emphasis on workforce development and preparing the workers of tomorrow. She also mentioned that NJBIA staff members have been JANJ volunteers for many years.
JANJ worked with more than 4,000 volunteers last year, who provided curriculum in 2,847 classrooms, totaling 525,676 classroom hours.
According to JANJ Chair Dino Robusto, “This is a remarkable organization based on how many students we can reach. The way we do it is by forging relationships with businesses and schools. So, we have an organization of about 20 to 30 people, but we can literally have a workforce of thousands of volunteers … that’s hundreds of businesses. We reach 60,000 students, but that is not enough. We have to keep on working at it.”