Business leaders' community connections key to success

Great business leaders are more than just keen strategists or financial wizards.

They typically have a much broader purpose, to not only serve their companies' employees, customers and bottom lines, but also the broader community.

As part of Hartford Business Journal's 2017 Lifetime Achievement Awards, we are honoring a group of business owners and executives who, over the years, have put as much zeal and effort into their community or philanthropic work as they have in their company.

They include Andy Bessette, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Travelers Cos., who's been instrumental in shepherding the Travelers Championship into one of the most successful PGA Tour golf events. The tourney has raised millions of dollars for charity over the years.

Cheryl Chase, general counsel and now co-president of Chase Enterprises — one of the best-known Greater Hartford realty shops — is another Lifetime Achievement Awards winner. When she's not busy overseeing or tending to her firm's national real estate holdings, she's active with Foodshare, the Connecticut Science Center and her own foundation.

Skip Gengras is the driving force behind Gengras Motor Cars, a giant in the Hartford auto sales industry with 10 New England franchises. Leveraging his car industry success, Gengras has embraced a passion for philanthropy, supporting myriad local charities. A project dear to him is The Gengras Center School on the University of St. Joseph's campus in West Hartford, which serves children with special needs.

Finally, Margaret Lawson, who is now a private fundraising consultant, may not be a household name to all, but her impact has been lasting.

Lawson is best-known in Greater Hartford as a fundraising machine, having procured millions of dollars from donors over the years for various organizations and causes, ranging from the Hartford Symphony Orchestra to the American School for the Deaf.

She's also broken barriers, becoming the first female president in the history of The Hartford Club.

In our eighth installment of the Lifetime Achievement Awards our winners hail from the private sector and have demonstrated how hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence and the community can translate into professional and personal success.

As you read their individual profiles join us in congratulating them for their many accomplishments. We'll celebrate their success Aug. 3, at a breakfast at the Bond Ballroom in Hartford.

Also, it should be noted that this year's winners were largely chosen by HBJ's editorial team. While we did solicit nominations from our readers, our staff made their own picks and ultimately chose the winners based on who made the largest impact on their organization and the broader business community over at least a decade of service in a top leadership position.

And as we congratulate this year's Lifetime Achievement class, please remember that we'll be back next year looking for the next group of winners. We encourage all of our readers to nominate worthy candidates.

– Greg Bordonaro, Editor

These leaders are being recognized for their lasting impact:

Andy Bessette: Love of sports drives Bessette's corporate, civic success

Cheryl Chase: Chase builds on her family's real estate empire

Skip Gengras: Gengras' car dealer success leverages philanthropic giving

Margaret Lawson: Lawson's fundraising prowess leaves lasting Hartford legacy