NAACP celebrates 68th Life Membership Luncheon

Keynote speaker Nancy Howell Agee CEO Carilion Clinic speaks at the NAACP 68th Life Membership Luncheon, held Saturday, Dec. 1 at Holiday Inn Tanglewood. – Photos by S. Hale

by S. Rotan Hale

Let’s be clear. There may be functions bigger and better on several levels but as far as area fund-raisers go, the collaborative efforts of the local chapter NAACP and its partners in hosting their Life Membership Luncheons are nothing short of a labor of love and commitment.

Considering all that goes into these affairs–the diversity, re: the sizable line-up of award recipients, sponsors and attendees, the event which highlights individuals and their accomplishments, is truly something to be saluted in itself.

Among the many recognized at the affair held Saturday, Dec. 1 at Holiday Inn Tanglewood was Roanoke City Public School (RCPS) superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop, hailed as being a major supporter of the ACT-SO program. Chris Perkins, former chief, RCPD accepted a plaque for Bishop–praised for leading the school system to its 90% graduation rate.

Keynote speaker Nancy Howell Agee, began her career in healthcare as a nurse at Roanoke Memorial Hospital, currently known as Carilion Clinic at which she is president and chief executive officer, and chair, American Hospital Association.

The clinic is a sprawling and majestic facility located in downtown. As a “$2-billion, not-for profit health system” it reportedly serves more than 1-million people in the Virginias.

Shortly into her 20-min. address it was quite evident that Agee is not your average CEO but one who embodies an old-world grace and a compassionate dedication to the field of healthcare.

“Everywhere I go I hear from people worried about access to healthcare and affordable healthcare,” she said momentarily veering from prepared notes.

Steeped in the art of “creature comfort” she spoke of the importance of “servant leadership, based on service to others with devotion to the least privileged in our society.”

Agee mentioned a host of conditions that currently plague our society as: thriving racism–due to internet bigotry and other factors, the opioid crisis, poverty, discrimination, social injustice and healthcare disparities nationwide.

“There is much to do, many challenges that pose many opportunities… and it’s going to take all of us (to enact change),” she continued. “But this is not about how we need and provide healthcare. This is about how we are going to change the health of our nation.”

She spoke of “collective knowledge” (i.e. contributions and input from a diverse society) as part of the cure for what ails our society.

“In healthcare what we do, simply put, is provide hope and healing for all,” she added.

Her speech, though complex in content, spoke volumes as to the depth and breadth of the challenges we as individuals face and ultimately must embrace in our efforts to restore balance to a broken world.

Agee was speechless and visibly moved when councilwoman Anita Price presented her with the traditional “Key to the City.”

From left: Dr. N.L. Bishop, president, Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Brenda Hale, president, NAACP (local) and Nancy H. Agee, CEO Carilion Clinic with portrait received at the NAACP Luncheon.

Additionally she received a portrait of herself (by Monica Jones) artistically positioned against a backdrop of the benevolent institution she oversees.

“You can be proud of the Roanoke branch NAACP and all the things that we are doing; healthcare, education, economic and political empowerment plus all of our youth programs are some of the things we work on,” Hale added during closing remarks.

“We are an active branch and everybody all over the state knows that by now. None of this could happen without a team,” said Hale who at 73 years-old is truly the leading force behind the years of incredible success that is the hallmark of the local NAACP.