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Published: Thursday, 7/24/2008

7 are honored at Toledoan of Year event


Seven people were given Toledoan of the Year awards during a ceremony last night after they were selected by a panel of judges and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner from among 40 nominees.

Honorees were chosen in six categories: humanitarian, innovation, mentor, leadership, business community investment, and a mayor's award.

The awards were presented at the Erie Street Market, before an audience of more than 200, by Ron Royhab, vice president and executive editor of The Blade, and Laura Emerson of WUPW-TV, Channel 36.

Mayor Finkbeiner presented a special mayor's award for commitment to Toledo to Joseph H. Zerbey IV, vice president and general manager of The Blade.

Mayor Finkbeiner called Mr. Zerbey a cheerleader for Toledo and credited him with spearheading an initiative to breathe new life into events downtown, from the Memorial Day Parade to the July 4 fireworks.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner congratulates Ray Wood, named Toledoan of the Year for business community investment, during the program at the Erie Street Market.
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner congratulates Ray Wood, named Toledoan of the Year for business community investment, during the program at the Erie Street Market.

Mr. Zerbey thanked those at The Blade and the Lucas County Sheriff's Office for their efforts.

"I always believed in my career that a great newspaper is only as good as the community that it serves," Mr. Zerbey said. "Toledo is a terrific community. It's got tremendous potential. It's on the cusp of greatness. I'm proud to be a part of that, and The Blade is proud to be a part of it."

The other honorees were:

•Jaye Hayes, owner of Ha'jami Inc, a fashion and dance studio, as mentor of the year. She has taught dance in youth programs and thanked parents especially.

"It is your children who inspire me," Ms. Hayes said.

The other finalists were Shawanda Johnson, a youth program volunteer, fitness instructor, and choreographer, and Mary Michel, chief executive officer and founder of Journey of the Heart Ministries.

•Dave Murray, vice president of Mountain Mentors, as humanitarian of the year. The nonprofit, based in East Toledo, aids delinquent youths. "All you can do is help one kid at a time and hope it makes a difference," Mr. Murray, who also is special assignments editor for The Blade, said in accepting the award.

The other finalists were Morris Jenkins, volunteer and associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Toledo, and Bishop Duane Tisdale, chief executive officer of Friendship New Vision Inc.

•Xunming Deng, president and co-founder of Xunlight Corp., for innovation of the year. Mr. Deng and partners founded Xunlight as a UT technology spin-off firm.

Mr. Deng said he and his family moved to Toledo 12 years ago and are happy here. He also spoke of his firm's successes and made a pitch: If they know of anyone who wants to work in the solar industry, "We're looking for talented people."

The other finalists were Martin Porter, founding director of the Toledo School for the Arts charter school, and Dr. Michael Rees, a transplant surgeon at the UT Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital, and a co-designer of Web-based pairing systems to match kidney donors to recipients.

•Joe Choate, plant manager of General Motors Corp.'s Toledo Powertrain plant, and Ray Wood, president of United Auto Workers Local 14, which represents Powertrain workers, both for business community investment of the year for efforts to make the plant a leader in productivity.

Mr. Wood thanked workers for showing labor and management can work together. But their efforts aren't just for their families and the firm, he said. "We take a lot of pride in being successful for our community," he said.

The other finalist was Bob Russ, founder of the Toledo Pride Paddleboats.

•Michael Dearth, chairman of the Toledo Neighborhood Block Watch Program, for leadership of the year.

He said he found differences with others in the program. But he also found that in common, "we believed in a credo that we could change the present as we lived it into a future that was better," Mr. Dearth said.

The other finalists were George Brymer, president of Mobile Meals of Toledo foundation and the Ronald McDonald House Charities board, and Gail Wahl, founder of the Victorian Hilltop Coalition.

Staff writer Mark Zaborney contributed to this report.

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