Lifetime Achievement Award
Bernard C. and Bobbie Parks
2016 Torch Award Honorees
CARL DICKERSON is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Dickerson Employee Benefits. He began his career in the life insurance industry and quickly realized his passion lay in the health benefits arena. Today he shares management with his two sons-in-law Tony Lee and Michael Wolff, CEO and President respectively. Carl's long career has included service on many boards and committees and he has held many prominent positions with organizations such as the Los Angeles Urban League and Town Hall Los Angeles. He is committed to Dickerson's involvement with the communities served by the company and a strong advocate for ensuring healthcare is accessible to all. Still the visionary, his focus is on the diversity within the industry and tapping into niche market opportunities. His wealth of experience is appreciated by the Dickerson
clients and the team he leads.
Dr. George J. McKenna III
DR. GEORGE J. MCKENNA III, is Vice President of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, representing District 1. He began teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1962 and became principal of the George Washington Preparatory High School in 1979. At the time McKenna took the position, the school was failing and had problems with gang violence, drug dealing and gun fights, but under his reforms, the school eventually became an institution with an attendance waiting list and with nearly 80 percent of its students going on to college. His reforms at George Washington Preparatory High School were copied across the country. Dr. McKenna's story was made into a movie called The George McKenna Story, which starred Denzel Washington playing the role of George McKenna. In 1997, Dr. McKenna was elected to the National
An educator for nearly 20 years, DECHELE BYRD is currently the proud Principal of her alma mater George Washington Preparatory High School. With the belief that all youth should have the opportunity to realize their dreams, she has modeled a demand for high expectations and living life without excuses.
Growing up in South Central Los Angeles and the product of teenage parents, Dechele is an example that your circumstances do not dictate your outcomes. She is the mother of a teenage daughter and continues to dedicate her life to building the next generation of leaders that will transform their community.
Principal of the Year
BERNARD C. PARKS is a former Police Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and a former City Councilmember of L.A.'s Eighth District. He was a Deputy Chief during the 1992 L.A. Riots and an Assistant Chief during the O.J. Simpson Case.
As Chief, Parks is credited with creating the first Cold Case Unit in the nation and is known for implementing some of the most rigorous police reforms ever proposed in LAPD history, including the Officer Accountability Policy and the streamlining of the Citizen Complaint System.
As a Councilmember, Parks put in place prudent fiscal
policies that steered the city clear of bankruptcy. His Council District led the entire city in job creation for six years in a row.
Parks and his wife, BOBBIE, are involved in numerous community groups, such as: the Challengers Boys & Girls Club, the Los Angeles Urban League, the Brotherhood Crusade and the NAACP. Recognized as a longtime voice for minority communities, in 2006, Parks' footprints were added to the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bernard and Bobbie have three children and eight grandchildren.
Sheldon Epps has been Artistic Director of the renowned Pasadena Playhouse since 1997. He also served as Associate Artistic Director of the Old Globe Threatre for four years. Mr. Epps has directed numerous plays and musicals at many of the country's major theatres including the Roundabout, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Guthrie, Playwrights Horizons, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, and the Goodman Theatre. He conceived and directed the highly acclaimed musicals Play On! and Blues in the Night, which both received Tony Award nominations. For many years he has served as a member of the Executive Board of the Society of Directors and Choreographers. Mr. Epps also has had a busy career as a television director helming episodes of shows such as Frasier, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Girlfriends, Reed Between teh Lines and many others. Last year he Co-Direced the Broadway production of Baby It's You!