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2018 Torch Award Honorees


Kiesha Nix

Executive Director, Lakers Youth Foundation

Kiesha Nix is currently the Executive Director of the Lakers Youth Foundation. In her current role Kiesha oversees and directs programming and funding priorities for the charitable arm of the Los Angeles Lakers. She is responsible for implementing the mission of the Foundation which is to assist underserved youth in our communities to develop and recognize their full potential by providing positive experiences and resources in education, health & wellness and sports.

Formerly Kiesha served as a Vice President in Enterprise Business & Community Relations at Bank of America and as a Private Wealth Associate in the Private Banking & Investment Group Division of Merrill Lynch. Kiesha was employed by Bank of America – Merrill Lynch for over 21+ years.

On the Philanthropic side Kiesha currently sits on the following Boards: Advisory Board for the Los Angeles Dodgers and MLB’s RBI program 

(Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), USC Black Alumni Advisory Board and KHEIR (Korean Healthcare Education Information & Research Center). Kiesha currently serves as one of Procter & Gamble’s 2017-18 “My Black is Beautiful Ambassadors” and is also a 2018 Ambassador for the Pan African Film Festival. Kiesha works with countless non-profit organizations and mentors Youth throughout her Community. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nevada. Kiesha is the proud Mom of one son; Kyler who is a recent graduate of Fisk University in Nashville, TN achieving a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and currently employed at a Fortune 500 Investment Firm.

Christine Simmons

President, Chief Operations Officer, Los Angeles Sparks

Christine Simmons is President & Chief Operations Officer of the three-time WNBA Champion Los Angeles Sparks. Celebrating its 20th season in Los Angeles, the Sparks are one of three founding teams from the league’s inception in 1997. Simmons is entering her fifth season with the team and the fourth in her official capacity. She leads all aspects of the team’s business operations including ticket and sponsorship sales and service, marketing, game operations, communications, community relations and finance. Under her leadership the team has seen a 50% increase in ticket sales, doubled ratings on Spectrum SportsNet and impacted nearly 70,000 lives through community programs. Prior to joining the Sparks, she was an Executive Vice President with Magic Johnson Enterprises where she would evaluate investment opportunities and was responsible for business development. With over a 

decade of leadership experience in creating strategic alliances, leading business development and driving corporate initiatives, Christine has worked with many Fortune 500 corporations and multi-million dollar companies. A proud UCLA graduate, she serves as President of the Board of the UCLA Alumni Association and was named to the University of California President’s list of 2016 Remarkable Women of UC. She is an active member of the Los Angeles community, serving on the Board of Directors for the LA Sports Council, the Positive Coaching Alliance and on the NBA’s Global Inclusion Council. Her dedication and passion for giving back has earned her a number of honors including: the LA Business Journal’s 2016 & 2017 list of 500 most influential people in Los Angeles and a 2017 WISE LA Woman of Inspiration. She also volunteers for Better Futures for Thomazeau, a small, grass roots non profit that provides aid to Haiti.

Phillip A. Washington

Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Phillip A. Washington was unanimously selected CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) by the LA Metro Board of Directors on March 12, 2015.

In his position as LA Metro CEO, Washington manages an annual operating budget of $1.6 billion and is responsible for overseeing $15 billion in capital projects and providing oversight of an agency that transports 1.4 million boarding passengers on an average weekday, riding on a fleet of 2,000 clean-air buses and six rail lines. LA Metro also is the lead transportation planning and programming agency for LA County. As such, it is a major construction agency that oversees bus, rail, highway and other mobility-related building projects – together representing the largest modern public works program in North America.

Washington was a leader in the successful effort to pass a new half-cent sales tax in LA County, which garnered 71.15% voter approval. Measure M will build 40 major highway and transit projects in the first 40 years, create 778,000 jobs through construction and various programs, and provide $133.3 billion in economic impact.

Washington came to Los Angeles from Denver, where he was Assistant General Manager for nearly 10 years, prior to being named CEO in 2009.

In Denver, Washington implemented the FasTracks program, one of the largest voter-approved transit expansion programs in the country. Under his leadership, Denver’s West Line Rail was completed under budget and eight months earlier than scheduled, and the award-winning Denver Union Station was completed five months early.

Also in Denver, Washington spearheaded implementation of the first-of-its-kind $2.2 billion transit Public-Private Partnership (P3). His emphasis on measuring and managing agency performance led to a nearly 90% on-time bus and rail service, and 96% ADA on-time performance.

Washington has had numerous prestigious assignments and honors. In 2007, he was appointed by the Mayor of Denver, to head the Host Transportation Committee for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. In 2009, he was appointed by Governor Bill Ritter to serve on the State of Colorado’s Workforce Development Council helping the State create a 21st century workforce. Washington was named 2013-2014 Outstanding Public Transportation CEO of the Year in North America by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

In 2014, he was selected by the editors of Engineering News-Record for special recognition as one of the Top 25 Newsmakers of 2013. In 2016, he was chosen by the National Safety Council as one of the CEOs Who “Get It” – an honor bestowed on CEOs who demonstrate leadership in safety at the highest levels. He has testified before U.S. Congressional Transportation Subcommittees and was awarded a White House Transportation Innovators Champion of Change award in 2012.

Originally from the south side of Chicago – the Chicago Housing Projects of Altgeld Gardens – Washington is a 24-year veteran of the United States Army where he held the rank of Command Sergeant Major, the highest non-commissioned officer rank an enlisted person can achieve. He retired from active duty being awarded the prestigious Defense Superior Service Medal (DSSM) for exceptional service to his country. He holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Columbia College and an M.A. in Management from Webster University. He is a past chair of APTA.