Great Conversations

Read about the 9th annual Great Conversations held on Thursday, April 27, 2017
Reception, Dinner, and Conversation with Celebrated Hosts

It was the best dinner party in town! Where else can you meet, mingle and dine with a Metropolitan Opera soprano, a two-time Super Bowl Champion, a research scientist, or a senior executive of a major corporation? We were graced by an amazing array of talented and accomplished individuals, all of whom contribute to our vibrant community. It was an unforgettable evening of great conversation, great dining and great company.

Learn about our 2017 Conversationalists in:
Arts, Music & Media, Sports, Healthcare, Environment, Climate & Sustainability, Architecture & Real Estate, and Business:

Arts, Music & Media

Guy Adami
An original member of CNBC’s Fast Money; trader, TV personality and investor
Phil Alongi
Executive Producer NJTV News and Director of Program Development; among NJBiz Forty Under 40
Leslie Bennetts
Renowned Vanity Fair journalist; first woman to cover national politics for NYTimes; author of book on Joan Rivers: Last Girl Before Freeway & the national bestseller, The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?
Jennifer Check
Highly acclaimed Metropolitan Opera soprano
David Drake
Rudolph’s Steakhouse, Bernardsville – Executive Chef & Partner; prominent French-inspired visionary chef;
James Beard nominee
Nicholas Gamarello
Fine and graphic artist; former fashion designer for Polo Ralph Lauren and Stetson; historical aviation artist of fighter pilot leather bomber jackets
David R. Jones
The New York Times – Assistant Managing Editor (ret); esteemed former NY Times and Wall Street Journal journalist
Carolyn Montgomery-Forant
Award winning vocalist, recording artist, songwriter and cabaret singer
Michael Aaron Rockland
Rutgers’ Professor of American Studies; author of books on NJ culture including Looking for America on NJ Turnpike; New Jersey Monthly regular contributor
John Schreiber
New Jersey Performing Arts Center, President & CEO


Lindsay Berra national correspondent; led campaign to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to her grandfather, Yogi Berra
Derek Sprague
PGA of America – Honorary President; Liberty National Golf Club – Managing Director
Damien Woody
Two-time Super Bowl Champion; former Pro Bowl Offensive Lineman; NFL Analyst for ESPN


Louis Brusco Jr., MD
Morristown Medical Center, Chief Medical Officer
Shirell Gross, Esq.
Bayer Pharmaceuticals – VP and Chief Legal Counsel, Bayer Radiology; recipient of Top Blacks in Healthcare Award
Bonita Stanton, MD
Founding Dean of NJ’s new medical school, Seton Hall University – Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine; nationally recognized expert on pediatric medicine
Mark J. Guinan
Quest Diagnostics – EVP & Chief Financial Officer

Environment, Climate & Sustainability

David Rosenberg
AeroFarms – CEO & Co-Founder of clean-technology company building advanced vertical farms in urban environments; serial entrepreneur of clean-tech companies
Madeleine Thomson, PhD
Senior Research Scientist focusing on the intersection between climate and disease for the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University

Architecture & Real Estate

Pamela O. Abalu
MetLife – Chief Architect for workplace design and construction at 2,000+ sites in 60+countries, Crain’s 40 under 40; one of 400 licensed African American female architects
Sunita Holzer
Realogy Holdings Corp. – EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer
Clark F. Machemer
The Rockefeller Group – SVP & Regional Development Officer


Shelley Wright Brindle
Former HBO C-suite executive; founder of firm consulting on digital transformation, innovative cultures & mentoring millennials, entrepreneurs & female leaders
Irene Chang Britt
Independent Board Director & Strategic Advisor; 30 years in Consumer Packaged Goods including President and C-Suite executive at Pepperidge Farm
Dennis Budinich
Investors Bank – SVP & Chief Culture Officer; member of The National Speakers Association
Mario Casabona
TechLaunch, NJ’s first Technology Accelerator – Founder & CEO; entrepreneur & angel investor
Claude Draillard
Honda Aircraft Company, VP Finance
Arthur Orduña
Avis Budget Group – Chief Innovation Officer
Anthony R. Slimowicz, Esq.
Crum & Forster Insurance – Executive Vice President; recipient of the Freedom House Distinguished Citizen Award
Athene van Mazijk
Mondelēz International, global snacking company – Global Consumer Packaged Goods Executive, VP, Human Resources