2003 International Professional of the Year
Ernie Csiszar was born in Romania and emigrated to Canada in 1966. He obtained both a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1971 and a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1974 from the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He served as Managing Co-Director of a European investment banking firm from 1979 to 1988 and was a Visiting Professor at the School of Business, University of South Carolina from 1993 to 1995. Mr. Csiszar also served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Seibels Bruce Group, Inc. of Columbia, South Carolina, a publicly-traded insurance carrier from 1995 to 1998. In January of 1999, Governor Jim Hodges appointed Ernie as the Director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance. Director Csiszar was re-appointed by Governor Mark Sanford as the Director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance in December, 2002.
Director Csiszar was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in December, 2002. In January of 2003, Mr. Csiszar was elected Vice President of the NAIC in which position he currently serves. He also serves as Chairman of the International Committee of the NAIC and Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Securitization of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) and is a member of the Reinsurance Committee of the IAIS. He fluently speaks several foreign languages.
2003 Business Person of the Year
Hasmukh P. (H. P.) Rama, chairman and CEO of JHM Hotels, Inc., Greenville, SC, is Past Chairman of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) which is the largest hotel association in the world.
Rama has been in the lodging industry for almost three decades, beginning with a 40-room independent property in Pomona, California. His corporation, JHM Hotels, owns and operates 29 hotels with 4000 rooms in six states with several more under development and scheduled to open in the next year. JHM also owns and operates a five-star hotel in Surat, India as well.
Rama holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio. In May of 1997, Johnson & Wales University awarded Rama the degree of Doctor of Business Administration in Hospitality Management, honoris causa.
He was named winner of the “AAHOA Oberoi Award for Excellence” by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association in 1989, and was selected “Economy Lodging Person of the Year” in 1993 by AH&LA’s Lodging Council. Rama was named winner of the Entrepreneurial Success Award for 1995 by the U.S. Small Business Administration and was named a 1996 Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young. The Industry Service Award was presented to Mr. Rama in 1998 by Hilton Corporation. Rama was awarded the 1999 Industry Person of the Year by Michigan State University and was named South Carolina Hotelier of the Year in 1999. In 2000, Rama received Marriott’s Spirit to Serve Award for outstanding community service. In 2001, Mr. Rama was named Hospitality Leader of the Year by the University of South Carolina School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. In 2002, Mr. Rama was awarded the Arthur Landstreet Award, AH&LA=s Highest Honor for his Contribution to Education. In addition, JHM Hotels was presented with the AH&LA Cutting Edge Award in 2002 in recognition of innovative leadership in the lodging industry. And recently, the distinguished Rotary International APaul Harris Fellow@ designation was awarded to Mr. Rama.
In 1998, JHM Hotels presented a $1,000,001 scholarship donation to the American Hotel Foundation to assist minority students seeking careers in the lodging industry.
Rama has served as an advisor to a number of hospitality schools including: board of advisors, Johnson & Wales University, New York University, University of Houston and the California Polytechnic University; and mentorship program, Cornell University. Rama also served on the Board of the Educational Institute and was Chairman of the AH&LA=s first Education Summit in 1999 and is currently serving on the Experience Lodging Task Force of the AH&LA, on the AH&LA’s Millenium Occupancy & Revenue.
2003 Community Ambassador of the Year
The Ambassador of the Year for 2003, Melanie Mauldin, is a bright, vivacious woman who has been a resident of Columbia for the last 19 years. She is a businesswoman and owner of a Handpicked, a very successful silver jewelry store in Columbia and Charlotte. A graduate of Goucher College, she is the mother of 3 grown children ages 20-29 and lives with her husband Tom. She has been a volunteer and later Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Acercamiento Hispano de Carolina del Sur/South Carolina Hispanic Outreach (AHCS/SCHO) for 4 years. Ms. Mauldin was nominated for the Ambassador award for her passionate commitment to improving the quality of life for Hispanics and other immigrants in South Carolina. Her first efforts with AHCS/SCHO involved translating for Hispanic women in crisis, at clinic, hospital and other health care appointments, and for empowering women and families who were experiencing barriers to needed services. As a boardmember, Ms. Mauldin is Aalways there@. Her heart and her home has been open for AHCS/SCHO, from welcoming the Mexican Consulate who visited Columbia this year to planning of programs and fundraisers. As Chairperson, she has brought in new talent, new ideas and raised the community=s level of awareness and acceptance.
In order to understand how Ms. Mauldin became such an advocate for immigrants and a celebrant of the richness of cultural diversity, her fascinating life story must be heard. She was born in El Paso, Texas. At 6 months of age, her family moved to New Orleans, LA., where she spent the rest of her girlhood. Melanie=s family spent every summer in Mexico from the time that she was age 10 through 16. She reports that these summer experiences were powerful educational experiences for her. Being exposed to a different culture, different language, and different art forms during such formative years Aexpanded her understanding of herself, her family and the world. She loved Mexico, its people, its art, and the land. She has remained lifelong friends with Mexican families they enjoyed each summer, and frequent visits are still made between countries. In fact, the third generation of families on both sides of the border are now spending time with each.
Through the years in Mexico, Ms. Mauldin became fluent in Spanish. After she became a wife and mother and moved to Columbia, her interest in Latin America did not wane. She continued to visit Mexico (and many other countries and cultures). Approximately 14 years ago she began a business out of those soulful childhood experiences. She began working with Mexican silversmiths and craftspeople to develop a jewelry and gift business in Columbia. She reports that, years after naming her store, she realized the real meaning and irony of the name when she began noticing and then working with immigrants who hand-picked crops in South Carolina. As a businesswoman, she believes strongly in Robert Greenleaf’s concept of “Aservant leadership”. This is a practical philosophy that supports people who, in their business or profession, choose to serve their community first, while expanding service to individuals and institutions. This involves a collaborative management style that is cognizant of empowering others, giving back, humanistic leadership styles and spirituality. She believes that the energy of the Mexican people she buys from, shaped into beautiful art and jewelry form, should somehow be returned to the people. Therefore, Handpicked supports the work of people in Mexico while Ms. Mauldin and her family zealously support the Hispanic community here. Melanie Mauldin has an energy and passion about welcoming diversity into our community that impacts everyone she comes into contact with. She takes every opportunity to break down barriers of bigotry and raise people’s awareness of the beautiful character of Mexican people. In her own words, AI believe that Hispanics (and other immigrants) coming into our country have so very much to giveY they are coming with the same impulse as our immigrant ancestors did. We need them as much as they need us!
Ms. Mauldin remembers, as a 10-year old sitting in the zocolo (town plaza) waiting for her mother, watching two Mexican teenagers flirting. She had a strong realization that even though she didn=t understand the words they were saying, she knew what was being said. In this moment of epiphany she understood that love is universal and that human beings are all the same, with the same emotions, struggles and dreams, no matter what culture or race.