NEC to Honor Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Vertex CEO Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, Veterans’ Advocate Travis Mills, Rep. Niki Tsongas

Business Group to Present “New Englander of the Year” Awards at 2018 Annual Dinner

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BOSTON (October 2, 2018) – The New England Council, the nation’s oldest regional business organization, will present its prestigious “New Englander of the Year” awards at its 2018 Annual Dinner at the Seaport Hotel/World Trade Center in Boston on Thursday, October 11, 2018.  This year’s recipients are General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman, President and CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Staff Sergeant (ret) Travis Mills, U.S. Army Veteran and Founder of the Travis Mills Foundation; and U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA-3).

In addition to honoring these four New Englanders of the Year, the Council will also present a special recognition to Rene Rancourt, who performed the national anthem at Boston Bruins home games for decades prior to his recent retirement.  Rancourt will sing the anthem to open the dinner program.

The 2018 Annual Dinner co-chairs are Darren Donovan, Managing Principal of KPMG’s Boston office, and Robert F. Rivers, Chairman and CEO of Easter Bank. Over 1,700 New England Council members representing businesses large and small across a wide range of industries throughout New England will be in attendance.

The “New Englander of the Year” awards are presented each year by The New England Council and honor residents or natives of the New England states for their commitment and contributions in their fields of work, as well as their leadership and impact on the New England region’s quality of life and economy.  First presented in 1964, over the years the award has been presented to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz; U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg; Senators Ted Kennedy, Jack Reed, Jeanne Shaheen, Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins and John Kerry; Congressmen Richard Neal, Ed Markey, John Larson, and Barney Frank; and business leaders such as Abigail Johnson of Fidelity Investments, Robert Reynolds of Putnam Investments, Anne Finucane of Bank of America and many other respected government, business, and non-profit leaders.

“Each of our four honorees has made unique and inspiring contributions to our nation, our region, and their own communities,” said James T. Brett, President and CEO of the New England Council.  “These remarkable leaders have displayed dedication, innovation, and a strong sense of service to their communities and our country.  It is no exaggeration to say that our 2018 New Englanders of the year truly embody all that is great about New England, and we look forward celebrating their accomplishments with hundreds of our members at this year’s Annual Dinner.”

The New England Council’s Board of Directors selected this year’s honorees based on their commitment to the community, distinguished careers and countless contributions to the region and the nation:

General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff – General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. is the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Council.  Prior to becoming Chairman in October 2015, he served as the 36th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.  Over the course of his four decades of distinguished service in the Marines, he has served as an infantry officer at all levels and is the first Marine Corps officer to serve in four different four-star positions. General Dunford has served in a variety of key leadership posts, including senior command posts in in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  A native of Boston, MA, he is a graduate of Saint Michael’s College and holds master’s degrees from both Georgetown University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman, President and CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals – Dr. Jeffrey Leiden is a physician and scientist who, for the last 30 years, has dedicated his career to improving the lives of people with serious diseases. His experience spans all aspects of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.  Under Dr. Leiden’s leadership, Vertex has brought to patients the first and only medicines to treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis (CF), and is now developing a medicine that could reach 90% of people living with this devastating disease. It is his mission and the basis of the company’s research priorities to bring transformative medicines to people with CF and other serious diseases. Dr. Leiden also cares deeply about inspiring and equipping under-resourced students and young women to become the next generation of scientific leaders. He established a signature program at Vertex to enhance science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) education among Boston students, including an on-site Learning Lab, mentorship programs, internships and college scholarships.

Staff Sergeant (ret) Travis Mills, U.S. Army Veteran and Founder of the Travis Mills Foundation – Retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, a Maine resident, served three tours of duty in Afghanistan as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. In April 2012, during his third tour, he was critically injured by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while on patrol, losing portions of both legs and both arms. He is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and today is an advocate for veterans and amputees. In September 2013, he established the Travis Mills Foundation to benefit and assist combat-injured veterans.  In June 2017, he opened the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat in Rome, ME, where war-injured veterans and their families are welcomed for rest and relaxation at no charge.  Sergeant Mills is also the author of The New York Times best-selling memoir “Tough as They Come.”

The Honorable Niki Tsongas, U.S. House of Representatives – U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007, becoming the first woman to represent the Bay State on Capitol Hill in 25 years. She is in her final year representing Massachusetts’ Third Congressional District, having announced her retirement in 2017.  Throughout her tenure in Congress, Rep. Tsongas has served on the House Armed Services Committee, where she has been a tremendous advocate for our region’s defense sector and military installations, and has fought tirelessly to support and protect our men and women in uniform.  She has also been on the front lines of developing policies related to domestic energy production, the environment, and our National Park System as a member of the Natural Resources Committee. The Congresswoman is a graduate of Smith College and Boston University School of Law.

The New England Council’s 2018 Annual Dinner will be held on Thursday, October 11, 2018, at the Seaport Hotel/World Trade Center in Boston.  The reception will begin at 4:30 p.m., followed by a dinner program and award presentation beginning at 6:00 p.m.

The New England Council, the country’s oldest regional business organization, is an alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the region.  The Council is dedicated to identifying and supporting federal public policies and articulating the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England.  The NEC is also committed to working with public and private sector leaders across the region and in Washington through educational programs and forums for information exchange.  For more information, please visit:


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