Two Greater Des Moines business leaders will receive the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University’s highest honor for demonstrating exemplary character.
The Ray Center, formerly known as Character Counts in Iowa, will issue its 2015 Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award to Suku Radia, President and CEO of Bankers Trust, and Rich Willis, dealer principal at Willis Auto Campus.
A selection committee of nearly 50 volunteers chose Radia and Willis for this year’s distinction, which will be presented at the Iowa Character Awards dinner on Friday, July 31, at The Meadows Events and Conference Center in Altoona.
The awards reflect former Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray’s lifelong commitment to civility and character development. It was originally presented to Gov. Ray in 2003 for his exemplary character, visionary leadership, and commitment to advancing the mission of Character Counts in Iowa. The award was then named in honor of Ray as the founder and board chairman of the Ray Center.
Radia and Willis are familiar faces at the Ray Center’s annual fundraiser, when Radia serves as host and Willis fills the role of auctioneer. Over the past decade, their passion and charm during the live auction has helped generate more than $2 million to support Ray Center programming.
Radia has been a vocal advocate for the Ray Center since its inception as Character Counts in Iowa in 1997. As CEO and president of Bankers Trust, he leads the company with the core values of respect for diversity, corporate citizenship, and community investment. He articulates and demonstrates good character as an engaged community leader, serving on the executive committees of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and Drake University. He also serves as vice chair for Bravo! and for the board of directors of Mercy Medical Center.
Willis’ personal character is reflected in how he runs his successful business, with a focus on honesty, integrity, faith, family, and community. He makes significant contributions to the Des Moines metro area through service on the boards of directors of Simpson College, John Stoddard Cancer Center, and IMT Insurance. In 2013, he was named Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser by the Central Iowa Chapter Association of Fundraising Professionals.
The Ray Center will deliver 14 awards during the July 31 Iowa Character Awards dinner. Bankers Trust CEO Suku Radia and Willis Auto Campus Dealer Principal Rich Willis will receive the organization’s highest honor, the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award.
The full list of awards and recipients includes:
• Educator of Character: Gary Janssen, Superintendent, Okoboji Community Schools
• School of Character: Cardinal Community School District, Eldon
• Community of Character: Cedar Valley
• Organization of Character: Harbaugh-Williams Education Promise Fund, Waterloo
• School Organization of Character: Washington High School Peer Helpers/SADD, Washington
• Citizens of Character: Tyler Leech, Des Moines
Ethan Lowder, Cedar Rapids
• Mascot of Character: Crash, Iowa Wild
• Partner of the Year: Tim Vorland Photography, Des Moines
• Champion of Character: Ed Banach, University of Iowa wrestler 1980-83, 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist in Wrestling, Ames
• Aaron Eilerts Community Service Award: Abigail Hammer, age 10, Sioux City
• Pursuing Victory with Honor: Springville Girls Basketball, Springville
The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University promotes leadership, civility, and ethics through applied research, programming, training, and scholarly publications.