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MBJ's 2019 CFO of the Year Awards

MEAGAN NICHOLS | MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL

The strength of an organization is often measured by the quality of its CFO.

They do not simply keep numbers in check, they mitigate risk, provide strategic direction, and frequently oversee multiple departments like IT and human resources.

Memphis Business Journal celebrated some of the area’s top financial minds at its 10th annual CFO of the Year Awards Tuesday, Oct. 29 at Hilton Memphis. Honorees were recognized in Nonprofit-Small, Nonprofit-Large, Private Company-Small, and Private Company-Large categories.

“They have to understand the core of the business. They have to understand the practices. They have to understand how to build value for the company. They truly are part of the leadership team,” said Joanna Crangle, market president and publisher for MBJ. “That is what we are here this morning to celebrate. Every city’s economic heartbeat — it really is these individuals.”

Finalists for the awards were chosen by MBJ’s editorial team. A group of judges that included Crangle; Milton Lovell, CFO and general counsel for nexAir; and Dan Wortham, retired VP of administration and finance for Christian Brothers University, then selected the category winners.

Shirley Ford, CFO for the City of Memphis, was also in attendance to congratulate the honorees on behalf of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

“I am very humbled to be in this room among all of you,” Ford said. “While the actual duties of a CFO vary according to actual industry and company/organizational dynamics, today the CFO is expected to excel with a holistic understanding of the financial and operational aspects of the organization, your industry, and relevant global perspectives.”

A CFO of the Year-Public Company award was presented to Tim Nicholls with International Paper Co. The Lifetime Achievement Award recipient was Jimmie Williams with Belz Enterprises.

Williams, who joined Belz in 1978, said it is very unusual for a CFO to be with a company for 40 years and credited the entire Belz family for facilitating that anomaly.

“Jack and Philip [Belz] hired me when I was 28 and allowed me to grow in the job,” Williams said. “The Belz family is so special here in Memphis. We should be grateful for a family like that who has the community in mind in everything they do.”

A special CFO section will be published in MBJ's Friday, Nov. 1, weekly addition.

CFO of the Year Category winners

Nonprofit–Large: Terry Grigsby, YMCA of Memphis & The Mid-South

Nonprofit–Small: Isabella Wilson, Friends For Life Corp.

Private Company–Large: Kelly Lomax, Dunavant Enterprises Inc.

Private Company–Small: Philip Murray, American Esoteric Laboratories