The first three inductees into the Maryland Business Hall of Fame represent a cross-section of industries: chicken farming, radio broadcasting and investment banking.
To be sure, Frank Perdue, Radio One Co. Chief Executive Officer Cathy Hughes and Legg Mason President and CEO Raymond A. "Chip" Mason chose different paths. But they're all home-grown successes. And they've all given back to Maryland, in one way or another.
Those were the criteria that the 1,100-member Maryland Chamber of Commerce used to select its first nominees for the Maryland Business Hall of Fame, established in January to reward leaders' philanthropy and entrepreneurship.
Last night, Mason, Hughes and Perdue's son, Jim Perdue, shared the stage at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel to accept the honor at the chamber's annual meeting. Frank Perdue, executive committee chairman of Perdue Farms' board of directors, could not attend because of a neck injury."There hasn't been anything that celebrates business statewide," said Kathy Snyder, Maryland Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. "It's long overdue."
Snyder turned to the chamber's executive committee for nominations and two dozen names surfaced. From there, the chamber chose its top three."People don't realize how much people like Chip, Cathy and Frank have given back. They're not looking for recognition ... . They were all surprised."
It's not as though Hughes and Mason haven't been there before. On the same stage in November, Loyola College's Sellinger School of Business and Management named Mason its Business Leader of the Year. In July 1998, Hughes received the National Black Chamber of Commerce's Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Renaissance.
Hughes' slew of awards include the Washington Area Broadcasters Association's Lifetime Achievement Award and the Seventh Congressional Humanitarian Award. A native of Omaha, Neb., Hughes began her radio career at Howard University Radio. Her Radio One Inc. operates 48 stations in Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta and Detroit.
Perdue, who left college in 1939 to join his father and one other employee in the chicken business, built Perdue Farms Inc. into the nation's fourth-largest poultry producer, employing more than 20,000 people. Though known for his TV ads in which he proclaims "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," Perdue also is recognized for his contributions to education. He endowed the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury State University and served on the University of Maryland Board of Regents.
Mason started work at his uncle's brokerage in Lynchburg, Va., in 1959, but left in 1962 to found Mason Co. Inc. in Newport News, Va. Legg Mason Inc., formed in a merger with Legg & Co. in 1970, oversees more than $95 billion in assets and employs about 4,500 people. Mason also chairs the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, an organization of business leaders that promotes excellence in schools.
Though he has shied from accepting awards in the past, Mason said the chamber's award was important because it raises the visibility of Maryland - a state with relatively few corporate headquarters."Maryland is not a state that's recognized as a business state," he said. "You really need to create an environment where business is looked upon as a positive influence, and this is one way to do it."