Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Barbara Howard is honored and recognized with the Citizen of the Year award beside Public Service Award recipient David McCleskey during the 65th Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner at the Gwinnett Center on Friday. About a thousand people attended the dinner which also honored and recognized recipients of this year's Public Service Awards.
• Barbara Howard, Suzanna’s Kitchen, Citizen of the Year Award
• Barbara King, posthumously, R. Wayne Shackelford Legacy Award
• The Jackson Jinright Charitable Foundation and Partnership Against Domestic Violence, the D. Scott Hudgens Humanitarian Award given in honor of Scott Hudgens
• Nancy McGill, owner, Cartridge World — Lawrenceville, 2012 Ambassador of the Year Award
• WIKA Instrument LP, inaugural James J. Maran International Award
Public Service Awards
• Judge Stephen Franzen, Gwinnett County Juvenile Courts
• Mayor Nancy Harris, city of Duluth
• Paige Havens
• Joe McCart, The McCart Group
• David McCleskey, Gwinnett County Public Schools
• Mary Kay Murphy, Gwinnett County Public School Board
DULUTH -- By her generosity to Gwinnett over four decades, it can be difficult to realize that Barbara Howard isn't a native.
Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., Howard and her late husband, Henry, have left an indelible mark on Gwinnett that friends have said is one of a kind.
"I'm not a Gwinnett person, but I'm close," Howard said.
The founder of Suzanna's Kitchen, Howard was recognized on Friday night as the Citizen of the Year at the 65th annual Gwinnett Chamber awards dinner before about 1,000 people at the Thomas P. Hughes Grand Ballroom at the Gwinnett Center.
"When your home-grown business gets solid support from the community, it's only natural to want to give something back," said Kerry Kohnen, the CEO of Kaiser Permanente. "And give back she does."
When Howard first learned she would be recognized for the award, she said, "my goodness I haven't really done anything this year."
But she was reminded that the award is for a lifetime of contributions.
"I'm very humbled, and very honored," Howard said.
A major contributor to Gwinnett Medical Center, the Hudgens Center for the Arts, the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Aurora Theatre, the American Cancer Society and the Gwinnett Medical Center, Howard was honored for a lifetime of improving Gwinnett's quality of life.
"Barbara Howard, you do so much for so many," said Philip R. Wolfe, president and CEO of GMC. "I know you have touched a lot of lives here."
Kathryn Parsons Willis, a friend of more than 30 years, said Howard deserves all of this recognition.
"She's so humble, and yet she gives tons of money," Willis said. "I can't talk of anybody who has done as much as she has."
In December, Howard was awarded Philanthropist of the Year at Gwinnett Chamber's Healthcare Excellence Awards program.
Howard is a cancer survivor who lost her husband to bladder cancer about eight years ago. Yet the couple were the lead donors to the Legacy Campaign that helped build Gwinnett Medical Center-Duluth.
Howard is also the chairman of Rainbow Village's capital campaign and serves on several boards, including the Norcross Ministry, the Hudgens Center for the Arts and the Aurora Theatre and the Community Foundation.
And the Howards were instrumental along with two other couples in starting the first ACS Gala in 1975.
This year is the 40th anniversary of Howard and her husband's move to Gwinnett County.
Wolfe, incoming Chamber chairman, said his first priority this year is to name a president and CEO to replace Jim Maran, who retired last yea. Wolfe plans to in April.
Also honored at the dinner were 50-year members of the Chamber, Belk and Micromeritics Instrument Corporation. Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks announced the Jim Maran Scholarship for STEM Studies, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Chamber 2012 Chairman Raymer Sale presented the inaugural James J. Maran International Award to WIKA Instrument LP, a company with roots in Germany that has established a presence in Gwinnett.
U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall also presented Maran with a resolution from the U.S. House of Representatives, and an American flag that was flown over the Capitol.