Dedication and Innovation Celebrated at the 21st Annual Calvin Cafritz Awards Gala

The GW Center for Excellence in Public Leadership and the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation honored distinguished DC Government employees.

May 7, 2024

2024 Cafritz Awards winners

Cafritz Awards winning team with Jim Robinson (l), Jane L. Cafritz, GW President Granberg (2nd from right) and Charles Hall Jr. (r) of the D.C. government.

The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership (GW CEPL), part of the College of Professional Studies, recognized distinguished D.C.  government employees at the 21st Annual Cafritz Awards Gala.

The honorees were celebrated for their exceptional dedication and innovative service to the city at the ceremony last month at the University Student Center’s Grand Ballroom.

The awards were established in 2000 by Calvin Cafritz, who before he passed away in 2023 was a prominent presence in the Washington, D.C., philanthropic community. In his honor, GW CEPL Director Jim Robinson announced that the awards are being renamed The Calvin Cafritz Awards.

“His vision was to have a public recognition of outstanding employees of the District of Columbia and to highlight their achievement, their struggles, their tremendous persistence and also courage,” Robinson said.

The widow of Calvin Cafritz, Jane Lipton Cafritz, the chair, president and CEO of the Cafritz Foundation, said her late husband would have been honored to know this program would carry his name.

“At the foundation,” she said during her congratulatory remarks to the winners, “we realized this was the most meaningful program that the foundation supports. He loved giving back to the city just as you all have done, and you are the embodiment of that legacy. He also recognized the importance of celebrating and highlighting the accomplishments of our outstanding public servants who make such an impact on our nation’s capital.”

The awards are given to individuals and teams, nominated by their colleagues or members of the community, who come up with an idea or project that was innovative, made a difference in the lives of people of the District or the organizations where they worked, and inspired others to take action. The recognition comes with a $7,500 cash prize for each of the individual winners and a $15,000 cash prize, to be divided among the team winners.

GW President Ellen M. Granberg welcomed the honorees, finalists, Cafritz Foundation staff, alumni, previous winners and others in attendance.

“These often-unsung heroes uphold the public interest despite myriad competing pressures and demands,” Granberg said, “and today we celebrate the achievements of five remarkable individuals and one team who have gone above and beyond to make Washington, D.C., a better place to live, work, learn and visit.  As a new citizen to the District, I can say how much I deeply appreciate that work because this is a wonderful place, and it has a great deal to do with the people who have cared for it over many, many decades.”

Granberg thanked the foundation for its continued support of the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, the Honey Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service and the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum.

Jim Robinson, who knew Calvin Cafritz personally, noted that even he could not have fully anticipated the legacy he was leaving. “I don’t know that any of us could have guessed the tremendous ripple effects of what he had started,” he said.

Cafritz Awards 2024 team winner
Individual Cafritz Awards winners with Jim Robinson (l), Jane L. Cafritz (2nd from left), President Granberg (2nd from right) and D.C. Department of Human Resources Director Charles Hall Jr.

The 21st Annual Cafritz Awards Individual Winners:

Reginald Gerod Blackwell Sr., Medical Technologist, Public Health Laboratory

Initiated successful training programs, internships and informal mentorship opportunities available to District youth pursuing careers in STEM, while helping to establish a model for addressing a severe shortage of trained laboratory personnel needed to run laboratory tests.

Nicholas Bonard, Branch Chief—Floodplains, Department of Energy and Environment

Led efforts to establish the Flood Task Force among 26 agencies, with the goal of improving flood resilience, and secured two FEMA grants totaling $307,000 and a local budget of $490,000 to fund the FloodSmart Homes pilot program. Efforts helped make the city a leader in flood prevention nationally and internationally.

Charles J. Guddemi, Statewide Interoperability Coordinator, Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Enhanced the emergency communications ecosystem, addressing gaps exposed by the U.S. Capitol insurrection, through the development of the District’s first Primary Alternative Contingency and Emergency curriculum. This serves as a model for how and what to do to build individual, community and organizational emergency response plans.

Parythina Harris, Program Manager, Department of Human Services

Implemented transformational customer service initiatives for the Department of Human Services, an agency that serves about 300,000 clients within the District’s most vulnerable communities. Efforts significantly reduced backlogs and customer escalations, while improving agency efficiency and satisfaction ratings.

Latrena M. Owens, Executive Director at St. Elizabeths East Redevelopment, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development

Successfully oversaw the monumental St. Elizabeths East Campus Redevelopment,  a $1 billion investment aimed at revitalizing the 183-acre campus in the Congress Heights neighborhood, while prioritizing community needs.

The 21st Annual Cafritz Awards Team Winner:

Office of Migrant Services, Department of Human Services:

Justin B. Brown, Debra R. Crawford, Tatiana Laborde, Joseph Lippi

Under the leadership of the Bowser administration, addressed the escalating migrant emergency crisis, meeting the needs of nearly 17,000 migrants bussed to the city since September 2022 from the Southern border region of the country. Exceptional team efforts created a comprehensive ecosystem to address the crisis with the help of local and community partnerships, and ensured client dignity and basic needs of those under care.

For more information about the Cafritz Awards program, the winners and finalists, visit: