Greg Graves, CEO of Burns & McDonnell, won the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s highest accolade — Kansas Citian of the Year — at the chamber’s 128th annual dinner Thursday night.
An energetic cheerleader for Kansas City and a past chamber chairman, Graves was the driving force in 2011 to launch the chamber’s Big 5 initiatives that continue to focus community action on specific goals.
“No one better reflects the energy, focus and excitement for Kansas City and its phenomenal growth than Greg Graves,” said the chamber’s current chairman, Terry Bassham. “His contributions to the civic and business community throughout his career at Burns & McDonnell are the things of legend.”
The award, presented annually since 1960, is given for “civic contributions and achievements that have reflected the insight, creativity and consciousness necessary to build and maintain a quality urban community.”
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Graves has been CEO of the employee-owned Burns & McDonnell since 2004. He was chamber chairman in 2011.
In addition to his chamber activities, Graves is chairman of the University of Kansas Hospital Authority and of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre board. He is on the boards of Union Station Kansas City, Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Kansas Advancement Board and United Missouri Bank.
Graves and his wife, Deanna, donated $1 million last year to KU Hospital, which was coupled with $2.5 million from the Burns & McDonnell Foundation. The company foundation supports education, environment, human services, arts and culture causes, including the just-concluded Battle of the Brains for students to devise Science City exhibits.
Graves said he was humbled to receive the award.
“When blessings flow like this, duty must follow,” he said.
The chamber’s dinner, held at Bartle Hall’s Grand Ballroom downtown, this year was staged on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. The event will return next year to its traditional Tuesday before the holiday, largely because this Thursday night ended up being chock full of multiple civic events.
Nearby at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak spoke at a 20th anniversary event for the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program. On the Country Club Plaza, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry awarded its 2015 Champion of Enterprise award to Cerner Corp. And a host of entrepreneurship events were staged in connection with the city’s observation of Global Entrepreneurship Week.
At the chamber event, outgoing chamber CEO Jim Heeter, who intends to retire as soon as his yet-to-be-named successor is in place, spoke along with several chamber board members. He focused attention on the “five pillars that make our community great” — business, sports, arts and culture, philanthropy and entrepreneurship — and the evening’s theme of Proud to be KC.