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Emerging Icons: Recognized as having 'the potential to become legends'

Talk about pressure. Imagine waking up and learning you have been identified by your peers as an "Emerging Icon."

Joni Berner
Joni BernerRead more

Talk about pressure. Imagine waking up and learning you have been identified by your peers as an "Emerging Icon."

Those are two weighty words: one suggesting that you haven't necessarily hit the top of your game yet, and the other that you're a representative symbol of something.

"Emerging Icons should all have the potential to become legends," said Stephen Andriole, a business professor at Villanova University.

Those are the expectations for the six individuals in the Philadelphia region being honored Wednesday night as Emerging Icons, as part of the Inquirer's inaugural Industry Icons Awards event. The first Business Hall of Fame honorees also will be recognized.

"Those that are rising," is how Terrance C.Z. Egger, publisher and chief executive of Philadelphia Media Network LLC, parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News, and, described his vision of the Emerging Icons. "You could see them in 10 years or so being Hall of Fame candidates."

Outside judges selected these Emerging Icons from about 50 nominations from the community in six categories: arts and entertainment; finance; education and medical; legal; real estate; and technology.

Such recognition is important to attracting talent to the region and retaining it, Andriole said.

"If you don't have any of that, what is that communicating to anyone who might want to relocate here or stay?" he said.

The Emerging Icons are:

Joni Berner. A resident of Villanova, Berner took the brave step of leaving a large law firm and forming her own boutique practice in Center City in 1987 to pursue a better work-life balance while adjusting to motherhood.

She is now cofounder of the all-female successor to that firm, Berner Klaw & Watson LLP. It handles a range of family-law matters, with a priority on mediation and collaborative practice because they "offer so much more dignity and outside-the-box opportunities for tailored solutions" than litigation, Berner said.

With a bachelor's degree in international politics from Cedar Crest College in Allentown and a law degree from Villanova, Berner, 63, currently is vice chair of the board at Cedar Crest.

Practicing law for 38 years, she reacted with humor to her Emerging Icon designation.

"If I'm only now just emerging, how iconic can I be?" she joked before turning serious about the responsibility she said comes with the honor: "to not grow stale."

Carl Dranoff. As president and chief executive of Dranoff Properties Inc., the Philadelphia resident has long been making his presence known in this region, from adaptive reuse of historic buildings to brand new skyscrapers. His projects include the Left Bank, Symphony House, Venice Lofts, and the Victor.

And he's not done. Dranoff, 68, has more than $500 million in upcoming projects, including the SLS Lux Philadelphia Hotel & Residences, a 47-story, 152-guest-room tower planned for South Broad Street across from the Kimmel Center that will be the tallest residential structure built from the ground up in Pennsylvania.

With an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Drexel University and an MBA from Harvard University, Dranoff previously has been named Developer of the Year by the Pennsylvania Builders Association.

After all that, does he really think of himself as still emerging?

"Absolutely yes. I have many more dreams and visions to accomplish," said the South Philadelphia native, who added that he wants to be remembered for improving the urban landscape. "That's my legacy. That's what stays after I'm gone."

Daniel K. Fitzpatrick. Maybe people don't go to banks as much as they used to, but technology hasn't changed the need for what's in them, making the Newtown resident a popular guy as president of Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Fitzpatrick, 53, has been a commercial banking executive for more than 25 years, with extensive involvement in economic-development initiatives as a former chairman of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and a current member of its executive committee and its CEO Council for Growth.

Perhaps as president of the bank that has naming rights to where the Phillies play, Fitzpatrick, with business degrees from LaSalle and Drexel Universities, can work a deal to get the team back to the World Series.

That would surely cement his Icon status.

Frank Giordano. The Moorestown resident is president and CEO of Atlantic Trailer Leasing Corp., a transportation and storage-equipment company in his family since 1949. But these days, he identifies almost exclusively with his other job: president and CEO of the Philly Pops.

Since joining the nonprofit in 2011, Giordano, 66, has been credited with leading it to unprecedented success in ticket sales, community engagement, and programming. Among his creations: the Philly Pops Salute Series, patriotic concerts held on American holidays that recognize service and sacrifice.

A past president of the Union League, he has raised $11 million for the club's Sir John Templeton Heritage Center.

He is a member of the Rowan University board and the Salvation Army New Jersey State Advisory Board.

David Jaspan. As chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Einstein Healthcare Network, the Philadelphia resident sees his role, in part, as guiding thinking "outside the traditional mechanisms" for accessing and treating patients.

Jaspan, 48, one of 14 members of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Resident Review Committee for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, said he feels "the responsibility of ensuring the future of OB/GYN and women's health care."

It's a far cry from his major at George Washington University: zoology. That was followed by medical school, internship, and residency at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

At Einstein since 1999, Jaspan has research interests that include surgical simulation training and leadership development.

Nathan Relles. With a doctorate in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, the Upper Dublin resident cofounded SofterWare Inc. of Horsham in 1981, to give schools, camps, child-care centers, and nonprofits ways to efficiently and effectively use technology to benefit them.

As the company's president and chief innovations catalyst, Relles, 69, has guided SofterWare's growth to more than $40 million in revenue and more than 10,000 clients in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

A child of Holocaust survivors, he has served on the boards of Camp Ramah, the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, Temple Sinai of Dresher, and Jewish Learning Venture.

An avid runner, he advises local running groups on fund-raising races.