Daryll Griffin, MAS, president of Accolades, Inc. in Norcross, Georgia, and the late Irene Kogutt, MAS, former owner of Dart Manufacturing Company in Dallas, Texas, were honored as 2019 recipients of the PPAI Woman of Achievement Award. The presentations were the highlight of Monday’s opening dinner at PPAI’s Women’s Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Woman of Achievement Award has been presented annually since 2009, recognizing 13 women who have led the way in the advancement of women in the industry, and in tribute for their outstanding leadership and significant contributions within the industry and their communities. Griffin and Kogutt are the 14th and 15th recipients of the prestigious award.

Griffin, who was introduced by PPAI Board member and friend Amy Rabideau, MAS, is a longtime industry professional and dedicated volunteer who is also well known in her community for her many years of service. In January, she was honored with PPAI’s H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award in recognition of her volunteerism. Since she founded Accolades, Inc. in 1990, Griffin has been an active member of PPAI and the Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals (GAPPP), and has served on numerous PPAI committees, task forces and advisory groups, including the Certification, Leadership and Membership Services committees. She is an industry advocate and speaker, and in 2016 she was recognized as a PPAI Fellow.

In her home city of Norcross, Georgia, Griffin is on the board of the YWCA of Greater Atlanta, where she was inducted into the YWCA Academy of Women Achievers for her dedication to the YWCA and its mission. As a member of the Atlanta Business League (ABL) since 2000, she has served as chair for the board of directors and is currently the board secretary. ABL has honored her with the League’s Leadership Award for her service and in 2015 Accolades was inducted into the Atlanta Business League Hall of Fame. Griffin also served for a decade as secretary of the United Sisterhood of Wheat Street Baptist Church, and as director of Vacation Bible School at Wheat Street, where she is a lifelong member.

Griffin previously served on the boards of Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC), Callanwolde Arts Center Foundation, Hispanic Corporate Council of Atlanta and was a two-term president of NSAC Jack and Jill of America.

In accepting the honor, Griffin shared how thrilling it was to have been at the inaugural WLC in 2005 in Philadelphia, and now to be honored at the 2019 event. “It warms my heart to see many new faces combined with industry veterans come together to continue leading, caring and sharing,” she said, smiling, as she looked around the packed ballroom. “Collectively, we are WLC strong!” She thanked her nominators, Danon Middleton of Summit Group and Marsha Londe of Tango Partners, and expressed her gratitude for being able to share the award with Irene Kogutt, with whom she noted many similarities the two shared, including owning their own businesses and having sons named Michael, who are continuing their careers in the industry. Throughout her remarks she expressed gratitude for her industry “sisters,” as a whole, calling them collaborators, capable, confident, committed, amazing, accepting and awesome.

“I am forever grateful and deeply appreciative to PPAI for both prestigious honors,” she said, “and this one, the Woman of Achievement, has special meaning because I am able to share it with you, my circle of sisters.”

Irene Kogutt, who passed away in 2017, founded Dart Manufacturing Company in 1965 in Dallas, Texas, with her husband Sam. Together they owned it for 42 years. During her time in the promotional products industry, Kogutt was an active industry volunteer. She served on the PPAI Board of Directors from 1994 to 1998 and was honored with the PPAI Distinguished Service Award in 1999. Under her leadership, the company won numerous Supplier Star and Supplier Achievement awards over the years. Kogutt was also a passionate volunteer and fundraiser for the Promotional Products Education Foundation, serving on its board from 1996 to 2000, and as chair in 1998. She was also a strong supporter and participant in education within the promotional products industry.

Kogutt led by example as a parent, professional and industry member. She committed numerous hours to many organizations throughout her work and retirement years. She was active in fundraising for Akiba Academy and Yavneh Academy, and was a Cub Scout Den leader, chair of the Business and Professional Woman’s Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and a youth group leader.

Her son, Michael Kogutt, was present to accept the award and was introduced by friend and former PPAI Board Chair Jo-an Lantz, MAS, a member of the group that organized the first WLC.

In his remarks, which were filled with emotion at times, he thanked Lantz as well as Kathy Burke of Above & Beyond Incentives/AIA for submitting the nomination, and described his mother as driven and tenacious—two characteristics that spurred her to achieve the highest levels of success. “She was just as driven to be the best parent, grandparent and great-grandparent as she possibly could be—just as she was in business and as a volunteer,” he said.

He recounted his mother’s dedication to learning everything she could about the industry when the company got involved in 1984. She went on to immerse herself in industry education classes, and then began to volunteer for PPAI—a commitment that culminated with serving on the PPAI board and the PPEF board. In the latter role he remembers her as a motivated and influential fundraiser for PPEF and his examples of her dedication had the entire ballroom laughing. “It was in her service on the Board of Directors of the Promotional Products College Education Foundation where Irene got her nickname, ‘The Dragon Lady,’ he said with a smile. “She had to have been the most prolific cash fundraiser (or more accurately a pickpocket) in the organization’s history, and probably still is to this day.”

When the family sold Dart in 2007, Kogutt told how his mother refocused her priorities and decided to learn more about her faith. She studied the Torah and, after much work, received her Bat Mitzvah at age 70.

Kogutt reminded the audience that in 1984, the promotional products industry was still very much a male-dominated industry, but that didn’t stop his mother from owning a business and serving at the highest leadership levels. “Although she was not a big women’s libber by any means, I believe she would be very proud to have been here tonight and seen how all of you have risen through the ranks and also to see how women have now become the dominant force in our industry.”

Kogutt concluded by saying, “I certainly hope that Irene’s ‘driven’ personality and leadership within the industry have, in some small way, helped each of you achieve new heights in your careers by her example and showing others that women can get ’er done, as we like to say in Texas. You ladies certainly are taking over! I am very proud to see it because I was raised and schooled by a strong woman.”