Jan 09, 2024 By Jessica Jones
Leaders Breakfast 2023 Recap
Let’s take a look at all the wonderful memories from IIDA’s 2023 Leaders Breakfast events
By Jessica Jones Jan 09, 2024
Published in Articles

For 23 years, IIDA and MillerKnoll have joined forces for events across North America to celebrate the great leaders in our industry. It's not only our mission to hone emerging talent and develop community in and out of the workplace—creating an inclusive community starts with leaders.

IIDA’s Leaders Breakfast
bridges our design communities and recognizes impactful leaders at all stages of their careers. Through our partnerships with International Benefactor MillerKnoll and Media Partner Interior Design, we hosted the inspirational event in eight different cities in 2023. This year’s celebrations were filled with engaging keynotes, community building, and most importantly, celebrating the achievements of leaders in the IIDA community.


We kicked off the year on April 13 with an event hosted by Keshia Caplette, President, Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) featuring keynote speaker Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, Executive Vice President and CEO, IIDA. Durst’s ability to engage the audience with her insight, humor, and authenticity left us feeling beyond inspired. Her presentation explored the value of design as a social, cultural, and economic force and her own real-life experiences and stories were both laugh out loud and eye-opening. She left us with a greater understanding of how design impacts human behavior and affects all aspects of shared spaces.

Carol Jones, Emeritus FIIDA
, consulting principal, Kasian Architecture, Interior Design and Planning Ltd was named the 2023 Leadership Award of Excellence Honoree. Jones’ focus on design for the high-performance workplace in both the private and public sector has earned her the title of expert on workplace programming and planning. She speaks and writes on professional development topics both nationally and internationally, and projects under her leadership have been widely published and have received numerous awards.

New York

Next up was New York on May 11 for an event co-hosted by John Sadlon, IIDA, Perkins&Will and Anne Drysdale, Ind. IIDA, MillerKnoll featuring keynote speaker Candace Doby, author of A Cool Girl’s Guide To Courage and creator of The Courage Hotline podcast. Doby embodies her message, speaking with a blend of truth, love, and a bit of shade that matches the realness of courage which she promotes; how to create a culture of courage. She left us feeling inspired to courageously speak up, step up and show up in the workplace.

The 2023 Leadership Award of Excellence Honoree was Hilda Longinotti, architecture and design liaison, Herman Miller. Hilda worked for Herman Miller from 1974 to 2009. Longinotti’s strong knowledge of design and her wide acquaintance in the architectural and design community enabled her to develop a pilot program for strengthening communication between Herman Miller and the design community. Her commitment to excellence in design is evident in every facet of her legendary career within the design industry.


Houston’s event was held August 18 for an event co-hosted by Aimee Foreman, Dal-Tile Corporation and Jessy Fuller Longbotham, IIDA, J. Tyler Services featuring keynote speaker Maria Brito, award-winning contemporary art advisor, curator, and author of How Creativity Rules the World. Brito’s presentation discussed the importance of creativity in business that left us feeling enlightened and inspired to pay closer attention to the environments around us, listen to our intuition, and to take action, putting ourselves in the world to be seen.

The 2023 Leadership Award of Excellence Honoree was Kristin Ledet, IIDA, principal and Houston office practice leader CannonDesign. Ledet has always had a deep affinity for healthcare and she works hard to merge the complex functional requirements of the industry with empathy, compassion, and wellness. She believes hospitals and health facilities shouldn’t be places we fear visiting. Instead, they should be energetic, full of color, and experiential—all attributes she infuses into every environment she designs. Her work has amassed numerous awards for design excellence, and her leadership was recognized with a “40 under 40 award” from Building Design + Construction.

San Francisco

San Francisco’s event was held September 8, and hosted by Katy Mercer, IIDA, President, IIDA Northern California featuring keynote speaker Sloan Leo, CEO and lead facilitator, FLOX Studio. Leo challenged us to think about who we will be to those around us and to see what we might be missing. To be open-minded and to shift our focus from one to many, mine to ours, me to we, and I to us. Leo’s message is that we can only design a better future together and we are in fact on a mission to do so.

The 2023 Leadership Award of Excellence Honoree was Joan Price, retired, Gensler. Price is renowned for her unmatched ability to foster relationships and connect with clients. Honored with the Walter Hunt One-Firm Firm Award, she played a pivotal role in shaping Gensler's integrated practice worldwide.


Dallas’ event was held October 20 and co-hosted by Leigh Ann Cox, Ind. IIDA, of MillerKnoll and Amanda Trimble, IIDA, of HKS featuring keynote speaker Minda Harts, best-selling author and CEO, The Memo LLC. Hart's insightful conversation with the audience discussed how to make the workplace work for everyone. By sharing practical advice, real-life anecdotes and outlining a path for not only women of color but anyone who’s struggled finding their voice her presentation was truly inspiring. Hart left us with the message, “You are your best advocate.”

The 2023 Leadership Award of Excellence Honoree was Ana Pinto-Alexander, FIIDA, global sector director, interiors principal and Senior Vice President, HKS Inc. Pinto-Alexander has more than 38 years of experience designing interiors for the country’s most progressive facilities. Her extensive research anchors her belief that the environments where we live, work, and play greatly reflect and affect who we are as individuals. Pinto-Alexander was recently appointed to the Executive Committee/Board of Directors at HKS, one of only two women to have achieved this level of professional recognition.


Atlanta’s October 27, event was co-hosted by Trey Champion, IIDA, President, IIDA Georgia and Bryce Walker, Ind. IIDA, Panolam Surface Systems featuring keynote speaker Donna Dennis, lead set decorator, TV, and film production. Dennis’ passion in sharing her first-hand experiences and stories over her 30-year career working with Tyler Perry Studios was both dynamic and educational. Dennis attributes her success to the cultivation of a diverse and authentic team, sharing examples of how they worked together to transform spaces and transport audiences through set design.

Chris Heard,
managing principal, Hendrick, Inc. was named the 2023 Leadership Award of Excellence Honoree. Heard has been an integral member of the Hendrick team for 25+ years. He became a principal of the firm in 2001 and has championed the design standards and quality of the firm since; focusing on client service, superior and highly creative design solutions, as well as collaborative and innovative teamwork. Heard's perpetual professionalism and devotion to establishing, fostering, and sustaining long-term client relationships have helped to propel Hendrick’s success.

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles event on November 10, was co-hosted by Brett Shwery, FIIDA, President, IIDA Southern California and Sarah Devine, IIDA, President-Elect, IIDA Southern California featuring keynote speaker LaToya Ruby Frazier, award-winning photographer and MacArthur Genius Grant awardee. In Frazier’s featured body of work “Flint is Family,” her portraits documented a community’s resilience in the face of environmental racism. She reminds us that it is never too late to be an advocate and she celebrates togetherness and family as much as she condemns injustice.

The 2023 Leadership Award of Excellence Honoree is Rose Tourje, founder and president, ANEW. After a successful and long-standing career in the commercial interior design industry, Tourje’s world was forever changed while viewing furniture being dumped into landfill—the year was 2005 and on Earth Day that year she founded the non-profit, ANEW. In 2023 Tourje was named by Metropolis magazine as a ‘Superstar of Salvage’ and continues to advocate for her trademark movement, ‘doing what’s right with what’s left’.


We held the Chicago Leaders Breakfast event on December 8. The event was co-hosted by Deborah Nemeth, President, IIDA Illinois and Kimberly Martin, President-Elect, IIDA Illinois and also featured the inspirational and impactful LaToya Ruby Frazier for another impactful keynote about how a human centered approach to design with the goal of an equitable experience only furthers the commitment to social justice.

Jennifer Sobecki, Ind. IIDA
, CEO, Designs For Dignity was named the 2023 Leadership Award of Excellence Honoree. Sobecki founded Designs for Dignity in 2001 providing pro bono design services to nonprofit organizations and leverages the design industry to provide preferred pricing and donated furnishings, fixtures and materials which are redeployed through impact grants.

Jill Dexter, IIDA, associate interior designer, Stantec was named the 2023 Emerging Leader. Dexter is an Illinois Registered Interior Designer at Stantec with over 13 years of experience in corporate interiors, retail, mixed-use, and civic design. She is passionate about creating experiential spaces that connect users to their environment.

For more information about Leaders Breakfast, contact Emilee Lyons at eylons@iida.org OR learn more about IIDA’s signature Leaders Breakfast events here.

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