10 Memorable Moments from Leaders Breakfast Fall 2015

“Know more, do more, and be more before 9 a.m.,” said Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, to the audience attending Leaders Breakfast San Francisco, one of this year’s six fall breakfasts. “The essence of Leaders Breakfast is about leadership and honoring leadership within and outside of our community.”

The IIDA Leaders Breakfast is an international event series that celebrates design’s importance in the global marketplace by honoring local contributors to the design community and hosting a renowned keynote speaker. The eight-city series has come to a close for 2015. More than 3,300 people attended this year, the largest number of attendees in the history of the 26-year-old event.

Here are a few of our favorite memorable moments from fall 2015:

1.  A Moving Speech by Tom DiRenzo, Ind. IIDA

(Photo by Sam Breach) Tom DiRenzo, Ind. IIDA, accepting the Distinguished Achievement Award at the Northern California Chapter's 2015 IIDA Leaders Breakfast.

(Photo by Sam Breach) Tom DiRenzo, Ind. IIDA, accepting the Distinguished Achievement Award at the Northern California Chapter’s 2015 IIDA Leaders Breakfast.

San Francisco – The 15th annual Leaders Breakfast San Francisco began with a packed house of 500 attendees on their feet when the Northern California Chapter recognized Tom DiRezno, Ind. IIDA, with its signature Distinguished Achievement Award. DiRenzo spoke to the audience passionately and humbly, encouraging them to get involved with IIDA and work together to continue to grow the community. “The voice of IIDA is only as strong as the members of IIDA,” said DiRenzo, who also urged the audience to not underestimate the scale of work they provide. “Design is not a commodity sold to the lowest bidder. Do not undervalue [the Interior Design profession].”

2. The CityHome

(Photo by Linda Dove) Kent Larson on stage in front of attendees at Leaders Breakfast Chicago at the Hilton Chicago.

(Photo by Linda Dove) Kent Larson on stage in front of attendees at Leaders Breakfast Chicago at the Hilton Chicago.

Chicago – Keynote speaker Kent Larson, Director of Changing Places at the MIT Media Laboratory and MIT Living Labs, surprised the Chicago audience with his scientific discoveries of the evolution and future of city landscapes, including how we can reinvent interiors of apartments to save space and money. Larson showed the CityHome, an affordable and “ultra-efficient” 200 sq. ft. apartment aimed toward a younger demographic. The “responsive urban home” features internal motors to eject each piece of the room, giving the user the ability to extend or compress a room. Larson’s other items included sharable cars that fold into themselves and smart offices that ensure workplace well-being.

3. Interior Design Media Donating Its Table to Students

(Photo by Shau Lin Hon, Slyworks Photography)

(Photo by Shau Lin Hon, Slyworks Photography)

Houston – Interior Design Media, a Leaders Breakfast International Benefactor, provided the Texas Oklahoma Chapter with a chance to give a group of 10 lucky students the opportunity to sit front and center at Leaders Breakfast Houston. As one of the only cities within the Leaders Breakfast series to do so, the chapter delivers all profits from the breakfast to the Texas Oklahoma Education Fund. So far, the chapter has raised over $125,000 from Leaders Breakfast to support three tuition reimbursement scholarships and one study abroad scholarship. For more information about the fund, contact chapter administrator Megan Romboletti.

4. Inaugural Leaders Breakfast Calgary

(Photo by Kelly Mulner) Keynote speaker Chris Fields, Senior Brand Strategist of Twist Marketing.

Calgary, AB – The inaugural Leaders Breakfast Calgary sold over 200 seats in its first series event in Alberta, Canada. Attendees enjoyed an inspirational morning honoring Adele Bonetti, FIDA, IDC, AAA, for her more than 40 years of volunteer service and commitment to the Interior Design profession, and listening to keynote speaker Chris Fields, Senior Brand Strategist at Twist Marketing. Fields touched on rising above the average and finding why we should be different and stand out. The audience’s minds never stopped moving as Fields shared ideas about how to live your life thinking differently.

5. A Long Line for an Autograph

(Photo by Sam Breach) Award-winning writer Cheryl Strayed signing autographs at Leaders Breakfast San Francisco.

(Photo by Sam Breach) Award-winning writer Cheryl Strayed signing autographs at Leaders Breakfast San Francisco.

San Francisco – A long line formed after the San Francisco Leaders Breakfast for attendees to get their hands on an autograph from Cheryl Strayed, author of the novel Wild and featured keynote speaker. Strayed spoke about her enduring journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as told in the book and discussed the difficulty she had writing the novel. “We all live lives worthy of literature,” she said. The timing of the breakfast was the day after her 20th anniversary of hiking the PCT.

6. The Kick-off of North America’s First Architectural Biennial

(Photo by Lynn Dove) Sara Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-Artistic Director of the Biennial, accepting the Herman Miller Eames stool.

(Photo by Lynn Dove) Sara Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-artistic Director of the Biennial, accepting the Herman Miller Eames stool.

Chicago – The day before the city of Chicago captured the global design community’s focus with the first architectural biennial in North America, the largest international survey of contemporary architecture, Leaders Breakfast Chicago honored one of the biggest names within the celebration, The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. The foundation makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programs to foster the development and exchange of ideas about architecture. In a twist of fate, the keynote speaker Kent Larson received two grants from The Graham Foundation.

7. The Story of the Fogo Island Inn

(Photo from fogoislandinn.ca)

(Photo from fogoislandinn.ca)

Toronto, ON – Audiences stood to their feet after the speech given by keynote Zita Cobb, President and CEO of Shorefast Foundation, and founder and innkeeper of the Fogo Island Inn. Cobb’s story started with her childhood on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, through developing the Shorefast Foundation with her brother (who also attended). Her incredible speech was accompanied by breathtaking photos of the island. She spoke about investing in culturally rich, community-owned economic assets, including the world-class Fogo Island Inn, Fogo Island Arts, and Fogo Island Shop, which sells furniture and textiles hand-crafted on Fogo Island. Cobb told audiences, “Everyone who creates something has civic duty to contribute beauty.”

8. Advocating for Design

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(Photo by Chris Hatcher) Advocacy table at Leaders Breakfast Los Angeles.

Los Angeles – “This is the year of advocacy,” announced Robyn Taylor, IIDA, President of the IIDA Southern California Chapter. This statement rang true throughout the series as other chapters honored those who advocate for the profession. Southern California hosted an advocacy table during the coffee reception to further engage attendees with legislative and advocacy issues, such as stamping documents to obtain building permits from local jurisdictions and working with local coalitions. The Northern California Chapter honored two advocates, Arlene Blum and Judy Levin, for their ongoing commitment to passing laws to eliminate flame retardant chemicals in furniture. Watch Blum’s video that played during the breakfast to learn more about the cancer-causing chemicals and her fight to end their use.

9. A BuzzFeed Breakfast

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Houston + Los Angeles – Keynote speaker Jonathan Perelman, former Buzzfeed VP of Motion Pictures, gave audiences a chance to see how online content is forming conversations in our lives and that it is no longer just for consumption. Perelman taught attendees in Houston and Los Angeles why we share content online and how our daily lives are affected by social media. “Content is king, but distribution is queen, and she wears the pants,” Perelman reminded the audience. He discussed how to share your message and build a personal brand more effectively online, and engaged the crowd with entertaining BuzzFeed videos, “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.”

10. The Voice of Design in Toronto

(Photo by Yianni Tong) Shauna Levy, President of Design Exchange (DX), accepting the coveted Leadership of Excellence Award.

Toronto, ON – “Design is the bridge between culture and commerce,” said Shauna Levy, President of Design Exchange (DX), Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of design excellence and the preservation of design heritage, in her Leadership Award of Excellence acceptance speech. In the Canadian design industry, Levy is regarded as a visionary leader, most known for her dedication to positioning the city of Toronto as an international design destination. “I saw that interior design was being overlooked and undervalued in the community, and I wanted to change that,” said Levy, who rallied the audience to pay attention to upcoming changes in Toronto’s political agenda and stand up for design as interior designers are “occupying an increasingly important role” in the world.


Learn more about the Leaders Breakfast series.

IIDA Leaders Breakfast Houston: Focused on the Future of Design

On a typical morning of Leaders Breakfast, attendees listen to an individual at the podium accepting the Leadership Award of Excellence. The honors are usually bestowed upon someone described as a trailblazer who has paved a way within the design community. But this year, IIDA Leaders Breakfast Houston has decided not to give the award to an individual, but to an organization that is a recognizable force within their community. The IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter has selected the Rice Design Alliance (RDA) as this year’s recipient. Chosen for their community outreach in advancing architecture, urban design, and the built environment throughout the Houston region, the chapter’s values on education and the future of the design community align with RDA’s values; the chapter cites RDA’s diverse membership involvement for anyone interested in design and their educational programming as the main reason for receiving the honor.

RDA was formed in 1972 by a small group of academicians, Rice School of Architecture alumni and civic-minded citizens under the leadership of David Crane, FAIA. Since then, RDA has emerged as the preeminent public forum in Houston for conversation and programming of design and the built environment. Its membership has grown in the thousands and includes those in the design communities, as well as those who have a personal interest in architecture and urban planning. The association embraces diverse people, professions, and points of view within their organization.

RDA is a forerunner in sponsoring lectures, symposiums, architecture tours, grant competitions, and national design competitions, to name a few.  With education being the cornerstone of RDA, their civic forums are a vehicle for examining issues that affect Houstonians and the city. These discussions allow the public to gather information about current issues and to join the dialogue with experts.  Along with their rich programming, their 33-year-old publication, Cite: The Architecture + Design Review is one of their most recognizable contributions to the community. The publication has been the only consistent voice of architectural criticism in Houston and one of the few sources for thoughtful, well-researched analysis in architecture, design, and infrastructure.

Keeping up with the importance of education and the future of Houston, RDA formed rdAGENTS, RDA’s young professional group. Each August, the rdAGENTS host an all-day design charette where architects and designers propose solutions to community issues. On a somewhat smaller scale, the design charettes sponsored by dAGENTS also bring lasting improvements to public spaces and provide opportunities for collaboration.

With the same educational values as RDA, the Texas Oklahoma Chapter understands the importance of educating and involving the youth of the cities. As one of the only cities within the Leaders Breakfast organizations to do so, the chapter delivers all profits from the Breakfast to the Texas Oklahoma Education Fund. So far the chapter has raised over $125,000 from Leaders Breakfast profits to support three tuition reimbursement scholarships worth $4,000 each and one study abroad scholarship also worth $4,000. To date, the fund has awarded students in the interior design field over 32 scholarships totaling $100,000. The Texas Oklahoma Chapter also pays for students to attend their annual Student Conference and celebrated its fifteenth one this year.

This year, the chapter introduced a Special Initiatives Grant to support faculty and students by providing funding resources in three categories: research, educational experience, and educational tools. Up to $3,000 will be awarded from this grant.


Support the Texas Oklahoma Education Fund and attend Leaders Breakfast in Houston. Learn more about RDA.