Visionary Leadership Award Recipients

  • Zainab Salbi Founder of Women for Women International
  • Jill Abramson first female Executive Editor of The New York Times
  • Charlayne Hunter-Gault Award Winning Journalist and Activist
  • Sheila Nevins President, HBO Documentary Films
  • Angélique Kidjo Singer, songwriter, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
  • Sheryl WuDunn Business Leader, Award Winning Journalist, and Human Rights Activist
  • Majora Carter Revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer, and Peabody Award winning broadcaster
  • Claudia Rankine Bestselling author, National Book Award-winning poet, Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations Fellow, and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets
  • Rosanne Cash Activist, Author, and GRAMMY Award-winning singer/songwriter


  • Joseph Bertolino, Board Member, President, Southern Connecticut State University
  • Susan Bryson, past Award Chair, Retired Partner, Wiggin and Dana LLP
  • Anne Tyler Calabresi, Honorary Chair, Festival Founding Director, Community Leader
  • Courtney Cupples, Senior Vice President, Commercial Strategy & Marketing, Biohaven
  • Kevin Ewing, Award Chair, Founder and CEO, Baobab Tree Studios
  • Gordon Geballe, Chair of the Festival Board of Directors, Associate Dean and Lecturer, Yale School of Forestry
  • Kimberly Goff-Crews, Award Chair, Secretary and VP for Student Life, Yale University
  • Kiki Kennedy, M.D., Award Chair, Assistant Clinical Professor, Yale School of Medicine
  • Sara Lulo, Assistant Dean, Yale Law School
  • Ruby Melton, Former Board Member, retired, Deputy General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy LLC
  • Roslyn Milstein Meyer, Honorary Chair, Festival Founding Director, Psychologist
  • Kerry Robinson, Board Member, Founding Executive Director and Global Ambassador, Leadership Roundtable
  • Stephanie Spangler, M.D., past Award Chair, Deputy Provost for Health Affairs & Associate Vice President for West Campus Planning and Program Development, Yale University
  • Caprice Taylor-Mendez, Board Member, Former Director, Youth Services Department, City of New Haven


Zainab Salbi is the Founder of Women for Women International, a group that is dedicated to helping women survivors of war to rebuild their lives. A survivor of war herself, Salbi started Women for Women International is response to the rape and concentration camps in Bosnia in 1993. Since then, the organization has served more than 270,000 (as of 2010) women in eight conflict and post-conflict areas of the world, from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda to Afghanistan and her native country of Iraq.

Jill Abramson was the first female executive editor of The New York Times. She joined the paper in September 1997 and was managing editor from August 2003 until August 2011. Ms. Abramson worked at The Wall Street Journal from 1988 to 1997 and won the National Press Club award for national correspondence in 1992 for political coverage of money and politics. Ms. Abramson received a B.A. degree in history and literature, graduating magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1976.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault is an award-winning journalist with more than 40 years of experience. Beginning her journalism career as reporter for The New Yorker, Ms. Hunter-Gault went on to be national correspondent for PBS, chief correspondent for CNN and Johannesburg bureau chief and correspondent for NPR. She is also the author of three books, To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement (2012), New News Out of Africa: Uncovering the African Renaissance (2007) and In My Place, a Memoir of the Civil Rights Movement (1993), fashioned around her experience as the first black woman to attend the University of Georgia.

Sheila Nevins is president, HBO Documentary Films, for Home Box Office, responsible for overseeing the development and production of all documentaries for HBO, HBO2 and Cinemax. As an executive producer or producer, she has received (as of 2014) 26 Primetime Emmy® Awards, 31 News and Documentary Emmys® and 37 George Foster Peabody Awards including a Personal Peabody in 1999 in recognition of her work and ongoing commitment to excellence. During her tenure, HBO’s critically acclaimed documentaries have gone on to win 23 Academy Awards and she has supervised the production of more than 1,000 documentary programs. Nevins holds a BA from Barnard College and an MFA from Yale University School of Drama in Directing.

Named “Africa’s Premier Diva” (Time Magazine) and the first woman to appear on the list of “40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa” (Forbes Magazine), West African born Angélique Kidjo, combines the familiar sounds of western music such as Jazz and Gospel with traditional West African styles to create a sound that is totally new and unique. In addition to her award-winning music career Angélique has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002 and is one of the co-founders of The Batonga Foundation, an organization that empowers women and girls by providing access to secondary and higher education.

Sheryl WuDunn, the first Asian-American reporter to win a Pulitzer Prize, is a business executive, lecturer, and best-selling author. Currently, she is a senior managing director with Mid-Market Securities, an investment-banking boutique. She has worked at The New York Times in management roles in Strategic Planning and Circulation Sales; as editor for international markets, energy and industry; as an anchor of the Discovery-Times; and as a foreign correspondent in Tokyo and Beijing. She is co-author of A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity and Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

Majora Carter has set new standards of excellence with projects in her South Bronx community, while expanding her reach through philanthropic pursuits and business interests that have all pointed toward greater self-esteem and economic potential for low-income people everywhere. A MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Majora is responsible for the creation and successful implementation of numerous green-infrastructure projects, policies, and job training and placement systems.

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including the multiple- award-winning Citizen: An American Lyric, plays, and numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies. A finalist for the National Book Award, Rankine’s Citizen is the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations and the National Endowment of the Arts. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.

One of America’s pre-eminent singer-songwriters, Rosanne Cash has released 15 albums of extraordinary songs that have earned four GRAMMY Awards and nominations for 11 more. She has actively advocated against gun violence and is a longtime board member of PAX and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. She wrote an op-ed piece on gun control for the New York Times following the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. Rosanne is also a board member of the Content Creators Coalition (C3), a membership-based, artist-run non-profit advocacy group representing creators in the digital landscape. In 2014, Cash represented artists in testimony before Congress on the issue of intellectual property rights and digital music licensing.