2010 Diversity Champion Award Winners

June 2010

The New York City Bar’s Enhance Diversity in the Profession Committee has announced the winners of the Fifth Annual Diversity Champion Awards.  The award recognizes the critical role individual attorneys have played in initiating and sustaining change within their organizations and the overall New York legal community.

George Cheeks and Andra Shapiro
andra shapiroAndra Shapiro joined MTV Networks as Counsel in 1988, and during her 20+ year tenure at the company has managed the business and legal affairs for the Nickelodeon children's television network. She is currently Executive Vice President/General Counsel for the Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group and Co-General Counsel of MTV Networks along with George Cheeks. Prior to joining MTV Networks, Andra was an associate attorney with the intellectual property firm Cowan, Liebowitz and Latman. Andra graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College. She holds a MA in Art History from NYU's Institute of Fine Arts and a JD from NYU's School of Law.

george cheeksGeorge Cheeks began his career as an entertainment associate at Loeb & Loeb.  In addition, he served as Vice-President, Business Affairs for Castle Rock Entertainment and worked as an entertainment attorney at the boutique entertainment firm of Hansen, Jacobson, et al. In 1998, Andra hired George as a junior lawyer for MTV Networks in the Business and Legal Affairs (BALA) Department for Nickelodeon. George’s current title is Executive Vice President, Business Affairs, Co-General Counsel, MTV Networks and General Counsel, Music Group & Entertainment Group. George graduated from Yale University (Phi Beta Kappa) and received his JD cum laude from Harvard Law School.

George and Andra have made a lasting impact on the diversity of the MTV Networks community. As Executive Vice Presidents, Co-General Counsels of MTV Networks (MTVN), they have built a law department that is more than one-third persons of racial/ethnic minorities and diverse in every way – by race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religious affiliation, personality, work style, and family life. Their success is evident in their retention of diverse lawyers, where the average length of service exceeds eight years. 

Their innovation in instilling diversity into the fabric of BALA’s culture cannot be overstated.  Together, they have built a law department that is both diverse and supportive—fostering their employees’ professional and personal needs.

Duane L. Hughes
duane hughesDuane L. Hughes is currently an Executive Director in the Legal and Compliance Division at Morgan Stanley, where he advises on structured debt capital market transactions.  Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Duane’s career has focused on Latin American capital markets at both Shearman & Sterling and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, with an in-between stint at Lucent Technologies, prior to joining Morgan Stanley nearly a decade ago.  Duane holds JD, MBA and MA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA degree summa cum laude in Economics from Howard University. 

Duane Hughes reflects his passion for diversity and inclusion in a variety of ways within Morgan Stanley and the greater legal profession.  His comprehensive and strategic approach to diversity at Morgan Stanley has led to a Legal and Compliance Division diversity committee with over 40 members worldwide and a host of initiatives including: unique diversity awareness and training sessions; an annual outside counsel survey and reception on diversity matters; a summer internship for first year law students and market leading partnerships with the City Bar’s South African Visiting Lawyer Program, and the Legal Outreach Program.

As a member of the Committee to Enhance Diversity in the Profession of the New York City Bar Association, he played a key role in drafting the City Bar’s Statement of Diversity Principles and the creation of the City Bar’s Office for Diversity.  Last year, Duane spearheaded fundraising for Pathways to Achievement and Community Transformation (PACT), a high school initiative for 25 young African American and Latino males interested in future law careers, and addressed hundreds of professionals through his diversity presentations at conferences, law firms, and law departments around the country. Duane bases his efforts on the fundamental principle that people with different perspectives working together achieve better results. His contagious enthusiasm for diversity matters has contributed tremendously to the greater legal community.

Marissa C. Wesely
marissa weselyMarissa C. Wesely is a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP where she has practiced law since 1980.  Marissa, a member of the firm’s Corporate Department, specializes in domestic and international bank finance transactions, with an emphasis on leveraged acquisition finance, recapitalization, and debt restructuring transactions, principally advising equity sponsors and corporate borrowers.  Marissa graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in 1976 and received her JD, cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1980. 

Marissa is a tireless advocate concerning the need for, and the importance of, diversity within her firm and in the legal profession.  Through her continued advocacy, Simpson Thacher recently elected two women partners to the firm’s Executive Committee, which marked the first time in the firm’s 125-year history that women partners became members of the Executive Committee. In addition, in the past three years, 50% (2008), 40% (2009) and 33% (2010) of the firm’s newly elected partners were women.  Marissa is not just satisfied with their elevation; she continues to work to ensure their success through mentorship.  Through her work as Co-Chair of the Diversity Task Force, Marissa was instrumental in the creation of Women’s and Diversity Advisory Councils to solicit feedback on the firm’s women’s and diversity initiatives and the appointment of Diversity Partners to monitor the professional development of women and minorities.

Marissa has also been very active in advancing women’s issues outside of Simpson Thacher. One of Marissa’s recent achievements is the establishment of the Kate Stoneman Project, a leadership organization for the women partners of 10 leading New York-based firms. The Kate Stoneman Project is committed to advancing women in the profession and using the group’s collective strength to promote their leadership in civic, educational, and charitable endeavors.

In addition, as a member of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Women in the Profession, Marissa has helped to promote the New York City Bar Report on “Best Practices for the Hiring, Training, Retention and Advancement of Women Attorneys.” In addition to her leadership at the New York City Bar, Marissa is an active member of the Boards of Directors of Legal Momentum and The Global Fund for Women, and is on the Executive Committee (and Co-Chair of the Development Committee) of DirectWomen, a project of the American Bar Association and Catalyst to improve corporate board diversity.

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