Individual 2023 Fisher Diversity Award nominees

Advancing diversity, equity and inclusion is an integral part of Fisher College of Business’s mission to create principled business leaders. Recognizing the organizations and individuals who share in this belief has long been the purpose of the college’s annual Diversity Awards.

Twenty years after they were first created, the 2023 Diversity Awards honored a new group of champions and advocates who have made valuable contributions to academic success and professional advancement at Fisher, community outreach, diverse workforce practices and inclusive corporate cultures.

Laith Khalaf, managing director of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors, and Chontae Pennyman, audit consultant at Nationwide, were honored with Individual Diversity Awards. KPMG, a global firm providing audit, tax and advisory services, earned the Corporate Diversity Award.

“The Fisher Diversity Awards represent what we’re about as a college by showcasing the passion of so many within our community — on campus and beyond — who believe in the transformative power that DEI education, opportunities and support can provide,” said Anil Makhija, dean and John W. Berry, Sr. Chair in Business. “Our nominees are champions in business who recognize there’s not only responsibility in paying forward in support of DEI initiatives and programming, but that it just makes great business sense.”

Laith Khalaf
Laith Khalaf (BSBA '98)

The Individual Diversity Award was the most recent accolade for Khalaf (BSBA ’98), as he received the college’s Executive Pace Setters Award in 2019.

In recommending Khalaf for the award, his nominator said: “As an Arab-American, Laith moved to the United States without being able to speak English and grew up in the small town of Ashland, Ohio. He came to Ohio State and it opened doors for him. Ever since, he has been giving back to his alma mater.

“Laith is a major advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion and is the epitome of a giver — of his time, treasure and talent. On an annual basis, Laith leads a large-scale effort to donate hundreds of suits to Career Closet so less fortunate students have what they need to dress for upcoming interviews. Not only does he donate suits, but he also attends the event, helps fit the students and writes notes of positivity and encouragement and puts them inside the coat pocket. He also hosts office hours on campus, meeting with countless students to help them with anything they are going through and takes a group of students for a welcome dinner and motivational discussion where he talks about his career.”

Chontae Pennyman
Chontae Pennyman

Pennyman began his career at Nationwide in 2015. He currently serves as the president for the Columbus chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA).

In recommending Pennyman for the award, his nominator said: “In the short time I have worked for Fisher, Chontae Pennyman has impressed me with his commitment to the college. As the president of NABA’s local chapter, Chontae has been involved in diversity, equity and inclusion programming and educational opportunities at Ohio State including supporting the Accounting Careers Awareness Program. In addition, he has been involved with the Diversity Lunch series sponsored by the Undergraduate Programs Office and hosted a ‘Design Your Journey’ session organized by the Undergraduate Leadership and Engagement Office.

“Chontae serves as a mentor and leader within the field for aspiring business professionals, particularly students of color, and is always willing to lend a hand when Fisher needs him. He truly exemplifies the spirit of this award for his generosity, time and leadership on campus and within the community.”

Other Individual Award nominees included Mathilda Tuuli, manager of diversity, equity and inclusion at The Wendy’s Company, and Julee White, university recruiting assistant at Penske Truck Leasing.

Niki Lombardo from Huntington and Bill Miller from KPMG display their Corporate Diversity Awards.
Corporate Diversity Award nominees included Huntington's Niki Lombardo (MLHR '91) and KPMG's Bill Miller (BSBA '99).

KPMG was recognized for its support, engagement and recruitment of diverse students at Fisher, including the creation of a $500,000 scholarship for Master of Accounting (MAcc) students. Other examples of KPMG’s support of Fisher include Project THRIVE, a program providing tomorrow’s accounting and management information system leaders with the skills, perspectives and experiences necessary to succeed at Fisher and beyond, as well as the Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics Scholars Program, which KPMG helped create at Fisher.

“I’d like to thank all of our winners and nominees for their efforts to bring action to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within their organizations, among their professional networks and here at Fisher,” said David Harrison, senior director of Fisher’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach (ODISSCCO). “They embody the change we want to see in business, and, as a college we are proud to celebrate and recognize their passion for creating a more equitable world.”

Our winners and nominees embody the change we want to see in business, and, as a college we are proud to celebrate and recognize their passion for creating a more equitable world.

David HarrisonSenior Director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach