Meet our 2024 Citation Award Honorees

Meet our 2024 Citation Award Honorees

May 20, 2024
Category: Citation Award Dinner
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NCCJ will honor community leaders Ellen “Lennie” W. Gerber and Dr. Henry “Hank” W.B. Smith, III with the Citation Award at its 58th annual Citation Award Dinner on Wednesday, November 6, chaired by Sue and Gary Simmons.

“NCCJ is proud to honor Lennie and Hank,” says Erika Rain Wilhite, NCCJ’s interim executive director. “The opportunity to celebrate these exceptional leaders feels especially meaningful now, when the hard-won civil rights of all people – and specifically, the rights of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks – are being challenged and rolled back at local, state and federal levels at an alarming rate.”

Sue and Gary Simmons are chairing this year’s event. “We are honored to chair NCCJ’s Citation Award Dinner,” says Gary. “Our relationship with NCCJ started in 2001 when we sent our son, Brent, to Anytown. Since then, we have been proud to support this wonderful organization.”

“It is more important now than ever to support NCCJ, which has never strayed from its purpose of creating space for open and respectful dialogue between people of different backgrounds,” says Sue. “In doing so, NCCJ has made our community a more welcoming, just and inclusive place to live, work and play. Gary and I hope you will join us on November 6th in support of NCCJ’s mission and in celebration of these two remarkable leaders.”


Ellen “Lennie” W. Gerber is a tireless advocate for marriage equality and the civil rights of all people. After an esteemed career in academia and law, Lennie settled in the Piedmont Triad and took up the fight for equity in North Carolina. Driven by her own experience navigating life with her wife and partner of 52 years, Pearl Berlin (of blessed memory), Lennie worked extensively to advance women’s rights and ensure that LGBTQ+ couples had access to the same rights and protections as heterosexual couples.

Lennie has been fighting for civil rights for over 60 years. In 1963, she traveled from Ithaca NY, where she was working, to Washington, DC, to take part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In the 1970s, Lennie toured college campuses to speak about the impact of Title IX on women’s athletics. Realizing legal change was necessary to ensure gender equality, Lennie enrolled in UNC’s School of Law. After graduation she worked with Legal Aid of North Carolina, focusing her efforts on consumer protection laws. Lennie also served on the ACLU Board and Legal Committee in the 1990s.

After her retirement, Lennie spent over 20 years volunteering for the VITA program, working out of the High Point library filing taxes for people who did not have the ability to access an accountant. Lennie is also a founding member of the North Carolina Association of Woman Attorneys and served as the group’s second president.

Most notable, since retiring, Lennie has given her time and talent to continuously advocate for marriage equality throughout North Carolina. In 2012, Lennie and Pearl became the face of the fight against Amendment 1. They appeared in various articles and ads on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign to explain that they were no different from that of any other couple, often using the phrase “love is love.” Amendment 1 was overturned, but Lennie’s work did not stop there. She and Pearl became the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit against North Carolina to fight for marriage equality. In 2013 (two years before Obergefell v. Hodges would grant legal recognition to their union), their rabbi, Eliezer “Eli” Havivi, agreed to officiate their wedding and Lennie and Pearl became the first same-sex couple married at Beth David Synagogue.

Dr. Henry “Hank” W.B. Smith, III is a resolute champion for racial and healthcare equity. Hank, who had asthma as a child, grew up in a small Georgia town where Black people’s access to healthcare was severely limited. He saw firsthand the way systemic barriers and inequities limited the ability of his friends and family to realize their full potential. His childhood experiences motivated Hank not only to pursue a career in medicine and become a cardiologist but to maintain a focus on work that would improve the health and longevity of life for Black people. Now retired after a celebrated 37-year career, he continues to advocate for racial justice. His love of community is evident in every action of his diligent work to advance access, opportunity, and health equity for Greensboro’s Black communities.

After a remarkable career at Emory University School of Medicine, Moses Cone Hospital drew Hank to the Greensboro area. Hank integrated group practice in Greensboro when he joined Tannenbaum Medical Associates in 1987. He is a co-founder of Eagle Cardiology, which became part of Cone Health HeartCare in 2014. Hank was the first Black to serve as President of the Medical Staff at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital. He is the only physician to serve as Chairman of the Trustee Board at Cone Health.

Beyond his impact in clinical and interventional cardiology, Hank is directly impacting racial equity in Greensboro. Hank is one of Black Investments in Greensboro (BIG) Equity Fund’s founding donors and steering committee members. The mission of the BIG Equity Fund is to improve health, education, and economic advancements for Black people and underserved communities in Greensboro by removing structural and systemic barriers.

In 2017, Hank received the LeBauer Visionary Award from CHMG Healthcare and the American Heart Association. The following year, he was named the 50 most influential Triad African Americans by Black Business Inc. in 2018. In his most recent string of honors, the Greensboro Medical Society recognized Hank as its “2024 Physician of the Year” and Morehouse College gave Hank the “Distinguished Alumnus Award, Class of 1974.” Hank is deeply engaged with his church community. He has served as the Chairman of the Trustee Board and of the Deacon Board at Providence Baptist Church. Hank is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Greensboro Medical Society, and the Greensboro Men’s Club.



The Citation Award Dinner is the Triads largest annual event dedicated to diversity and inclusion. It is also NCCJ’s biggest community program and fundraiser.

The 2024 Citation Award Dinner will be held in-person and virtually on Wednesday, November 6. The event will be held at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. Doors to the Guilford Ballroom will open at 5:30 p.m. for the reception, and with the dinner and program taking place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Guests who chose the “virtual attendance” option can pick up carryout meals from Green Valley Grill and watch the event program livestream from 7 – 8:30 p.m.

Reserve your tickets or become an event sponsor.