Since 2001, the annual Father of the Year Awards gala has been a bright spot on Charlotte's social calendar. The fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association honors top businessmen who are also outstanding fathers. Honorees over the past 16 years include Carl Armato, Brett Carter, Jesse Cureton, Al de Molina, Rob Engel, Carlos Evans, Alvaro Gurdian, Michael Marsicano, the late Sam Mills, Mike Minter, Felix Sabates, Richard Vinroot, H.A. (Humpy) Wheeler and Richard "Stick" Williams.
Ironically it's a woman, Dianne Roth, an executive director with the American Diabetes Association Central Carolinas, who has spearheaded the event's success over the years and in the process has won the admiration and friendship of many Charlotte's most prominent businessmen and their families.
This year's event on June 16 honoring fathers Kieth Cockrell of Bank of America, Vinay Patel of SREE Hotels and Chad Utermark of Nucor will be Roth's last for the American Diabetes Association; after 21 years with the nonprofit, she's retiring.
"The organization is moving in a direction focused more on programs so the timing is good," Dianne says. "I've had such a good time. I don’t know what I'm going to do in my retirement but this is not my last act."
Dianne grew up in Terrell, a small community in the Lake Norman area. Her career working for nonprofits began with her first job. "I knew the executive director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and he asked me to come work for him," Dianne says. "I worked on his team for five years."
She has lived in New Jersey and then Florida for 10 years where she was executive director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She had been looking for opportunities to return to the Charlotte area when the job with the American Diabetes Association came open. Now a grandmother of three, she lives back where it all began - in Terrell with her husband, Michael.
One of her passions is traveling to New York to see theater productions, but closer to home she and Michael enjoy antiquing, cheering on the Carolina Panthers and eating out - especially at the authentic Italian restaurant Caruso's which they discovered in a nondescript shopping center and describe as a well-kept secret.
Dianne's retirement is still weeks away, so right now she's consumed with the details of organizing a major event. But she kindly took the time to answer The O Report's questions including sharing her style philosophy, her all-time favorite plays she's seen on Broadway and the one thing that others would be surprised to know about her.
What are your wardrobe staples?
Black turtlenecks. I think it was Nora Ephron who said, “You can never have too many black turtlenecks,” and I believed her! I order a new one every fall from Joan Vass. They are 100% cotton, but substantial in weight and always comfortable.
How would you describe your personal style?
Classic with a twist. Largely because of my position, I tend to dress in a fairly classic/traditional style. However, I’ve never been a fan of cookie-cutter style, so I try to add something to add a little personal flair, such as pewter metallic pumps with a black suit, chunky jewelry, etc.
What are some of your favorite pieces in your wardrobe?
Currently, a Janie Besner scarf that a friend recently gave me. I admired it on her and searched the world (and online) for one like it, unsuccessfully. So, she generously gave it to me. I especially love it for the jewel toned colors that pull together many pieces in my wardrobe.
What are your favorite fashion labels?
Lafayette 148, Diane Von Furstenberg, Joan Vass, Eileen Fisher and Kay Unger for special occasion dresses.
What’s your most treasured accessory?
My pearls, which my mother-in-law loaned me as my “something borrowed” for my wedding and later presented them to me as a wonderful gift. I wear them often.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus and Belk.
Who has influenced your style the most?
I worked at Ivey’s early in my career and Ida Helms was a merchandise/fashion manager at that time. Ida was a beautiful Italian lady who was the most sophisticated, chic person I had ever known and I hung on her every word! Through Ida, I learned about collecting classic pieces for my wardrobe and investment dressing.
What would you like to bring back in style?
This is kind of embarrassing, but those 1980s embellished sweaters! I loved them and had many during that time. I liked the shoulder pads, too!
What are your must-have beauty products?
Anastasia eye brow products. And my signature red lipstick, which I have custom blended by Three Custom Color Specialists.
You have gorgeous skin. What are some of your skincare tips; and how do you protect your skin from the sun?
Sunscreen! When I was about 19, I was at a cosmetic counter and the salesperson told me I needed to be careful with my skin and stop baking in the sun. I now realize it was a sales tactic to get me to purchase lots of skin care products, and it worked. However, it also served me well because I took it to heart and have tried to stay out of the sun and take care of my skin. I don’t always use the same products, but I do love some of the Lancôme skin care products.
Was there any beauty or style advice your mother or grandmother gave you that you’re thankful for now?
My mother was a big fan of Jacqueline Kennedy and often quoted Jackie by saying, “Simplicity is always in good taste.” I do think that when in doubt, you’ll never regret having a more simply chic, more classic style. Interestingly enough though, it was my father who probably shaped my love of clothes and fashion early on. He loved clothes, collected lots of beautiful suits and always looked like he walked off the cover of GQ magazine. My father’s whole family loved fashion and beautiful clothes, and always took pride in being dressed to the nines.
What's your favorite restaurant for a big night out?
One If By Land, Two If By Sea in New York City is my favorite above all. It's absolutely beautiful with fabulous food and amazing service. Locally, we love Caruso’s in Mooresville.
What’s your favorite brunch spot?
What’s your favorite restaurant for lunch?
What's the biggest mistake people make when hosting a party?
Not hiring caterers or at least help to serve and clean-up. It’s the only way to truly have time to enjoy guests.
What's your favorite host/hostess gift to bring to a party?
Wine and flowers…not very original, but always appreciated.
Do you have great organizational or timesaving tips that save your sanity and help make your life run more smoothly?
What are your favorite charitable causes?
The American Diabetes Association, of course! Also, I support Theatre Charlotte and the Humane Society.
Who's your favorite famous person you've met?
General Norman Schwarzkopf, hands down! My husband and I met him at a sports show in Tampa right after Desert Storm. Through the buzz in the room we heard he was very approachable, but would not sign autographs. But he was very willing to take photos. Fortunately, we had our camera and got a few good shots. I loved it because he was a true American hero to us, and a big teddy bear….charming and a little flirty, which we loved.
Do you have a motto or words that you live by?
“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Those words were spoken often by my mother and they echo in my ears every day in most everything I do.
What do you like to do in your downtime?
I enjoy books, the theater, movies and football. My favorite books include Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which was the first book I ever read that got me “hooked” on reading. I still love that book. I also loved The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and had the privilege of seeing him and hearing him speak at Ovens Auditorium several years ago.
What are your favorite plays?
I just saw War Paint on Broadway. It's about the rivalry between Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. It's a musical starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. It was fascinating and fantastic. Several years ago I saw It’s Only a Play. It had an all-star cast including Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, Megan Mullally and more. It was fun and glamorous with tremendous talent…everything you want Broadway to be. My all time favorite is Woman of the Year starring Lauren Bacall. She absolutely owned the stage. I saw her several years later in another production and she had “it"...that undefinable charisma that is breathtaking.
What are your favorite movies?
The Devil Wears Prada, Rudy, Steel Magnolias, Love Actually, The Thomas Crown Affair (both versions) and more recently, Hidden Figures. My all-time favorite is Body Heat. I’m not proud to admit that because it was very racy at the time, but it had a strong storyline with unexpected twists. I had to see it several times to figure out how the main character pulled off the plot to kill her husband and get away with it.
How do you like to get your day started?
Several cups of coffee and catching up on the morning news for about half an hour.
What’s in your glass during Happy Hour?
How do you stay in shape?
What brings you joy?
Being with interesting people.
What do you love about this stage of your life?
What are your favorite colors?
Teal and red.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received? “Never, never, never give up.” I know that was one of Winston Churchill’s many quotes, but I’ve heard it from others throughout my career and it is something that has served as great inspiration to me during some challenging times.
What is the secret to your success?
Another quote that has served me well is, “You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with," and that is the secret to my success. It’s not a secret really since I have quoted it often through the years. I have had the privilege of working for several national nonprofit organizations and have always been very intentional in seeking out great people/volunteers.